What can PR professionals can learn from Frozen?

Frozen is one of those films that will go down in Disney history for both its clever storyline and marketing tricks that ensure it is a family favourite – and not just for little girls wishing to be princesses.

But what can the Walt Disney Company teach us about clever marketing and how did they do it so successfully?

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

  1. For the first time in forever

Hans, a prince from the Kingdom of the Southern Isles, brings another dimension to a Disney film and no-one sees it coming. He replaces the wicked step-mother that we are all too familiar with and because of his wickedness, he threatens both leading ladies, Anna and Elsa. Disney are stepping away from the traditional ‘good prince’ plot and turning for something darker.

  1. Love is an open door

Unlike previous Disney films Frozen mocks the ‘love at first sight’ mantra and actually, throughout the film Anna learns to love and her ‘happily ever after’ is with ice-seller Kristoff. Audiences get tired of watching the princess end up with the prince and Disney have played on this.

  1. Let it go

Disney have learnt from previous films like The Princess and the Frog that to make a film into a global franchise, they need to make a movie gender neutral. Boys don’t want to watch a film about princesses – and mentioning ‘princess’ in the title is a big giveaway of what the film is about.

They begin mixing titles up with their 2010 Tangled (replacing ‘Rapunzel’) and this grossed over $600 million at the box office – big, but not as big as Frozen.

Loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Snow Queen’ it would have been easy for them to adopt the name, but by opting to promote Frozen as gender neutral the title Frozen was created and the rest, they say, is history.

  1. Put me in summer and I’ll be a… happy snowman.

Boys respond to humour so the creation of the talking-snowman Olaf makes the film seem that it isn’t all about two princesses. The marketing of the humorous Olaf is what captured boys, the Queen – who can make and manipulate ice is what bought the girls in, while the moving away from the traditional Disney values is what drew the adults in.

  1. Branching out – what PR professionals can learn

Frozen is the fifth highest grossing film of all time, earning $1.219 billion so far partly because Disney saw a possibility for expansion of a brand. When possible, professionals should strengthen the brands they represent through as many different media outputs as possible.

It’s not just a film – it is a soundtrack as well, and the Oscar-winning ‘Let It Go’ is still at number 27 after 33 weeks in the official Radio 1 chart, proving that both the film and the soundtrack go hand in hand.

The Frozen empire is still expanding, Disney have plans to make another film, a musical, and a new featured ride in the Disney theme parks. American TV series,Once upon a time, will also see Frozen characters come to life. Disney are not resting their brand and instead are extending the films life cycle through brand awareness.

This is a lesson that all PR professionals can learn from. By continuing to promoteFrozen through other mediums Disney has attracted a wide audience for many years to come.

Reputation is key in this business – Disney have already sussed it – and perhaps by doing a little more of what they do, you can to.

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Hello Digital 2010 – Alex Hunter steals the show by Simon Partington

a lightning bolt momentFor those who’ve ever wondered what a lightning bolt moment feels like, I can lay testament to having one at this year’s Hello Digital conference.

It came in the middle of a seminar from Alex Hunter, head of digital at Virgin Global.  He spoke passionately on a subject that rarely gets addressed in such a literal way – social media (check out Alex’s blog here). For those that couldn’t make his session, I’ve put a few of his top line thoughts below.  Brands lacking in self awareness and using social media, read on …

 

  • “The social web isn’t about connecting brands with people, it’s about connecting people with people.”
  • “Why is Steve Jobs so intrinsically linked to Apple in our minds? Because he cares enough about the brand to stick his personal reputation on it.”
  • “Screw consistency (in social media).  If we’re all moving in the same direction, the consistency will come out.”
  • “The brands that are winning (on social media), are the ones keeping it real by being true to what they believe in online.”

These thoughts are interesting, particularly number two.  In the PR industry, we strive to find brand advocates within a business that truly care – not just on the social media front, but across communications in general.  Finding enlightened individuals to speak up on behalf of a business adds more weight to their offering – in short, it’s better to have substance before showmanship.

Cases rarely come as perfect as the likes of Apple or Digg (the online social bookmarking service). In the real world, harnessing the power of a corporate brand through an individual takes guts. It’s something that, if communicated correctly, can give true meaning to a corporate entity.  We’ve all heard the adage that ‘people buy from people’, but in the case of social media, it really rings true.

The second point that opened my eyes was the one about consistency, or the need for a less rigid approach to it.  In PR, we talk a lot about consistency.  An awful lot.  In reality, if we’re having to plumb consistency into a brand before it ventures out into the social world, then in many cases, it will come across as lacking in credibility.  Bad for you. Bad for the client.  Just generally bad.

For communications online to come across as credible, it needs a balanced approach – a loose set of guidelines is fine, but for people to have proper conversations, they need to have a personality.  Just remember Groove Armada’s track from the 90s – ‘if everybody looked the same, we’d get tired of looking at each other’.

It all comes back to the ‘Steve Jobs model’ – throw your weight behind a brand and people might just love you for it.  Fake it, and risk being found out!

Q: What do Sir Ranulph Fiennes and a bucket of Flash™ have in common? – by Angela Podmore

A:  They’re both compelling and authentic brands.

Angela Podmore, Kinetic Communications

Angela Podmore, Kinetic Communications

Nothing is more uplifting than spending an hour in the company of a person who’s living with all their mind, body, heart and soul all beautifully aligned in courageous pursuit.

Speaking on leadership, challenge and perseverance in the face of adversity, explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes captivated a packed hall 5 (28 October 2010) at Birmingham’s ICC.

Truly the man of our time, he spoke – in a curiously laconic yet bullet-hitting and modest fashion – of his various feats of derring-do:  his package holidays with a 52-strong team from 9 different countries.  His training ground and recruitment consultant of choice – the SAS (where they called him a donkey walloper harking back to his cavalry past).

He’s circumnavigated the globe through the poles without outside support.  He offered us all a simulated arctic experience – put three of your 6ft friends in a bath tub and drag them over dunes for 2,000 miles!

He feels the same fears we’d all feel before setting off on such a feat.  Difference is, he feels the fear and does it anyway (great book by Susan Jeffers).  The author of 18 books, he was signed Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know (what his father-in-law said to ward his daughter from marrying him!).

Compelling leadership

There’s no payroll for the Ranulph’s express.  So his team selection process focuses on motivation.  Motivation is his answer to everything – if it’s ever so slightly dodgy, you’re out.  “You can sack someone  in Antarctica but you can’t get rid of them.  So selection is key.”

I asked him to what he attributes his self-belief.

His answer was surprising, “when I’m near giving up, I hope and pray one of the team will give up first but they never do.  I live in the now and you have to know your own resources.  But I’d say my self-belief stems from what my father and grandfather did.  I think of them watching me and I don’t want to let them down.”

And that links nicely to how another compelling brand – my bucket of flash which also didn’t let me down while scrubbing our 10 year old kitchen floor.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s been mopped every week but we’re talking deep clean here.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes impresses because he’s the real deal in stratospheric motivation, ambition and attainment.  But great brands share that so take heart with Flash.  Used  neat, Flash has made our ceramic tiled floor, shine like a new pin.  A compelling performance from another great brand you can trust to do the job.

Note of thanks to all the organisations who made this inspiring Sir Ranulph Fiennes lecture happen:  Birmingham City Business School in partnership with Institute of Business Consulting and Chartered Management Institute and CiPD.

The Martini Era – by Angela Podmore

Angela Podmore, MD, Kinetic Communications - Birmingham PR Consultancy

Angela Podmore

THE MARTINI ERA

Anyone remember the Martini ads?  At their zenith in the 1970s but repeated in the 1990s (I think), they featured the beautiful people having wonderful times in the world’s most glamorous places and promised pleasure anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

What’s it got to do with today?

Whatever brand you need people to believe in – personal or corporate – it’s open to attack anytime, anyplace, anywhere.  I’ve coined it the ‘Martini era’.  Let’s hope they won’t chase me for copyright infringement – they should consider it a favour.

So how do you control brand reputation in these times?

FOCUS

The answer?  Make sure everyone knows what you stand for.  What’s your common purpose as an organisation?  What makes you stand out?  How do you define ‘your way’ of doing things?  Your culture?

The answers to these questions are the essential essence.  They’re what makes your brand tick.  Bottle that essence and it pulls everything into sharp focus.  We all know how powerful that is.  Ever started a fire with the sun’s rays and a simple magnifying glass?

WHO GETS IT

Size doesn’t matter.  Business start-up and multinational alike understand the need for focus.  But it’s equally interesting who doesn’t get it.

ENTREPRENEURS

Positive Pressure gets it.  They’ve been in business for a few years but knew they didn’t have their ‘elevator sell’ sorted – ie that ten second sell that would make them stand out if they were sharing a lift with a stranger.

They knew what they did – they can measure the difference they make in team performance by building individual wellbeing ( massage, reflexology etc).

Our two hour session energised them because “the vision is so exciting and it’s great to have something that feels so right”.  Hopefully, that clarity will help them with every business decision from now on.

GLOBAL LEADERS

For big business, let’s look at Goodrich:  Fortune 500, global aerospace and defence company.  ‘If there’s an aircraft in the sky, we’re on it’.  They know their essence.  They also know the key is to integrate internal and external communications.

Goodrich ECEPS division – 1,000 people spread over five continents – understands how internal communications is key to keep the essence alive.

For all its investment in a successful Farnborough Show, trade advertising and sponsorships, a disgruntled employee could shake the faith in its reputation with what would appear to them an anodyne, online comment.

So when Niki Court, ECEPS marketing co-ordinator, asked us to come into an internal communications session and challenge them, I knew exactly where she was coming from.  She wanted an ‘agent provocateur’.

(I had the good fortune to work at Saatchis in the 1980s where we were taught to seek opposite opinion.  Criticism is more powerful than harmony in testing creative ideas.)

Niki was leading a continuous improvement workshop and wanted an outsider’s perspective.  We served up an A0 sheet filled with pictures of exemplars to inspire the team to raise their game when communicating internally.

All were highly skilled and experienced communicators around the table.

“Kinetic helped spark interesting conversations,” said Niki.  “The session was very interactive from the start and the conversations carried on long after they’d left.  They inspired us in quite a few ways by using new/different methods of communication.

“Their thoughts on exemplars – what others companies are doing – were also reassuring because they told us that we’re doing a lot right already in terms of internal communications and promoting a values-driven culture.  They helped us put all of what we’re already doing in a clearer context and really raised the energy of the group.”

Organisations like Goodrich have all the channels ‘plumbed in’ – website, intranet, media relations, newsletters etc.  It’s the consistency of their messages that glues them all together.

Today’s top brands are congruent.  That means they look, sound and feel the same anytime, anyplace and anywhere you interact with them.

We are a world away from ‘give me six press cuttings in the local papers.’

We left the era of fluff over substance some time ago.  The Martini era is about transparency, trust and integrity.  Now content is king and conversation is the kingdom.

Building belief in the football brand – by Aimee Postle

Aimee Postle, Account Manager, Kinetic Communications - Birmingham PR consultancy

Aimee Postle

Cameron and Clegg must have been grateful this past week as their Comprehensive Spending Review announcements were overshadowed by something far more important for the UK population – whether Wayne Rooney was, in fact, going to leave Manchester United.

This week has been somewhat of a football focused week – with Pompey on the brink of collapse (again!) and Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson facing a barrage of criticism after just eight league games in charge.  Recent months have seen the cash for votes scandal around the England 2018 bid for the FIFA World Cup while the exit of Martin O’Neill from Aston Villa dominated headlines for a number of days.

So, what is it about ‘the beautiful game’ which captures hearts and minds – and headlines – and what can the business world learn when it comes to managing their own reputations?

Rich or poor, black or white, at home or abroad – anyone can watch or support football.  It is universally understood and transcends linguistic, cultural and geographic barriers.  Clubs such as Manchester United are internationally recognised – with kits and souvenirs being shipped all over the world.  It could be argued that Rooney’s exit – no longer to happen – would have been felt further and wider than the UK spending cuts.

For business, this suggests that universal access can reap high rewards.

However, while universally accessible, football brands also instil a sense of team pride – fans feel a sense of belonging, the right to comment on failures and revel in success.  Anyone who considers themselves a fan feels they have the right to pass public judgement on the actions of the football business.  So, every decision is examined in minute detail.

For business, something which may lead to uncomfortable outcomes.

Finally, this scrutiny runs both ways.  Football clubs get the positive stories and headlines because they provide information and access in the bad times as well.  The media is a fickle friend and journalists will soon stop talking about the good times if they are not given the access during the bad.

For business, a lesson that media coverage does not always go the way you want it to!

The power of reputation – by Angela Podmore

Recently, Birmingham City University Business School hosted an event on Britain’s Most Admired Companies – annually featured in Management Today.

The study of corporate reputation is led by Prof D Michael Brown and this year’s keynote speaker was Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco CEO since 1997.  He’s grown the turnover to £62.5bn and £3.5bn profit, 48,000 stores and 472,000 staff – in other words a guy who knows a thing or two about getting people facing in the same direction.

Leahy finds reputation, “the most unsettling aspect of management” because you can spend a lifetime hoping to build a reputation and you can lose it in a single day.  He sees most managers as control freaks so “it’s an uncomfortable thought”.

“You can’t buy, own or possess a reputation.  It’s given to you by other people” – with these few words he shows his understanding of reputation.  A reflection of ‘everything you say, everything you do and everything others say about you’ (source:  CIPR).

He explained how far they’d come in that a tobacco company had considered acquiring Tesco in the 1980s but turned down the deal because it “might drag down their reputation”.

Regarding managing reputation, “you can’t set out to manage your reputation.  You just have to ensure you manage your company and ensure you manage a good company.”

He said at the heart of it, a company needs to be built on a clear common purpose of what it exists to do and do it well based on values.

The Tesco vision is to ‘create benefit for customers in order to earn their lifetime loyalty’.  Their values are:  ‘service – no one should try harder for customers than Tesco’ and ‘respect – treat others as we’d like to be treated ourselves’.

Simple!  And that’s why it’s worked so well.

He said you can manage 100 people but you can’t hope to manage hundreds of thousands of people.  You have to ensure they share the sense of common purpose, follow the right strategy, with the right values and we don’t over control the business.

Another great tip he gave any would-be-top-CEO.  “You mustn’t overreact when crisis strikes.  The key is to run with it and come out the other side.  A good company, built on solid foundations will come through the other side.  It’s knowing when to use the sword and the shield.”

He says the power of reputation can be measured in the percentage of ‘intangibles’ of a company’s market capitalisation.  The higher the number, the higher the esteem in which that organisation is held.  So you have Mitchells and Butler at 25%, Sainsbury’s at 30%, Tesco at 60%, M&S at 64%, Severn Trent at 65%, GSK at 83% and Diageo at 86%.  So, measure for measure, Diageo’s reputation is three times more powerful than M&B’s.

Apart from market cap, across all sectors, there are clear links between strong corporate reputation and performance:

·         Quality products

·         Quality marketing/brands

·         Ability to attract, recruit and retain their teams

·         Strong quality management

·         Financial solutions

·         Value as a long-term investment

·         Capacity to innovate

·         Community and environmental responsibility.

But love Leahy for his parting shot:  “reputation is internally managed and externally assessed.”  That’s the best shot in the arm for the owner of an integrated communications consultancy since Bill Gates’ “if I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on PR.”

Is PR dead? by Aimee Postle

So, is PR in its traditional perceived form dead? Not a loaded question in the slightest! Three things have got me thinking about this – completing the CIPR Diploma, climbing Snowdon, and starting on the CIM Diploma.

The more reading I did around PR while studying for the Diploma (and the Certificate before it), the more I realised that PR in its strictest perceived form just does not – or should not – exist anymore. PR professionals (and I use that word deliberately) do not just wine and dine journalists or massage egos. Our role is – and should be – so much wider.

The PR profession (again, a deliberate choice of words) has a PR problem. While we may have developed professionally to offer clients so much more than the PR practitioners of the early 1900s with their publicity campaigns – we are not telling people about it. And, when we do, they don’t understand our jargon.

Our trip up Snowdon got us all thinking about what it is we actually do – what benefit do we offer our clients? Our vision, mission and values have been clearly defined for some time (has everyone seen our brand onion?) but how we crystallise that into a service offering that clients actually understand has been a longer process.

We subscribe to the CIPR’s definition of PR – it is about reputation; the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. We feel this covers the holistic nature of the PR profession – defining your cause and then integrating your communications so that your messages and values are consistent across all media and to all audiences.

This is where the CIM Diploma comes into it. The reading I’ve done over the last two months has highlighted just how much we do that extends outside of the traditional realm of PR.

While we do not profess to be HR people or business management consultants, we do know how to use communications to achieve buy-in from all parties – internal and external – and how to use that for competitive advantage (the holy grail as defined by the CIM).

So, open to debate, “we are business communications problem solvers” – succinct and to the point? Or vague and yet more jargon? Does it actually accurately convey what we do? Or is it just another way of hiding behind words while we try to articulate clearly the value that we add?