Marketing Public Relations

Many companies are turning to marketing public relations (MPR) to support corporate or product promotion and image making. MPR, like financial PR and community PR, serves a special constituency, the marketing department.

The old name for MPR was publicity, which was seen as the task of securing editorial space as opposed to paid space in print and broadcaster media to promote or “hype” a product, service, idea, place, person, or organization, MPR goes beyond simple publicity and plays an important role in the following tasks:

* Assisting in the launch of new products: The amazing commercial success of toys such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Beanie Babies, and Pokemon owes great deal to clever publicity.

* Assisting in repositioning a mature product: New York City had extremely bad press in the 1970s until the “I Love New York” campaign.

* Building interest in a product category: Companies and trade associations have used MPR to rebuild interest in declining commodities such as eggs, milk, beef, and potatoes, and to expand consumption of such products as tea, pork, and orange juice.

* Influencing specific target groups: McDonald’s sponsors special neighborhood events in Latino and African American communities to build goodwill.

* Defending products that have encountered public problems: PR professionals must be adept at managing crises, such as the Coca-Cola incident in Belgium over allegedly contaminated soda, and Firestone’s crisis with regard to the tire tread separation problem.

* Building the corporate image in a way that reflects favorably on its products: Bill Gates’s speeches and books have helped to create an innovative image for Microsoft Corporation.

As the power of mass advertising weakens, marketing managers are turning to MPR to build awareness and brand knowledge for both new and established products. MPR is also effective in blanketing local communities and reaching specific groups. In several cases, MPR proved more cost effective than advertising. Nevertheless, it must be planned jointly with advertising. In addition, marketing managers need to acquire more skill in using MPR resources. Gillette is a trendsetter here: Each brand manager is required to have a budget line for MPR and to justify not using it. Done right, the impact can be substantial.

Meow Mix company

Meow Mix is showing what it calls “cattitude” by adding public relations to its media mix. After the company reprised its famous singing cat commercials from the 1970s, consumer research revealed that cat owners often leave the TV on for their pets. The company’s advertising and PR agencies, working together, took off on the idea of creating a TV show for cats and their owners. Meow TV, featuring Cat Toga and other fare for felines and owners, airs on the Oxygen cable Network. The PR value of the show has been tremendous. Media interest in the TV show’s production and the related talent search for cat lovers in major markets generated over 153 million impressions in local print and TV outlets and all on a relatively modest budget of $400,000.

Clearly, creative public relations can affect public awareness at a fraction of the cost of advertising. The company does not pay for the space or time obtained in the media. It pays only for a staff to develop and circulate the stories and manage certain events. If the company develops an interesting story, it could be picked up by the media and be worth millions of dollars in equivalent advertising. Some experts say that consumers are five times more likely to be influenced by editorial copy than be advertising.