PR agencies spend so much time talking about PR 2.0, bloggers, online media, social media and the like, as marketers we forget that we live in the real world, too.  And often, what we do in the real world is the very fire that fuels success in online marketing and spurs word-of-mouth across it all.  

To this end, I overheard a conversation at lunch where two marketing execs were talking about what they could do to drive Word of Mouth.  Aside from the fact that they shouldn’t talk about plans in an Au Bon Pain, it was clear that these guys were confused on some of the basic tools, such as guerilla marketing, publicity stunts and grassroots programs.  The terms were jumbled together in a mashup of craziness and swag, seemingly with very little direction.  Never mind they seemed to be clueless how to translate their ideas to online or social media marketing.

For what it’s worth, I thought I’d take a shot at providing some context to the conversation.   Hey, I may be completely full of s**t; talk to 50 marketers and you may get 50 different definitions for these same words. But defining these tactical kissing cousins is the key to having a good reference point to begin a plan.

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BOSTON, MA. (Feb 26, 2009)-  When it comes to media relations, most car companies follow a time-tested public relations formula: test-drives with the likes of Car & Driver, Automobile, and Road and Track. And while positive reviews in the auto press are essential, this year Subaru of America is taking a road less traveled to reach the American consumer: the CBC Winter House, an innovative media relations program from Boston PR agency Cercone Brown & Co. (formerly CerconeBrownCurtis).

This January, Subaru of America, Inc. put top consumer journalists behind the wheel of their 2009 Tribeca and Forester models at the CBC Winter House, where journalists were given the opportunity to test products in a natural setting. No contrived media pitches – just the product in the environment for which it was intended; in Subaru’s case, real roads, a wintry setting, and drivers of all skill levels.

“This was a unique way for us to get consumer journalists into Subaru vehicles and see what our products are all about,” said Heather Ward, manager of corporate communications for Subaru of America, Inc. “Park City was a great setting for us to show off the go-anywhere capabilities of our vehicles. With standard all-wheel drive and the legendary Subaru boxer engine, the media got to see a different side of our vehicles – not only are they safe and durable, but they are also a lot of fun to drive.”

Media pros from top press outlets ranging from Men’s Health to Good Morning America stay in the Winter House in Park City, Utah for three-day sessions, and have the opportunity to taste, touch and drive innovative 2009 products. In many cases, these products have not been released to the public.

“I had the opportunity to try products I wouldn’t have seen for months and have fun while I was doing it,” said Natalie Gingerich, Prevention.I previously breezed over brands I was unfamiliar with and the Winter House gave me an opportunity to see new brands, and test familiar brands in a new way. I have always thought of Subaru as an outdoor car company but they have upped the ante. Their new models are luxurious and it was great to test them in icy conditions to see what they’re capable of”.

This year, the media really had an opportunity to test product that has yet to hit the market place, from brand new Kettle Chips flavors to heated jackets from Mountain Hardwear and brand-new watch models from Timex. Participating in Winter House gives companies an opportunity to use the media as a focus group on product that is new, innovative and still in its preliminary stages. Additionally, companies like Kahtoola and Karhu use the Winter House forum to get their name out and test product currently on the market. The program has lead companies to look at media relations in a whole new way.

“The media that attend the CBC Winter House and Summer House collectively sway huge influence on the consumer trends in the US and abroad,” said Noelle Guerin, the architect behind the program for CBC.  “Subaru created a powerful impression for journalists that typically don’t have the chance to report first-hand on the driving experience. It groups their new models within the realm of the most innovative and exciting products of any kind in 2009, not just new cars.”

Coming on the heels of a successful Winter House program, the Summer House, CBC’s sister program on Nantucket, has already signed on several companies. The Summer House kicks off on June 7. For more information on how to participate in Summer House or other experiential media relations programs please contact Noelle Guerin,

About CBC

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, CerconeBrown&Company (CBC) provides branding, advertising, public relations, promotions and social media services to companies in a range of industries. Founded in 2001, the company has worked with leading brands that include adidas, GMAC Insurance, Hasbro, Nantucket Nectars, Orvis, Cognos, Sperry Top-Sider, K2, The Timberland Company, Vibram and ZOOTS. For more information, visit

About Subaru of America, Inc.

Subaru of America, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. of Japan. Headquartered in Cherry Hill, N.J., the company markets and distributes Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive vehicles, parts and accessories through a network of nearly 600 dealers across the United States. Subaru makes the best-selling All-Wheel Drive car sold in America based on R.L. Polk & Co. new vehicle retail registration statistics calendar year-end 2007. In addition, Subaru boasts the most fuel efficient line-up of all-wheel drive products sold in the market today based on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy standards. All Subaru products are manufactured in zero-landfill production plants and Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. is the only U.S. automobile production plant to be designated a backyard wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. For additional information visit


MSN featured Nalgene as a way to buy American

MSN featured Nalgene as a way to buy American

One of the most pleasing things that can happen to a PR agency is when a high-level journalist covers a client.  What makes it better is when that coverage parrots the top-line messages you’ve been pushing for some time, and they didn’t even talk to you directly.  


This happened today when MSN featured water-bottle manufacturer, Nalgene, in the feature 10 Ways You Can Still Buy American.  In the article, they not only hit all the major high points on BPA-free bottles and the company’s heritage in the outdoors, the writer referred to the bottle as “the symbol of hip environmentalists” and went on to mention the whole range of product.

This is a vote of confidence for laying out a clear, AUTHENTIC, messaging strategy, then making sure you execute in all media relations efforts, search engine optimization (SEO) PR, in store, online, etc.  After a while, the aggregate mesage takes hold and you will be noticed for who you really are.

The recognition couldn’t happen to a nicer group.  Nalgene (in my opinion) is a company that always does the right thing, even when it’s not the easiest thing.  And isn’t that really American after all?

I came across a good article on effective media relations I thought I’d share. It’s from the Bulldog Reporter, a news source for PR professionals. It was from the blog Journalists Speak Out, which is a must read for all PR agency folk. While there’s not a lot of new information for people who work hard on packaging news with specific media needs in mind, it’s at very least a quick and easy reminder of some major do’s and don’ts for media relations agencies from Boston to Baton Rouge.

The big tip for me is the “nut graph.” You can be sure that all of our publicists at CBC will be adding this to their pitches and releases.


New Year’s Resolutions Journalists Wish PR Practitioners Would Make
By Brian Pittman

“A resolution many journalists probably wish PR people would make could be to commit to doing more homework before calling us,” says Kristin Bender, the Berkeley reporter for the Bay Area News Group-East Bay, which owns The Oakland Tribune. “It doesn’t have to be extensive. Just ‘use the Google,’ as President Bush says,” continues Bender, who is also a freelance writer and frequent Bulldog Awards for Excellence in Media Relations and Publicity judge. Read more

These days, media relations pros are finding the universe of press opportunities dwindling.  True, there’s a whole host of things your PR agency can do with online and social media marketing, including bolstering search results through smart SEO copywriting, promotional campaigns, Facebook and Twitter.  But the truth is that a huge amount of sway in public opinion is still held by the traditional media.  

Public relations pros still need to reach the national news outlets and magazines that are reporting on trends and products with great depth and authority.

But with advertising support at an all time low, these outlets have less time and space for editorial. So PR agencies need to work smarter for their clients than ever before.  Here’s Three Rules to Getting Ink that should help get bolster your media relations efforts in these times of scarcity: Read more

Looking around these days, and you can’t help think that the deepening recession is in part due to fear. People are cutting back, as are companies, because they fear the worst.  In some respects, it’s a self-fulfilling cycle.

But as I pointed out in the fall in my eBook Simplinomics, the forces at play here will reckon permanent behavioral changes in the American consumer. One is thrift, and its main byproduct, savings.

Last year, the national savings rate hit 1.7%; historically low, but much higher than recent years where collectively we lived well beyond our means. Increased savings is good for the long-term, but exacerbates economic hardships in the short term.  It’s what “the experts” are calling the Paradox of Thrift.

Some say that the savings rate may peak at 6% next year. And I’m here to say, this change will be permanent.  American’s will be a tougher sell moving forward.

So what’s the answer? Innovate products and features that drive against real problems.

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