When Experiential Marketing Works


On a trip to Disney World I had the opportunity to take in the Test Track at Epcot and was able to witness experiential marketing at its best.  The Test Track is presented by General Motors’ Chevrolet and involves the design and testing of a virtual concept car.

In the first stage of the pavilion, participants are given an opportunity to design a concept car. They can customize the shape, color, engine, along with several other features.  Participants have a set amount of time to design the vehicle before moving into the next phase.

The ride portion of the test track is where participants test their concept car.  Each vehicle is assigned a code that is loaded to their magic band or Disney card, so when they enter the ride stage, the code can be loaded and used to test their specific vehicle under a number of parameters like capability, efficiency, responsiveness and power.  This is where the fun begins as participants load into a vehicle and go through a series of test tracks.  Once the ride is complete, they receive information on how their concept car performed.

Following the ride, participants can take part in a number of interactive experiences.  They can create commercials for their concept car, take pictures with other Chevy concept vehicles in a showroom and a take part in a digital driving table that allows participants to drive a mini version of their car around a track.

Experiential marketing is all about helping consumers experience a brand. It’s objective is to stimulate as many senses as possible in that experience and to create a memorable and emotional connection between the consumer and the brand.

As I walked through this pavilion and witnessed the excitement on the faces of many of the participants as they tested their concept cars and posed for pictures, it was evident to see that the Chevrolet Test Track is one of the best examples of experiential marketing that I’ve seen.

Why You Shouldn’t Fear the Media


Don’t trust the media!

I’ve heard this a million times and I’m not sure if it’s due to the over exaggerations we see in the movies of the aggressive reporter hiding in the bush, or if it is due to a bad past experience. Either way, I’m going to try to help you see the benefits that can come from working with the media.

During my days in the media, I would often call individuals to inquire about different topics and be greeted on the other end by someone who was absolutely terrified to speak with me.

Maybe it was a fear of speaking on TV or on the radio, or maybe they just didn’t want to have their picture in the paper.  Either way, it made me wonder what the possibilities would have been had they not shown such objection.

If fact, strong relationships with members of the media can be a huge benefit to your business or organization.  Many companies spend hours strategizing on how to get media coverage. That’s because PR is often viewed as being way more credible than paid advertising.

So I’ve compiled 5 things for you to consider in your attempt to build better media relations:

1. Learn who makes up the media  – The first thing you need to do is create a media list and determine who you want to get to know.  Most businesses already have these lists, but not many know the journalists on the list personally.  In fact many businesses just send emails with press releases attached without ever really taking the time to get to know the reporters on the receiving end.  That leads to my second point……

2. Build real relationships – The goal is to make authentic connections with members of the media. Remember, the media is not the enemy.  In fact, most are just like you – just trying to go to work each day and do their job.  They are open and willing to build relationships too.

3. Learn about their job – Find out what journalists do on a daily basis.  Get an understanding of their deadlines and responsibilities.

4. Create a win/win relationship – Offer to assist and provide insight on subjects when opportunities come up.  Many journalists keep a list of names of people they can contact for comments or analysis on different subjects.  Even if you don’t offer your services, most journalists end up calling on people they have relationships with. You too can be of assistance!

5. Be realistic – It is important to remember that even though you have taken the time to get to know members of the media on a personal level, at the end of the day, they still have a job to do.  A journalists first responsibility is to present an unbiased perspective of the story.  If you acknowledge this and still maintain a strong relationship regardless of how the story is written, you will be much further ahead!

Good luck and remember, the media is your friend!


How You Can Draw Media Attention as a Business Owner

Ever wonder why the business down the street is always in the newspaper or on the radio and your business isn’t?  I’m not referring to the advertising they may have purchased…..I’m referring to the news story featuring their business or some other on-air recognition they’ve received.

You may say they’re just lucky, but chances are, they’ve learned what makes them, or their business, newsworthy.  And they’ve taken the time to let reporters know about it – usually in the form of a media release.

Now it’s your turn.

There are five key elements that journalists refer to when deciding whether to cover a story or not.  The more of these elements you include in a press release or in an email to a reporter, the better your chances of having your business featured in the news.  I’m going to detail them first and then provide an example to tie it all together.

First, is your idea timely?  Essentially, is it new?  No one likes old news.  If it happened two months ago, no one cares.

Second, what is the proximity of your story idea?  As with most small businesses, you’re probably looking for attention from the local media – unless your story idea is provincial or national in scope (would be nice).  Journalists usually prefer to cover local events and activities.

Third, is the story idea relevant?  Is there something your business does that relates to something else going on in the news?  Or does your business provide seasonal services like yard cleaning?  You may be able to create a story idea based on current trends or issues.

Fourth, is the story full of controversy?  As sad as it sounds, journalists (and the public) love conflict and controversy.  This can be a positive for your business in certain situations, but often media attention in this category comes during a time of crisis.

Fifth, does your idea have an element of human interest?  Yes, we love controversy, but we also love stories of triumph and events that restore our faith in humanity.  If you’re doing something extra special, you should tell people about it.

Now for an example.

Lets say you own a local restaurant and you’ve decided to set aside one night during the holiday season to feed a group of people staying at a local shelter.  Telling the media about an event like this is timely (new), has proximity (local), is relevant (holiday season) and includes an element of human interest (doing a good deed).

Sure, you could always pay to have your business featured in the newspaper or on the radio.  But there’s nothing like free publicity!

Small Business, Big Crisis – What You Say Makes a Difference

“How to communicate in a crisis situation using the 3 R’s.”

It’s a common misconception that only large companies face situations that can have a negative impact on their reputation.  In fact, no business is really immune to the issues that surface in a time of crisis.  And the way in which a company decides how to handle their communication can greatly affect the outcome.

In crisis communication we refer to these as the 3 R’s.   Regret, Reason and Remedy are used to help formulate the key statements to be communicated to stakeholders during these difficult times.

For the sake of discussion, lets say a local restaurant gets shut down over a health inspection report.

The way the restaurant may put the 3 R’s into action might be something like this:

Regret – The business should start by showing regret over the issue itself and communicate their concern to their key stakeholders.  In some situations they may even apologize for the closure since it will likely have an impact on their customers.

“We regret to inform our customers and staff that the restaurant had to be closed due to some concerns brought to our attention by the health department.  We understand that this closure may be an inconvenience to our clients who continue to be our most loyal customers.”

Reason – Most people want to know “why” something has happened.  If a business can provide the reason, or at the very least, some type of explanation, it can help to avoid rumours from spreading, and help to build back trust.

“As a company we take full responsibility for the issues that have been presented to us by the health department.  We are working hard to determine how some of these key areas may have been missed.  We take these concerns very seriously.”

Remedy – Even the best explanation in the world, isn’t going to help restore reputation in a time of crisis.  But what a company chooses to do, and say, in order to rectify the situation can certainly have a huge impact.

“While we determine how these issues came to light in the first place, we intend on making some major changes in our operations to ensure this doesn’t happen again. First, we will be taking this time to initiate a massive store-wide cleaning and inspection.  We will also be providing quarterly staff training sessions to ensure every member of our team, new and old, abides by the health standards set out.”

The best part about the 3 R’s of crisis communication is that they can also be used to help manage customer complaints.  They often help to diffuse a situation, provide context and help to build customer loyalty.

Give them a try the next time you encounter a crisis, whether big or small!



Is Any Publicity Good Publicity? Ask this Calgary radio station…..

Did you hear about the publicity stunt of AMP Radio in Calgary, Alberta?  The radio station asked listeners to vote on whether they should #bank $5,000 or #burn $5,000.  If listeners voted to bank the money, one of their names would be drawn to win the money.  If not, the money would be incinerated.  Well, as the promotion came to an end, 54% of listeners voted to burn the money….and that’s exactly what the radio station did!

The PR stunt has received a lot of heat from the community.  Many people are upset that the money wasn’t distributed to some of Calgary’s many worthwhile charities.  The radio station has defended their decision and in one interview the morning show host said the promotion achieved exactly what it was meant to do….get people talking about them!

The story got me thinking about whether any publicity is good publicity.  We’ve all heard the phrase before, but what impact does it have on your reputation over time?  Of course, we are talking and writing about the radio station now (mostly negative), but in a few weeks when the hype is over, what will the sentiment be – especially from the station’s key stakeholders, its advertisers and listeners.

Anyone in Public Relations knows that the start of any good campaign begins with research and clear objectives.  Was the station in tune with their listeners, did they have a good understanding of what money means to those listeners and to the many businesses that purchase advertising on their station?  Did the stunt align with their stakeholder beliefs?  I don’t believe it did.

If the objective was purely to get attention, then they’ve done that.  But I’m afraid that won’t lead to the financial results they were hoping to achieve in the long run – which is essentially the driver of any public relations campaign.  I suspect some advertisers will take their marketing dollars elsewhere and many listeners will tune into a different station.   Sure the station may gain some new listeners, but they will be forced to continuously come up with ways to top the last promotion, always looking to be edgier and over the top.  This itself can be a daunting and financially draining task.

In public relations, reputation is everything!

So what do you think of AMP Radio now?