PR Lessons from the Real West Wing

We recently had the privilege of getting a behind-the-scenes tour of The White House in Washington DC from a friend with the Department of Homeland Security.
We were pleased to find several valuable lessons for radio there, including:

• The President’s Secret Service detail. We were surprised at how young, great looking and very personable they were. They were also very knowledgeable and answered our questions in a friendly, thorough manner. Can you say the same about your street team and promotions people? They’re the face that most often interacts with your listeners.

• The Secret Service agent who was standing guard over the Oval Office told us that the president is never, ever late for anything; he sticks to a very strict, planned agenda everyday so that he doesn’t keep others waiting. And, he tries to take as many meetings in his office as possible, so as not to eat up his time with travel. How are your Presidential time management skills?

• Inside the “Situation Room,” where major issues of national security are hammered out, any miscommunication could cause horrible consequences. So, every person attending has a microphone above their chair, and all meetings are recorded and videotaped to insure there are no errors in plan execution.

• When President Clinton was in office, he created a special area inside the gates of the White House lawn to make it easier for the press to file their reports. Do you make it easy for the local media to cover your station’s big events?

• Generally speaking, the White House was quite a bit less hectic and much more orderly on the day we visited than one would see on a typical “West Wing” episode. While everyone was no doubt very busy, they were very much on task, working from an agenda and wasted little time.

No matter which party is in office, the White House itself tends to run like a relatively well-oiled machine. When your radio station does the same, you’ll be amazed at how much more time you’ll have to concentrate on creating unique, compelling entertainment for your listeners.

Positioning Yourself: It’s Not Just a Statement!

We always advise our clients who want to Become Semi-Famous to seek a unique, compelling position in the marketplace. Positions exist in the minds of the audience, not in the taglines of your advertising.

It was Al Ries & Jack Trout who many years ago who proclaimed the importance of owning a word in the prospect’s mind. I think Reis and Trout are marketing geniuses, but under their theory, what is the “word” owned by Apple? Or Amazon? Or Samsung, Yahoo, Goldman Sachs, Caterpillar, Canon, or Motorola? None of these brands “own a word”…yet all are rising stars in Interbrand’s 2004 ranking of Top Global Brands by dollar value. How do you explain this?

Here’s the common mistake: We confuse TRYING to position with HAVING a unique, compelling position. We confuse a positioning STATEMENT with having an actual position. What we say in interviews and on the air may not be the same as what’s in the listener, viewer or reader’s mind. You need to be congruent with your position and your message and the consumer’s expectation and understanding of your message and position.

Unless media consumers view you differently from others in your field of expertise (your competition) you do NOT have a position, no matter what fancy words you use.

John Zagula, co-author of the forthcoming book “The Marketing Playbook” has a handy shortcut called “Positioning XYZ’s”. Fill in the blanks: “We are the only X that solves Y problem in Z unique way,” where X is the category you are in, Y is the unmet need of your target audience, and Z is the differentiation, advantage, or key positive distinction you have over your competition. Examine what you do…can you fill the XYZ’s?

If not, what modification can you do to your image or product to enhance it’s market viability?

A radio station owning the phrase “10 in a row” doesn’t mean that station owns the “Most Music” image. The same is true for you; owning a word or phrase is meaningless unless you own a unique and compelling audience expectation. The very mention of your name or your program should create a distinct and desirable image which listeners want to affiliate with.

That’s what a position is…whether or not you have a “line” or “own a word or phrase.”

To your success!