The News Chair
  1. Marketing vs. PR vs. Advertising

    September 2, 2016 by Christopher Lloyd

    In the days of yore, there was generally a fine line between advertising and public relations. Ad men — and they were almost entirely men, at least back in the “Mad Men” days — created advertising for print, TV and radio. Public relations, or PR, was an amorphous practice, which generally involved trying to get the media to cover your clients.

    Coles Marketing originally started as Coles PR and then evolved into a full-service outreach firm that includes copywriting (like yours truly), ad creation, graphic design, web design, photography and videography, social media outreach and targeted online advertising. It’s a whole new world, where you can see ads tailored to your personal interests, based on your web traffic.

    As the game has changed, though, it’s left many people confused about the difference between marketing, PR and advertising.

    The old saying in the biz was “You pay for advertising, you pray for publicity.” Despite all the changes in technology and new platform paradigms, that still basically holds true. With advertising, you have control over the message, which you pay to create and (usually) pay someone with a means of reaching the public to carry it — websites, billboards etc.

    With modern PR, you’re not necessarily dialing up a reporter or editor and asking them to consider writing/broadcasting about the client. That’s one of the biggest changes with the web, email and social media: brands can bypass the traditional lines of communication to reach the consumer directly, on their own terms.

    Then there are hybrid activities like content marketing, also known as brand journalism, where the brand becomes its own publisher, creating and distributing articles and information that is helpful or interesting to people. You’re not necessarily pitching products, just creating a sense of expertise that people will turn to when they need help.

    “Marketing” is the umbrella term that includes both PR and advertising, as well as the hybrid permutations that have arisen. It means all the efforts and resources you devote to convincing people to buy your product or service.

    Put it this way: Marketing refers to the overall strategic plan for outreach. Advertising, promotions, e-newsletters, publicity, content marketing — these are all just tactics employed to make that plan happen.

    So if your company is only talking about advertising, or restricts its outreach planning to just social media or PR, then you’re only using a portion of the tools available in the box.

  2. Connecting with the Crowd

    August 5, 2016 by Teresa Christ

    Connecting with the Crowd

    Ben Folds once said that he was inspired by fellow musician Neil Young’s ability to “make a stadium feel like a living room.”

    The best concert experiences are personal and intimate, making you feel like larger-than-life rock stars are coming back down to earth and singing just for you.

    I’ve been to a lot of concerts this summer — Jimmy Buffett, Weezer, Hall & Oates, to name a few. They all reminded me of how personalized we like our experiences to be, especially in this age of social media. When I saw Weezer, for example, they projected live tweets about the concert on the screen behind them. The lead singer, Rivers Cuomo, had a big smile on his face as he read tweets from Indy folks who were thrilled to be there.

    Social media sites essentially do the same thing these musicians do — they make large arenas feel like cozy, intimate spaces where faces don’t get lost in the crowd, where people feel connected.

    Like musicians at a concert, the best companies try to create a sense of closeness to their audience as well. Consumers like to know the flesh-and-blood people behind the products they are buying — just like music fans want to see the ordinary people behind the extraordinary sounds they love. It gives them a feeling of comfort. That’s why we work so hard to develop companies’ personalities through websites and social media platforms. Those outlets make companies feel like living, breathing things with hearts, personalities and a sense of humor. Social media helps companies feel like your friends rather than simply your providers.

    A large reason why Coles Marketing posts blogs like this is to bring a personal touch to our own company, to make people feel like they know us. We’re rock stars … but we’re also down to earth.

  3. Whither ad blocking?

    July 6, 2016 by Christopher Lloyd

    Ad blocking meme

    Ad blocking has become a hot topic of late in integrated marketing circles. More and more software is being introduced to filter or remove advertising from webpages because people have become tired of having their content overwhelmed by sales pitches.

    One in five smartphone users now block ads in one form or another, a 90 percent increase.

    Or they’re annoyed by the longer load times, especially on mobile platforms. Or having blaring commercials pop up with distracting sounds, especially when you’re trying to work. (It happened to me while I was researching this article.)

    My personal pet peeve is when ads are the first thing to load, while you tap your foot waiting for the stuff that was the very reason you clicked to arrive!

    The potential financial impact is huge, and getting bigger all the time. The global digital marketing marketplace amounted to $78.6 billion in 2015, and is expected to reach $122 billion by 2019, according to Magna Global and Cowen & Company.

    Getting beyond the details of how ad blocking works — should we be blocking ads at all? After all, this is the primary vehicle by which content-based websites earn their revenue. If you take that away, the websites and their content will wither, too.

    Having come from a newspaper-based background, this prospect scares me. Ditto for television and the rise of Tivo and other DVR devices that let you skip past commercials with the flick of a button.

    It almost seems like we’re setting digital media up for a repeat of the long, gradual-then-faster decline of traditional media.

    Another question to ask is if blocking advertising can actually decrease the user experience. With contextual advertising, especially on social media platforms like Facebook, you see ad content based on your web history — so you’re guaranteed to see stuff that genuinely interests you.

    Speaking for myself, I like this sort of outreach from companies. I look, I click, I buy.

    As Brian O’Kelley of Forbes puts it:

    “Here’s the standard I would suggest that we apply: If ad blocking doesn’t promote a more open and dynamic Internet – if it makes the Internet smaller, erects toll booths and pay walls, or transforms it from a democratic system to an oligarchy of information and content – then it isn’t fulfilling a public good.”

    Some are even worried about an ad blocking epidemic. One of the problems is that users who are tech-savvy, early adopters and gamers tend to be those who employ ad blocking software the most. And, of course, that’s a demographic that advertisers desperately want to tap.

    My own take is that ad blocking, like most things, can be beneficial in moderation. But when you’re saying “no” to the majority of content being pitched your way, you’re sure to miss out on things that you actually want to see. That’s a lose-lose-lose situation: for you, the advertisers and the websites.