Choosing Messages and Vehicles

The manager must identify or develop interesting stories to tell about the product. Suppose a relatively unknown college wants more visibility. The MPR practitioner will search for possible stories. Do any faculty members have unusual backgrounds, or are any working on unusual projects? Are any new and unusual courses being taught? Are any interesting events taking place on campus?

If the number of interesting stories is insufficient, the MPR practitioner should propose newsworthy events the college could sponsor. Here the challenge is to create news. PR ideas include hosting major academic conventions, inviting expert or celebrity speakers, and developing news conferences. Each event is an opportunity to develop a multitude of stories directed at different audiences.

Event creation is a particularly important skill in publicizing fund-raising drives for nonprofit organizations. Fund-raisers have developed a large repertoire of special events, including anniversary celebrations, art exhibits, auctions, benefit evenings, bingo games, book sales, cake sales, contests, dances, dinners, fairs, fashion shows, parties in unusual places, phonathons, rummage sales, tours, and walkathons. No sooner is one type of event created, such as a walkathon, than competitors spawn new versions, such as readathons, bikeathons, and jogathons.71

For-profit organizations also use events to call attention to their products and services. Fuji Photo Film Company flew its blimp over the renovated Statue of Liberty during its massive celebration, outdoing its rival Kodak, which had mounted a permanent photo exhibit at the site. Anheuser-Busch sponsored a Black World Championship Rodeo in Brooklyn, attracting more than 5,000 spectators. P&G chose to sponsor a Barry Manilow concert tour under the names of some of its detergent products, because it wanted to attract the middle-aged women who were Barry Manilow fans and who were the target market for the detergents.

The best MPR practitioners are able to find or create stories on behalf of even mundane products such as pork ("the other white meat"), garlic, and potatoes. Here is an example for cat food:

■ 9-L Ca F One of the top brands of cat food is Star-Kist Foods' 9-Lives. Its brand image revolves around Morris the Cat. The Leo Burnett advertising agency wanted to make Morris more of a living, breathing, real-life feline to whom cat owners and cat lovers could relate. It worked with a public-relations firm that proposed and carried out the following ideas: (1) Launch a Morris "look-alike" contest in nine major markets; (2) write a book called Morris, an Intimate Biography; (3) establish a coveted award called the Morris, a bronze statuette given to the owners of award-winning cats at local cat shows; (4) sponsor an "Adopt-a-Cat Month," with Morris as the official "spokescat"; and (5) distribute a booklet called "The Morris Method" on cat care. These publicity steps strengthened the brand's market share in the cat-food market.

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