Communicate with Clients

By Alvin M. Hattal

Given the changing marketing landscape, creativity in communicating has never been more important. At the Conference Board Corporate Communication Conference in May, discussions about that change covered the need to cut through the clutter resulting from the volume and speed of technology with both “a sweeping change in corporate culture” and “a consistent corporate voice that instills credibility when reaching your customers.”

In his book Effective Public Relations, consultant Scott Cutlip underscores that point, explaining that “communication is an unending process that requires repetition to achieve penetration. But repetition with variation contributes to both fact and attitude learning.”

Besides the obvious need to square with the realities of its environment, Cutlip states, you have to allow for the varying effects of different channels. “[They] serve effectively in different stages of the diffusion process. “Attention must be paid to the group, its grapevine and particularly its leaders.”

That grapevine is now the Internet. Jeffrey Geibel, a Belmont, MA, consultant says, “The Internet has changed how business buyers get information to make buying decisions. Yesterday’s techniques for information gathering, such as trade shows and ‘seminar selling,’ are rapidly falling off in both attendance and effectiveness.

“Recent studies,” says Geibel, “have shown that business buyers will often consult three sources in sequence for information when making a buying decision…first the trade journals, then the trade journals’ Websites (i.e., archives), and then the vendor’s (your) Website.

“The challenge is to have continuous exposure in the trade and business press, and to have that exposure archived for Internet access. Only a public relations program can obtain those results. Advertising can’t accomplish this since it is not archived. Neither is your direct mail or telemarketing.”

“If you want both today’s buyer and tomorrow’s Internet-using business buyer, you need to be where they will look for information.”

A second challenge, adds Geibel, is to develop a public relations program with continuous appeal. “The only aspect of your company that can be fashioned into a continuous program is the business cases of how your customers use your products to solve their business problems. These problems can be used in both the business press and in vertical publications, giving you a double shot of exposure.”