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KFC Potholes Fix: Another example of using the news

Springtime in Iowa

In colder climates, it’s pothole season.

As the weather warms, ice and snow thaws and “spring break up” begins. The ground creaks and ripples as some areas thaw faster than others, while others go through numerous freeze and thaw cycles until spring truly arrives.

It begins for the roads too, as thawing ice breaks up pavement and creates potholes (or exposes the ones frozen and smoothed over by ice all winter).

Earlier this week, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) parent Yum Foods offered $3000 to help the city of Louisville fix 350 potholes. In exchange, KFC gets to apply temporary chalk emblems to the repaired potholes saying “Re-freshed by KFC”.

Free publicity you say? (11,000+ results as of the morning of Mar 27 2009) (how many listeners to All Things Considered?)

What exactly to potholes and chicken have to do with one another?

Not a darned thing. And does it matter?


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Happy Birthday, Barbie!

TM Resort (48)
Creative Commons License photo credit: Picklepud

Anyone in the beauty / spa / cosmetics / girls / women’s products or similar businesses has a nice opportunity to feed off of the likely sizable public relations push surrounding the reveal of the 50th anniversary Barbie’s new face by Mattel.

Yep – she’s getting a facelift (or something like that) for her 50th birthday

Even if you aren’t in one of these businesses, with a little thought there are ways you could siphon off a little free PR from it.

“Take Barbie (and your parents) out to a birthday dinner tonight and get a free dessert” (that was the easy one)

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Finger lickin’ good PR for KFC

Last week, you might have seen a news piece on CNN or another national television network showing a high security team from Kentucky Fried Chicken moving their secret recipe to a new location.

You might have thought “What a puff piece” when you saw the news.

What I hope you saw was a large corporate that was wise enough to make a big deal out of (relatively) nothing: moving their secret recipe to a more secure location.

If it was that big of a deal, they would have moved it in the dark of night and would have done so very quietly. You wouldn’t have seen the press, a big fanfare, news helicopters, etc.

Instead, they made a big deal out of it and for the price of a little imagination and a press release, they got a TON of free publicity out of the move.

If you look closely at the Google search below, you’ll see 54, 200 search engine results for KFC secret recipe move.

All from a little clever public relations.

There’s no reason at all why you can’t make a similarly big deal out of your little news items. A restaurant in Anchorage got similar press coverage today because they added a Sarah Palin recipe item to their menu.

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What would a HARO look like in your market?

Woolworth. Sears. KMart. WalMart. The Internet. Napster. Amazon. iTunes. Open-source software.

And now, HARO.

HARO, aka is proving to be disruptive to PR Newswire’s ProfNet, a service for subject matter experts (SME) – which could easily be you. ProfNet charges sources to connect with reporters who need an expert to interview for their next story.

NOTE: Reporters and other journalists (hmmm, bloggers?) get access to PR Newswire’s ProfNet at no cost. Only sources pay.

I’m on the HARO list (from a source side) and the queries from reporters are indeed high quality and often from the NYT, AP, etc.

But that really isn’t why I mention this today.

I’m thinking of how you should be looking at this angle.

It might be hard for someone to come into your nice, juicy market and have this kind of impact, but this is far from the first time it has happened.

What would a HARO look like in your market?

It wouldn’t have to be free. Clearly, HARO creator Peter Shankman is getting work as a result, so don’t limit your thinking to “the HARO for my market must be free”.

How long is it going to take you to be a disrupting force instead of the disrupted one feeling the effects of that force?

Or will you simply wait for someone else to disrupt your market?

Think about it.

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Are you smarter than a dry cleaners?

For some time now, the news has covered Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson’s $54MM ( 54 million dollar ) lawsuit against Custom Cleaners, a dry cleaning store in Washington DC.

Originally, the basis for Pearson’s lawsuit was about a pair of supposedly lost pants. Later the pants resurfaced, but the lawsuit was altered to be about Custom’s alleged violations of the District Of Columbia Consumer Protection Act. Among other things, Pearson’s contention was that the presence of a sign saying “Satisfaction Guaranteed” means you should be able to get anything you want.

Sadly, the owners of the store have removed the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign, as well as one saying “Same Day Service”, a gutless move in my book, even though they won the lawsuit. They should have an event to celebrate putting the signs back up.

But this post isn’t about a frivolous lawsuit, or the removal of the signs. It’s about the dry cleaning industry’s nationwide failure to take advantage of an obvious marketing opportunity by turning this weird story into a big win.

A win?

Dry cleaners all over the country have been thrust into the spotlight over this lawsuit, yet I’ve not seen a single marketing piece or press release taking advantage of it. It’s publicity that some businesses would be thrilled to get, but couldn’t afford – yet no one is taking advantage of the buzz from this goofy lawsuit.

Perhaps the industry and store owners are figuring they’ll just hide from it and wait for a verdict, or simply ignore it and hope it’ll go away. What they should be doing is using the buzz to bring attention to their store, their guarantee, and even making a little fun of the whole situation.

But they aren’t. How totally boring.

You need to let the locals know that their satisfaction is guaranteed, tell them what to expect and make sure they understand that you keep track of their clothes “as if they were a suit-happy judge”.

How many ways can you use the word “JudgeMENTAL”?  Ok, maybe that one isn’t a good idea:)

You need to make sure any paperwork hanging in motel closets is updated to reference your guarantee and note that you’ll ship clothes to their home or some other destination of their choice – on your dime – if something unfortunate happens, or a pair of pants loses its way back to the motel.

Issue a press release and a Q&A to the radio stations, letting them know you have a sense of humor about all this – it might get you a brief interview during the morning and/or evening drive time shows. Big audiences follow these shows.

Contact each of your clients via email and/or print newsletter – depending on what contact info you have (you’d better have some – if not, get it). Make sure they understand that you have a better guarantee. Have a lost-my-pants promotion or special event for those clients.

Update your signage both inside and outside. Update the paperwork you hand out to your clientèle. Let them know you’re aware of the lawsuit and your clients’ valuable clothing is safe, then elaborate on the steps you take to keep track of their clothing, what your guarantee covers, and why they should continue to use you.

Speak at the local service club meetings (Rotary, Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, Lions, etc) about it. Even if you only get a chance to toss in a little funny comment during your self-introduction, it’ll get the point across.

In your ads, press releases and elsewhere, be sure to use testimonials from your existing clients and include comments from people who have never lost anything and from people whose clothes you lost yet you “made it right” and they still use your cleaners years later. These testimonials should be a core part of your existing marketing and “customer-facing” paperwork.

Have a special event at the store to make a bit of fun with the situation.

Do a mailing to the local judges and lawyers. Again, have some fun with it. Include a coupon for to have cleaning done on “a lawsuit and 2 pair of pants”, or have “Attorney/Judge Appreciation Week” where you pickup and deliver for free as a way of greasing the cogs of justice or similar silliness.

Designate the lawsuit’s decision day as “Dry Cleaners’ Judges Appreciation Day”, include it on your annual marketing calendar. In “honor” of the $54MM lawsuit, offer to dry clean pants for judges for 54 cents.

In other words, USE THE NEWS to bring attention to your business. Take advantage of the buzz from silly things going on in the world. Did you have a special on jumpsuits lately? “We clean prison jumpsuits – and regular ones too.” Paris is all over the news, why aren’t you?