Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Media Approach to Communications. Does it work? The case-study that started MicroMedia.

I've spent 20 years in the Royal Navy and one of the reasons I chose that life was that I couldn't - and still can't - stand by and watch injustice.

My father-in-law had been running an independent Do-It-Yourself (or home improvement) shop in Salisbury for over 40 years. Things we're getting hard in that sector and he had to admit that he wasn't the young buck he was when he started the shop. We all had to sit down and make the heart-breaking decision that given profits weren't what they used to be, we'd have to close Teed Tools and let him retire.
My father-in-law hard at work in the shop.
On examining the books, I was shocked to see how much he was paying for advertising - and I couldn't see the adverts, let alone the return on investment. With more investigation, I found that he was paying thousands of pounds to advertise in Post Offices with the most awful and inappropriate stock graphics - all in the hope that someone that's in a queue to send a letter or pay a bill, might be inspired to call into his shop.

I was the Second-In-Command of the Defence Media Operations Centre at the time and in a fit of anger at the company that had tied my father-in-law into a multi-year contract for this 'advertising', I informed the entire family that I was taking over his advertising and marketing!

Sure, I had done media for the military, I had developed messages for operations and deployments - but could I take this to the civilian and commercial arena?

I developed a media plan that only used Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I then forged strategies that would gain the attention of the local newspaper and radio station.

Transferring the way the UK military conducts Media Operations, I developed a media plan, constructed easily repeated messages and studied the audiences we needed to influence. And there were 3 simple things we kept playing with:
  • Let the tradesmen that used store have a good laugh.
  • Generate interest in the my father-in-law's story from the traditional media.
  • Remind people that they could save money by tackling tasks themselves.
The most powerful of these was making tradesmen laugh. The number of double-entendres you can play with a DIY store is amazing:
  • Come and feel our knobs and knockers - Made you look, made you stare, now come and see our amazing hardware!
  • We've got wood on Wednesday - Have you? We'll even cut it to size!
  • When was the last time you had a good screw? Ours are of the finest quality.
People interacted and that led to people listening to how they could save money by taking on projects themselves.

We increased footfall (tradesmen were always commenting about the morning 'rude' post), increased takings - and on the last day he was trading, the pavement was blocked with customers 4 or 5 deep at the door before we had even opened the store.

And we didn't pay an advertising or marketing company a single penny.

Then there was a crisis. My Father-in-law got robbed in the store taking much needed cash to aid his retirement. I instantly knew that emotions were high - and also knew that the emotions we were feeling was a story that other would react to. So, I contacted the local press - I didn't bother with a 'Press Release' as I knew that it wouldn't be as effective as an emotional phone call to the news desk.

Photo from this newspaper article.
"I thought you should know that Mr Teed of Teed Tools was robbed today. Someone took a load of cash from his till when we wasn't looking. I mean, he's in his seventies and he's running his last sale so that he can retire. Who would do that to someone that's served the community for over 40 years?"

No matter which way you look at it, I gave them a story with amazing words that excite the media. - theft, anger, elderly, retirement, compassion, society, service... So of course they ran a story.

This led to local radio conducting interviews, additional newpaper articles - and footfall and income increased yet again. The local radio even ran a piece during his last day of trading thanking him for everything that he had done for the community.

Did it work? I'm delighted to say that we managed to raise enough not only to ensure he's enjoying his retirement, but we even managed to buy him and his wife a house in the area so that he can still keep in touch with all his friends and former customers.

As we closed the shop door the final evening, I realised that I could take these skills and help other companies take over their own media presence. And the seed was planted to form MicroMedia.

I've reviewed all of the military training I've received, from planning, audience analysis, to 'Courses of Action' and 'Decisive Conditions' - then blended it with the media channels that are available to all of us and finding way to make your stories of interest to all forms of media, both traditional and web-based... And launched MicroMedia Ltd.

It's all about the ethics of MicroMedia - no lies, no spin, save money where you can. But, most importantly, you are the media - You've got stories the media wants and they can shape the way you can gain the effects that you need...  And you won't have to waste thousands of pounds on a slideshow shown to a disgruntled post office queue.