Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's never too early for PR

It’s never too early to start incorporating public relations into your business plan…as illustrated recently by the high stakes race between paint retailers Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore to attract new customers.

Both companies released slick i-Phone applications this summer that allow users to snap a picture- whether it be of a flower, an upholstered chair or seashell - and instantly match it to one of the thousands of hues in the paint companies’ system, while at the same time harmonizing and coordinating palettes. The apps even provided directions to the nearest store.

Actually Sherwin Williams was first out of the box with the new application. But that turned out to be largely irrelevant, because Benjamin Moore was first with its public relations campaign. In fact, Benjamin Moore’s PR campaign was in full swing months before its “ben Color Capture” application was even available to the general public. That meant Benjamin Moore scooped the free publicity and was featured in blogs and lifestyle stories in numerous media outlets including the New York Times.

The Benjamin Moore media blitz left Sherwin Williams in the unenviable position of having to pitch reporters and bloggers with an “us-too” story line. But once the story is done - it’s done. By the time Sherwin Williams launched its PR campaign, the cool “new” i-Phone paint app was simply old news.

Benjamin Moore’s product development director Carl Minchew, speaking at the Ad Age/ Appilicious Apps Brand Conference, said the application has received over 50,000 downloads and generated a surge in businesses that is still accelerating. “We got a lot of media coverage. We were seen as being first, much to the chagrin of our larger competitor. We beat them to the punch on getting the word out about our application and that seems to be more important thing than being first,” said Minchew

Getting their public relations underway early in the research and development phases gave Benjamin Moore a focused, multi-tiered campaign implemented for maximum effectiveness. Did it matter that Benjamin Moore wasn’t first with the new product launch? Clearly not. What mattered was the ability to get out early (first) with a coordinated PR campaign that defined the company as the industry leader.

Posted by Dyana Koelsch