Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Out of the Category and Into the Culture: Hankook Case Study

Most auto suppliers have a fairly easy time earning media placements in the trades: a leadership change, a truly innovative new product, or an executive willing to shoot his mouth off on a trend will do the trick. Then again, the trades are supposed to cover your company and your products if you actually have news.

But what about non-automotive publications? If you have a consumer-facing product or service, one that actually changes the driving experience appreciably for consumers, how successful are you at earning coverage outside of automotive?

We call this the move from category (auto media) to culture (consumer-centric media). Interestingly, the media relations tactics--the story angles, the pitches, the contextualizing of your story--will also work in many cases for non-automotive media relations . . . . you just have to be a whole lot more clever about how to throw your pitch.

Let's take non-automotive business media as an example. The following happened last summer.

Hankook, a South Korean company and the 7th largest tire manufacturer in the world, was bringing their CEO to NY for a few days, and wanted some business press exposure. Mind you, Hankook's stock doesn't trade on U.S. exchanges, they have a fairly small North American footprint by way of employment and zero manufacturing in North America. So why cover them if you're Business Week, Time magazine or any of the wires (Reuters, Bloomberg, AP, Dow Jones), without a whiff of hard news?

The answer: make the story bigger than Hankook, but first and foremost, find the story. Here was ours. "Between the low-cost, low-tech Chinese and high-cost, high-tech Japanese there emerges a low-cost, high-tech tsunami of aggressive business growth from South Korean, Inc. Samsung, Hyundai (the only winner of the 2009 auto sales "carpocolypse"), LG all came to become ascendant in the U.S. market by providing incredibly quality, incredible value and in many cases best-in-class warranty. The Japanese are scared, and should be. The Koreans are coming. And winning. Hankook Tire is no different. They are the fastest growing tire company in the world with the world's highest margins. They are the #1 supplier to the fastest growing market in the world (China). And oh by the way their CEO will be in NY on these two days, would you like to talk to him?" We targeted five specific Tier 1 business outlets in NY and succeeded in securing interviews at four. For this company, in that media market, that's a win.

Too many times, PR people will lead with "Company x has a new product, want to talk to our CEO (of a nobody company)?" Why would they? Companies introduce new products everyday, so unless your firm is launching the new iPod beater, journalists have more importance things to cover, like say Apple or Google. Great pitches, like any good story, have the ability to make people care. It's more art than science, but trying to tell a bigger story is always a good place to start.

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