Establishing effective relationships with customers has become the norm and one of the major challenges for both marketing executives as well as public relations officials. As explained by Pecky (1999) the purpose of establishing good relations with the public is primarily for building strong brand image for the company. Most importantly, public relations is effectively established through relationship marketing.
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There are various tools which can be used in relationships marketing. According to Gregory (2000) the media is one of the most effective tools in managing customer relations. In view of this, Sriramesh (2009) and Guiniven (2007) postulate a number of media theories in relations to public relations issues. Suffice to say that some of these theories were developed during the communist era. While some of the theories are outdated, others, such as the libertarian theory are still relevant in today’s business world.
This theory as well as other relationship marketing strategies are analyzed in relation to one of the major trade fairs in the world, The London Toy Fair.
Furthermore, the effectiveness and application of the philosophies outlined in this theory as well as other strategies identified herein are evaluated Vis a Vis both the traditional media as well as the emerging web based media, herein referred to as e-media. Finally the essay offers suggestions on the new ways through which The London Toy Fair can utilize unexplored public relations and relationship marketing strategies through e-media.
The London Toy Fair is among the biggest exhibition event in the UK, and is devoted to toys and children games. Started 58 years ago as a small exhibition event, the trade fair has grown in leaps and bounds and now attracts more than 250 exhibitors, thousands of traders as well as international media.
Amongst the exhibitors at the event include new entrants as well as major toys and children games brands such as Hasbro, Vivid Imaginations and others. Exhibitors also include small and large retailers of toys. Due to the size and the caliber of the fair, the event attracts world renowned media houses such as BBC, The Telegraph, The Times, among others.
More than 300 accredited journalists cover the event. Suffice to say that The London Toy Fair is not a public event. It is purely designed as a business event and attendance is vetted. Visitors to the event include, and not limited to Merchandisers, Play station specialists, creators of toys, sales and marketing agents, suppliers and distributors of toys and educational experts.
The event gathers all these under one event with only one purpose: to make business through networking and learning. Primarily exhibitors use the fair as a launching pad for new and innovative products as well as exhibiting range of current products on offer from manufacturers and merchandisers, with view of creating strong brands.
However, the event is evolving into a networking hub, where industry players meet, interact and learn new trends in the toy and children games industry. Industry players congregate at the fair with the intension of making new business through meeting other players, as well as discuss future plans for the industry. As such, the success of the event is hinged on relationships making and as such is a perfect case study for this assignment (Toy Shop UK 2011; Toy and Hobby Association 2011).
According to Masterman and Wood (2005), event managers incorporate a variety of communication tools to promote and market events. In this view, communication has become a key strategy in marketing events to exhibitors. While communication is used as a key marketing strategy by event managers to popularize events, effective communication is also a useful marketing tool used by exhibitors within these events.
Suffice to state that companies have specific and tailor made marketing and communication strategies. However, company managers understand that specific company communication strategies need to be aligned with other communication tools for sustainable business. In the current age of innovation, company managers need to incorporate innovative techniques and tools that will aid in business marketing and communication. Such tools include exhibition events.
These events present major opportunities for companies to establish effective business communication environment as well as channels with other exhibitors for sustainable business
In view of Masterman and Wood‘s (2005) thoughts, The London Toy Fair 2011 fulfils the assertion that organizations can use event as part of business communication strategies to improve the overall business performance as well s as public relations strategies.
Through The London Toy Fair, developers of toys have used opportunities presented by participating in the event to establish communication channels with other industry players. Mind Candy, the maker of online game children games found The London Toy Fair 2011 as the most effective strategy to establish mutual communication channels with retailers of children’s games from within and without the UK (Duarte 2011).
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Through The London Toy Fair 2011, the CEO of Mind Candy Michael Acton Smith, sees opportunities not only to communicate to the retailers but also to train and educate them on Mind Candy’s products.
This creates mutual relationships between Mind Candy and its customer’s through the retailers: through The London Toy Fair 2011, Mind Candy hopes to establish useful links with consumers through mutual relationships with retailers. As such, events, especially The London Toy Fair 2011 are effective relationship public relationship tools which also aids marketing for Mind Candy.
The London Toy Fair 2011 utilizes the mass media as a major communication and public relations tool. Suffice to state that various scholars have suggested a number of media systems theories in relation to public relations issues. These include the social communism theory, the authoritarian theories and the libertarian theory.
While all these theories serves to explain the relationship between the media and public relations, some of the theories, such as social communism have been negatively critiqued and termed as outdated. In view of this criticism, it is imperative to state that the libertarian theory is still relevant in today’s public relations issues. Under this theory the media is given absolute freedom, at least from government control on the content and the manner of broadcast.
While this theory implies that the media is self regulating, professionals within the public relations industry assert that media, through two-way communication, must meet the needs of the audience (Hiebert 1992). As mentioned earlier, The London Toy Fair 2011attracts the attention of international media such as BBC Breakfast, The Times among others.
However, following the libertarian theory, The London Toy Fair 2011 managers recognize the freedom of the media in free market economies and thus understand the potential pitfalls that might emanate from such media freedom. Therefore, journalists have to be vetted through a strict process.
Only those journalist involved in broadcasting content for children are allowed to cover the event. By allowing only journalist who broadcast children based content, The London Toy Fair 2011 managers tend to further follow the libertarian theory’s assertion on meeting and responding to the needs of the audience, by speaking to the right audience directly. This helps The London Toy Fair 2011 managers to foster positive public relations through vetted media.
Sriramesh (2009) asserts that the mass media, contrary to popular belief does not affect the masses but the individual. In relations to a study conducted by Schultz and Kitchen (2000), Sriramesh (2009) asserts that the mass media has both long and short term effects on the individuals.
The media gathers and disseminates messages effectively to the individual rather than to the masses. Sriramesh (2009) asserts that the effect of mass media on the individual viewer is much more effective in marketing communication. In view of this assertion, Sriramesh explains that international media stations such as CNN, BBC and others have been successful through targeting the individual viewer as opposed to the mass audience.
It is imperative to state that international Media companies such as The Gadget Show and BBC Breakfast have been part of The London Toy Fair 2011 (Toy and Hobby Association 2011). These media have predominantly targeting to the specific viewership: children. Furthermore, the shows within these media are interactive with viewers having a chance to call in. This further follows Hiebert‘s (1992) assertions that effective public relations through the mass media is attained through a two way communication.
While these forms of traditional media has been effective in the past in maintaining contact with the preferred audience, if falls short of affecting the individual in the intended manner. This is because through such media as BBC Breakfast and The Gadget Show, The London Toy Fair 2011 have not managed to retain direct contact with individual members of the viewership interested in the event.
In view of this, traditional media has been effective to the extent that it is a public relationship and marketing tools for the masses, and not individual audience.
Sriramesh (2009) assertion on the effects of the power of the effectiveness of the media in marketing communication through the individual fails to account for the individual effect theory in The London Toy Fair 2011.
Sriramesh (2009) views on the effects of the mass media on the individual however, tends to be collaborated in Breakenridge’s (2008) assertions on the effects of new web based media, which supplements the traditional media in enhancing PR and marketing communication.
While Chaffey and Smith (2008) explains that there are new e-marketing tools useful in relationships marketing as well as enhancing public relations, Breakenridge(2008) offers useful insights on companies can choose the appropriate e-marketing tools available from e-media. Chaffey, Ellis-Chadwick, Mayer and Johnstone (2009) corroborates Sriramesh (2009) views and explains that internet marketing is effective through online PR since the effect is greater on the individual, rather than the mass members of the e-audience.
From the assertions mentioned above, it is clear that marketing and PR professional have realized the need to use new e-media such as Facebook, twitter, MySpace and others to supplement marketing and PR through traditional medias such as TV. The London Toy Fair 2011 portrays tendencies to follow this and has thus engaged e-media tools that purposely target individuals directly.
Through the social media such as Facebook and twitter accounts, The London Toy Fair 2011 managers seem to follow Breakenridge (2008) and Sriramesh (2009) media-individual-effect theory. The London Toy Fair 2011 utilized the communication platform to individuals provided within social media as part of its PR and marketing communication initiatives.
Through the e-media tools mentioned above, fair managers have not only met the needs of the consumers but also learn and get valuable feedback about the event and products. While the event tends to benefit from social media, the public is equally benefiting. Since the event is only open to the business participants, the public can follow the event through live updates on social media and learn about the latest gizmos to expect.
Since there is no evidence to show that the followership of the event through the traditional media is declining, it can be thus argued that, in view of Breakenridge (2008) arguments, The London Toy Fair 2011 is utilizing e-media such to the extent of supplementing the effectiveness of traditional media.
As mentioned earlier, the purpose of The London Toy Fair 2011 is to help exhibitors meet, display and popularize their brands, as well as launch new products. Through such popularization, exhibitors aim at using the platform provided by the London Toy Fair 2011 to build a brand for each of their products.
As explained by Sharma, Sheth and Kellstadt (2010) public brand building is one of the most efficient ways of maintaining public relations. This is attained through the media, which is an effective tool for covering activities that are aimed at exhibiting the strengths of particular brands.
In particular, public relations is effective in covering public awareness programs (trade fairs) on company’s brands. Following this notion, companies such as Fisher-Price have found The London Toy Fair 2011 as the opportune platform to build and enhance their world leading brands in toys for toddlers and preschool children.
Through The London Toy Fair 2011, Fisher-Price has found an opportunity to build a strong brand presence for some of its games such as Kungfu Panda. Through networking with retailers and traders during the fair, Fisher-Price hopes to establish public relations links with its clients (Fisher-Price 2010). This, thus follows Sharma et al.’s (2010) assertion that branding, through public awareness programs is an effective concepts in establishing public relations.
While The London Toy Fair has effectively utilized both the traditional form of media as tools and avenues for creating and maintaining strong public relations. There are other strategies that the event managers need to consider. As explained by Breakenridge (2008) e-media is a “thicket of expanding Internet tools.” The London Toy Fair has utilized some of these tools, such as Facebook and twitter.
However, there are other more effective tools that would create an even bigger impact for the event. Through available social media tools the event managers can create an online newsroom (Durieux and Stebbins 2010) to run concurrent with the event. This will not only give other unaccredited journalists a chance to have a glimpse at the event but also allow the public to get direct media briefing online.
As Breakenridge (2008) further suggests, e-marketing should look beyond social media to more engaging tools such as RSS feeds and podcasts. Specifically, the event mangers should aim at utilizing opportunities provided by RSS fees. As explained by Arnold (2011) RSS feeds are useful web tools in conveying both audio and video updates online.
Furthermore, through podcasts, The London Toy Fair managers can, as Morris, Terra and Williams (2007) explain overcome the problems of live streaming and publish instead short video and audio scripts to audiences outside the event.
Through podcasting, online newsroom and RSS feeds, PR as well as marketing professionals at the event will be able to not only carry out their PR duties but also engage the public creative thus creating strong relationship with clients that enhance brand loyalty.
This essay aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of both the public relations and relationship marketing, in regard to promotion during trade fairs. As analyzed through existing literature as well as using real examples, public relation as well as relationship marketing have been found to have a great impact in promoting trade fairs.
Within this essay, the media systems theory especially on libertarian has been found to have a bearing on the way the media, related too public relations issues. The London Toy Fair has successful utilized the theory’s philosophy on the freedom of the median, yet ensured that there were certain control mechanisms to vet that freedom and ensure that only the most appropriate media has access to the event. Suffice to say that the event has provided exhibitors with valuable opportunities to build the brands of their products.
This is one of new concept of public relations. The existence of communication channels through the traditional media as well as e-media ensures that exhibitors establish relationship with their clients. As such both public relationship as well s relationship marketing have been found to work for The London Toy Fair.
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