Riya-Rogue PR Plan versus Bernay’s P&G Ivory Soap Campaigns

It is great to see strong public relations efforts working.  One recent PR victory was executed on behalf of Riya (http://www.riya.com/) by Tara ‘Miss Rogue’ Hunt.  Riya is a web based application similar to flickr.com which also allows people to tag their photo sets by names (John, Shelly, Nse, etc) through facial recognition software.

The public face of this PR campaign, which I am choosing to call the “Riya-Rogue PR Plan”, is being executed by Tara Hunt through primarily blogging relations based out of http://www.horsepigcow.com.  Here is a snippet from a recent post noting the success of the marketing plan in the form of major technology media placement.

11/12/2005

The Marketing Plan is to Blog

K…so it’s a little more complex than that…and there is always a method to my madness…and I’m all, like, ‘trust me, I know what I’m doing. It may not seem apparent, but work with me here.’

…but holy crap…

I’m a little blown over that it is actually working so well. Long live the citizen journalist!

Wired
Slashdot
PC Magazine

Being a student of public relations I thought it would be interesting to look for a similarly executed promotion of another product or service in ancient PR history.  Given I have been rereading SPIN about Edward Bernays those are the freshest ones in memory.  I considered contrasting Miss Rogue’s efforts to Bernay’s Light Golden Jubilee (http://www.thehenryford.org/exhibits/pic/2004/october.asp), but ruled that out as it was an anniversary celebration of a major invention, involved the post office running a stamp, and well a bunch of other stuff was different.

Then I looked at comparing it to Bernay’s promotion for Mack Trucks (http://www.prmuseum.com/bernays/bernays_video_macktruck.html) and again there was no match given the Mack Truck promotion started with public speaking by the President of the company and letters written to congress.  Not much similarity there beyond the “taking it to the people” aspect of engaging citizens.  And Bernays hid in the background which is definitely not the case with Riya-Rogue.

I settled on comparing the Riya-Rogue PR plan to Bernay’s efforts for P&G with Ivory Soap.  http://www.prmuseum.com/bernays/bernays_1923.html

In a nutshell (or bathtub) Bernay’s came up with the idea of having soap carving contests for kids, “the enemies of soap” to use the product.  He did not tell the kids that they should bath more, rather he introduced the product in a likeable way and had victorious soap sculptures shown at museums.  The result is more soap was sold, and most of that soap was ivory brand non-perfume soap for P&G.  Unlike his other projects, Bernays was open that P&G was behind the efforts.

What is similar between Riya-Rogue and Bernays-Ivory is that in both cases the end users have a natural distaste for the product.  Wait – don’t be offended.  I am just pointing out that kids don’t like soap and Internet users don’t like to be identified through facial recognition software and identified publicly possibly without their knowledge. 

So Riya-Rogue introduces end users of the product by not telling them they should identify their friends which they might object to, rather we are introduced to the facial recognition software in a likeable way with warm-fuzzy alpha testing (always a compliment to a geek) and cross promotions on the blogosphere.

Buzz was built with posts like this on TechCrunch:
http://www.techcrunch.com/2005/10/26/riya-prepares-to-launch-alpha/
built with tags
http://www.technorati.com/search/riya
then it was posted all over the place as this blogpulse search shows
http://www.blogpulse.com/search?query=riya&image22.x=21&image22.y=7
(PDF of search as of 14-Nov-2005 for blogpulse)
cross posted on friendly blogs including co-workers
http://huuep.typepad.com/running_round_the_valley/2005/11/us_team.html

The launch party is this weekend so it is a bit early to write this one up for PR history.  But I can make a few observations.

First – there is no question that the blogosphere posts led to MSM picking it up and running the Riya story.  Job well done.

Two – Riya chose to recruit Rogue to work internally while P&G chose to use an external PR professional in conjunction with internal PR people.

Three – Riya is not taking security serious enough and this will cost them if they don’t immediately revise their strategy to be more transparent and forthright in discussing privacy.  For example, the Wired article on Riya makes no mention of security and privacy.  Buzz is great, and it is tempting to ride the wave of blog and MSM love, but to round out the messaging of Riya-Rogue, I strongly advise them to begin talking more openly about the civil liberties issues. 

Four – the blog promotion led to MSM coverage *before* the launch party.  This is different from Bernay’s who garnered coverage after events typically.  Perhaps this is a byproduct of a more wired ongoing conversation and the blurring of lines between bloggers, reporters, reporter-bloggers and the rest of the citizen journalists taking part in Internet conversations.

In closing, a job well done by Tara Hunt for Riya.  Hopefully they will take my advice on talking about security and privacy with some clear messaging addressing the security and privacy concerns.