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We need more positive PR

There’s little doubt the media has played an unprecedented role in fanning the flames of the burning economy. So speculated Ben Steverman of Business Week. He aptly pointed out that “Wall Street has faced crises before, but not during a 24/7 news cycle.”

The crises in 1907, 1929, the 1970s and 1987 all tested investors as much as the current financial crisis. “But this time, something is different” Steverman pointed out. “Three cable business channels and countless Web sites offer 24-hour coverage of financial markets seven days a week. The financial panic has unfolded minute by minute in front of our eyes. It’s a media environment that seems like a recipe for panic,” speculated Steverman. It seems to me he’s right on!

On the other hand, the media can also present a positive message, albeit too infrequently these days. I refer to a great article in the Oct. 17 issue of the New York Times by Ron Lieber titled “Some Purchases May Still Be Worth the Price.” In it, he explains that there are times it’s not just about money. When it comes to buying a new boat, the value is intrinsically tied to life, family, happiness and much more.

Referring to the constant negative news we hear these days, Lieber observed: “But it’s easy to forget a couple of important things. First of all, the vast majority of people in the United States are not going to lose their jobs. Second, most of us work not merely for subsistence but so we can spend money on things and experiences that bring us some form of contentment,” he added.

Lieber went on to describe a Michigan family that bought a 38-foot sailboat and the positive impact it has had on their lives. Their boat was an investment in something much more valuable than money – an investment in relationships! Click here for the full article.

It’s time our industry takes a cue from Steverman and Lieber. Perhaps even more so now that the Discover Boating ad campaign is on hold until next summer.  We need to go on the offense with a steady stream of press releases and stories that positively show boating provides things more valuable than money.

In fact, as you read this blog today, the Marine Marketers of America (MMA) are meeting at the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show. NMMA president Thom Dammrich is the featured speaker. You may never have heard of MMA but there is a wealth of communications talent there, the top ad and PR people in boating today.

It seems to me there’s an opportunity for MMA to make a great contribution to the industry by developing a PR program that will emphasize the value of boating no matter what the economy. For example, materials such as model releases/stories that could be distributed locally by marine trades associations and/or boat shows; outlines for online viral promotions; TV interview concepts, just to suggest a few ideas.

With the talent in MMA and the communications networks of NMMA, it’s a great time for these communicators to take the lead in projecting the positives of boating at a time when we need to get such a message out wherever we can.


10 comments on “We need more positive PR

  1. John Wisse

    This period of economic adversity within the retail marine industry should be translated into a time of continued opportunity relative to growing boating participation. We collectively should not lose the opportunity now to continue to invest in boating’s future and that of of our children who are destined to become the boaters of tomorrow. By developing and implementing new public relations strategic initiatives coupled with retaining the Grow Boating national campaign for early 2009, the marine industry would be taking a positive step in the right direction.

  2. Arch

    Good stuff Norm, and it’s true, but we need to be realistic too. Most big ticket purchases are driven by CONSUMER CONFIDENCE, especially luxury items like boats. Consumer confidence is close to an all time low. THat doesn’t mean nobody can afford a boat, or that it’s foolish to buy one, but it does mean times are going to be tough until the confidence comes back.
    The Discover Boating ad campaign was suspended because they realized that you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. In other words, advertise all you want, tell people it’s a great time to buy a boat, blah blah, but in THIS MARKET, it isn’t going to work. The stock market is down 40%, peoples retirement accounts have taken a beating, an election is around the corner, taxes are going to go up, our economy is in trouble, we are at war, etc etc. That isn’t pessimism, it’s REALISM and it’s the reason boat sales are off 50%. Unfortunately, we can do all the positive PR in the world, but it’s not going to affect market conditions one bit.

    I do think the article is fantastic, in that it talks about QUALITY TIME with family and friends, and how healthy the boating lifestyle is. ANd we need to keep reminding people of that, and get them out on boats, so when consumer confidence returns, the people want to buy boats.

  3. Mike Walker

    Good topic. As a co-founder of the Marine Marketers Assn. we appreciate the mention. You’re right there is a huge amount of creative talent in the membership, from agency, associaton and corporate sides.

    We are grappling with solutions and ideas and are anxious to contribute wherever we can.

    I’m also involved with the various outdoor writer associations around the country and recently hosted a meeting of 21 in Kansas City to seek solutions to the needs of the outdoor and boating writing communities. One thing that would make a big difference is for the industry to help ensure a healthy outdoor and boating press by using some of its advertising budgets to suport the grass roots level media. It’s not so much a question of allocating funding from existing budgets as it for being aware of the importance the grass roots media have always played in the building of interest among those who are likely to become participants. If all sales are local, it stands to reason that local outdoor and boating media should have a piece of the sponsorship pie.

    I’ve worked in the marine industry since 1977 on the PR side more than the ad side for companies on the large international stage to the small entrepreneurial startup. I like your columns and esp. the topics. Keep them coming. Mike Walker, Walker Agency, Scottsdale, AZ

  4. Doug Reimel

    Hello everybody! The best postiive family story I have is about a retired military man who was trying to connect with his teenage kids. He purchased a boat, took them out and they hated the first try. On the second adventure he collected all the cell phones, iPods, and all electrical devices from all involved for the day. Imagine this, mother, father, 3 kids all in a 19′ boat. After about 2 hours the family started to communicate verbally, No texting ect. By the end of the day everyone on the boat found out they had more in common than just genetics. They were talking and become friends in a very short time. The retired military mans purchase of a boat saved his marriage and his family. Bjoating broke down the barriers of age and technology. After all you can’t run to far on a 19′ boat

    Have a great day!

  5. Wilson

    From all I’ve read and heard, it is in a down turn when you need to up the advertising budget. As the New York Times said, everybody isn’t losing a job and quite a few can still afford or find a way to underwite the joys of life…The boating industry needs to appeal to these folks..To suspend the Grow Boating program now only enhances the fear that we are going to hell in an hand basket….and a Roosevelt once said….”The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”

  6. Tom Marlowe

    I couldn’t agree more, we need positive news and stories to counter the media’s appetite for gloom and doom. I know the sensational story sells, but I’ve had enough sensationally bad stories for a while. I need some warm and fuzzy. I received an e-mail from a new boat owner earlier this week. He sent a picture of his 4 year old son standing in “his” new boat holding a fish high over his head. The kid had a smile on his face as big as any you’ve ever seen. His dad said that the little fellow wakes him every morning wondering if it’s a fishing day. Now that’s the kind of story we all need, and chances are, that young many will grow up to take his kids fishing too. It all begins with that new boat in the driveway.

  7. Larry Keeter

    Sounds like its time to have a meeting. Get the intellectual gang together in Vegas, the camera crew and I’ll bring the dogs for the photo shoot. Also handle my expenses for me though one of the illustrious trade association expense accounts.

    Never realized how great you are Norm.

  8. Lou Sandoval

    Great piece Norm. A customer of mine sent the NY Times article as a share on how their recent purchase shared the same meaning for them. Could not agree with you more. Our industry is so wrought with ‘coloring inside the lines’ that the very concept of doing something different is an affront to many. Telling times- those that innovate adaptively will prosper, those that fail to fall prey to evolution.

  9. AuthorEditor

    Sorry folks, but cheery articles about how wonderful boating is won’t push people to buy boats when they are losing their homes, their jobs, and their retirement savings. The only way to weather this crisis will be to lower prices, cut costs, lay off people, and hunker down, which hasn’t happened much yet. I suspect we will see a lot of this in coming months when the orders don’t come in from the winter boat shows. The hard facts are that middle class folks just can’t afford boating right now. There will still be a market for the rich, but there are only so many of them. Those who love boating will probably stick with it as long as they can, but not if their marina fees, insurance, gas costs, repair prices, etc. keep going up. Look at what is happening to car sales—down 30-40% in September. If people aren’t buying cars, they surely won’t be buying boats. We are entering an era of huge shrinkage in the boating industry, and it won’t be pretty.

  10. Bob

    One of the reasons that the Boating Industry as a whole is in serious trouble is because of all of the over optimism. All of the Yes Men in the industry have been denying that their is a problem and have been in denial for about two years. This slowdown in boat sales started almost two years ago. Statistical Surveys keeps telling us that sales are down compared to last month or year. If they would tell the industry the truth, that sales of fiberglass trailerable boats are down about 75% compared to 2005 numbers. All of the insiders keep lying to one another about how bad things are. I have been at the Dealer level either as a retail dealer or factory rep for the last 13 years and I can tell you that the factories took far to long to admit their was even a problem. All of the focus has been put on the dealers salesmanship, boat shows, sales techniques, by the way nothing works better in sales than good old fashioned honesty. Everybody is always trying to sale with trickery. I just watched an entire boat company go down the tubes because of over optimism rather than facing reality and belt tightening over a year ago. The Boat Industry started going down in Florida along with the housing industry problems which started about two years ago. The boat industry, at least in Florida will not recover until after the New Home Construction Industry Recovers and boats will lag behind that. Realistically this could take well over a year.

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