Eskom’s Meatball Sundae

I can’t help but feel that Eskom’s new online initiative, PoweringSouthAfrica.co.za, is a bit of a Meatball Sundae. When I read about it in a three-full-page ad in the Sunday Times last week, I thought it sounded like quite a good idea (the extravagance of the advert notwithstanding); and the site itself is not bad, although I think it needs a bit more participation by Eskom itself (they invite visitors to “Join the Discussion“, but don’t seem to engage in those discussions themselves – at least not explicitly).

But here’s the thing: When, on Tuesday, I wanted to check out the site, without the Sunday Times in front of me and not remembering the URL, I couldn’t find it. Eskom haven’t even linked to it from their main website, let alone invest in any online marketing or PR, it seems. I subsequently heard their radio advert on KFM, so they got through to me eventually.

Eskom’s three-page ads were in (at least) three major Sunday papers – the Sunday Times, City Press and Rapport. I haven’t checked the rates in a while, but a full page ad in the Sunday Times (probably the most expensive), I’m told, is in the region of R500,000. Stop and think for a moment about what you could do online for just one page’s worth.

I’m not saying that Eskom shouldn’t spend money advertising offline – their message is not only targeted at people with access to the internet. But if your final call-to-action is to visit a website, surely you need to allocate some of your advertising campaign budget to online ad spend and marketing.

I’d also feel less uneasy about the massive ad spend if they had communicated more effectively in the free media, not to mention among members of the blogging community.

But even today – six days later – a Google link search returns only two posts on the MyBroadband discussion forum (excluding a couple of internal links). And a Google News search on the URL returns zero hits. A Blog search returns the same MyBroadband threads.

There are a number of sites and blogs that have been started in direct response to the energy crisis (including the DA’s blog, Shedding Light). Without spending a cent, I could spend an hour or two doing a Google Blog search on ‘Eskom’, and visiting each of the blogs in the results (there’re a lot) and leaving a comment that contributes something worthwhile, while informing people about the new site. I could also approach some of the more influential South African bloggers asking them to review the website. That’s how you “join the discussion”.

New media marketing is hardly rocket science. But Eskom are still desperately in need of a new media marketing consultant. Any volunteers?

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