CMO Q&A: Kurt Kane, Pizza Hut (extended)

Kurt Kane, CMO of Pizza Hut, talks to Lindsay Stein about how the fast-food giant is approaching public relations with a new outlook

Kurt Kane, CMO of Pizza Hut, talks to Lindsay Stein about how  the fast-food giant is approaching public relations with a new outlook 

How does PR play into marketing at Pizza Hut?
PR has started to lead a lot of our thinking. PR is really a thought leader in terms of how we can position new products, new deals, or new information in our television creative and digital media, which is a big part of our brand. If we can find a good PR hook, we can build a great campaign around it.

Traditionally, a lot of businesses add PR last after they have an advertisement. We look for the PR hook first, and then we look at how to communicate that across everything else.

What makes Pizza Hut's PR tactics standout?
We operate in such a competitive category that we constantly need to stay in front of consumers, so the thing that's unique about Pizza Hut is our PR activities.

Our activities, in general, tend to be a little more consumer-focused. We're interested in communicating how we can connect with consumers and play a role in their lives.

Tell us about the campaign "Make it great."
We started using the tagline “Make it great” to help reinforce that we believe in the same things that consumers do, which is that good enough is never enough. We're always striving to make it great. We're trying to infuse the idea that there are better options out there for consumers versus the everyday choices they may have been settling for. From a PR perspective, we're making sure the reason why is very clear versus just telling people about a deal or a product.

Our recent work with P'Zolo (a sandwich-pizza combo) is a very good example of that, where we really tried to highlight some of the deficiencies in the sub-sandwich category and tell consumers there's a better way because we experimented and created something new.

How have you been promoting the P'Zolo?
We're having a lot of fun with the P'Zolo. We've really positioned it as a takeover of subs and we haven't been too subtle about it. We took over a subway car in Chicago on the Redline and wrapped it with P'Zolo graphics and we passed out P'Zolos to everyone at the station so they could experience it directly.

We've been very overt in the communication within our advertising. We've used our advertising to set up our PR strategy, which is that it's time to say, 'So long,' to your foot-long and get a whole lot more for your five bucks.

How are you using social media?
We've got a little bit more than 7 million Facebook fans. We do a lot in communicating unique deals, specials, and offers for people who follow the brand, but at the same point, we really want to give them added valued content that they really find entertaining and enjoyable and that makes them want to engage with the brand. Twitter for us is a place where we continue to engage, and we're continuing to build out Pinterest, so we're proactive in all these different areas because we think it provides us a good opportunity to connect with consumers. We're not terribly proactive with blogger engagement. What we find is there are enough people following and interacting with the brand that we don't have to do a lot of outreach in that area. On the first day of launching the P'Zolo there were complete reviews and photos of the product within 12 hours of the ad going on television.

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