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Check out the tabs above to get to know us, or read our latest blog posts below.
by Amanda Plachte
A large part of what we do in the public relations industry is all about opportunity; keeping up with current news and trends, finding ways to get an organization in the press and creating positive publicity.
After the unforgettable and surprisingly successful engagement following Oreo’s Superbowl tweet, everyone and their brother have been trying to recreate the magic of “dunking in the dark.” From the infamous Suarez bite to Tim Howard saving everything to Brazil’s history-making defeat at the “feet” of Germany, companies were giving their best shot to take advantage and score big on Twitter during the World Cup. That’s what we call newsjacking.
Encore Alert, a company that sorts through brand tweets and identifies marketing opportunities, wanted to get to the bottom of it. The goal was to find out what works, what does not and why. An experiment was conducted with 18 companies of varying sizes with various numbers of followers. The research firm monitored the brands’ tweets during a timeframe prior to the World Cup and again during the World Cup.
Writer Matt van Hoven explains the results in his article. Eight of the 18 companies had positive “lift,” while 10 had negative. The results found some trends that could explain the engagement that came from each brand’s efforts. Those with positive lift, like Castrol, had well-timed, brand relevant tweets that truly engaged the fans. For a brand that normally has fewer favorites and retweets than can be counted on two hands, the motor oil company saw an impressive 21,960 percent lift during the World Cup.
— Castrol (@Castrol) July 4, 2014
Those with negative lift had poorly planned, self-serving tweets that were not overly interesting to true #WorldCup fans. McDonald’s fell in this category.
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) June 21, 2014
Digiday’s Brian Morrissey shares some other companies that went too far with the newsjacking during the World Cup in his article. Also, in James Gadea’s article, we’re provided with three tips for harnessing global Twitter trends:
Images via: Digiday and Encore Alert
by Amanda Plachte
Pulling inspiration from philanthropic efforts such as TOM’S One for One movement, Target wants to try its hand at cause marketing this back-to-school season. The retailer will give one Up & Up brand school supply product to a student in need for each school supply of the same brand that is purchased between July 13 and Aug. 2.
In her Ad Age article, author Natalie Zmuda explains that Target spokesperson Jenna Reck says that the company hopes to donate $25 million worth of supplies to the Kids In Need Foundation and will be tracking progress and updating consumers throughout the campaign.
“It’s giving us more pulse points to connect with guests in a way that’s authentic,” Reck said. “It gives us something outside of just deals that we can talk about with our guests.”
According to Adweek’s Erik Oster, popular causes include environmental concerns, feminist issues and LGBT rights. He explains that pride month saw numerous campaigns from brands like Burger King, YouTube and Lucky Charms. Female empowerment campaigns included Dove’s award-winning “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign and Always’ recent viral success “Like A Girl.”
The Cause Marketing Forum compiled a list of influential campaigns:
There are some crucial elements that need to be present in order for an organization’s efforts to really pay off. Writer Savannah Marie gives some tips in her Alley Watch article. They include:
by Ana Guzman
After losing the NBA Finals to the San Antonio Spurs and opting out of the final year of his contract with the Miami Heat, LeBron James was a free agent for the past month and the world was anxious to know what his next move would be. James’ decision was finally revealed in a Sports Illustrated exclusive. He’s chosen to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, where his career started. Social media, as you can imagine, exploded once the decision was announced.
LeBron James-related tweets continue to rule Twitter. Soon after the announcement, in a single timeframe, James was mentioned in 6,000 more tweets than the World Cup Championship match between Germany and Argentina. There are several hashtags trending such as #BackToCleveland, #TeamCavs and #ImComingHome. At the the same time, Twitter users are also using a number of hashtags criticizing bandwagon Miami Heat fans who are suddenly Cleveland fans again.
James’ departure from Cleveland four years ago left fans angry and bitter. Many burned his jerseys and Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, even wrote a bitter open letter to James. But now James has put aside all previous criticisms and says that it was the right choice for him after leaving the Cavaliers the way he did.
“To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough,” James said. “The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, ‘OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.’ But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react?”
James explained that everyone makes mistakes, and he is not one to hold a grudge. James also mentioned during the exclusive interview with Sports Illustrated that as his family grows he wanted to return home, raise his children and finish his career where he started.
The social media chatter will continue and likely increase as the season draws closer. When I checked on Ice Rocket, a social media measurement tool, the #BacktoCleveland hashtag had 36 mentions a minute, @KingJames was mentioned 900 times in a minute and #LebronJames was mentioned in 42 posts a minute. When all is said and done, social media is one thing and LeBron James is another. He’s his own brand. Clearly the interactions on Twitter showcase just a snapshot of his brand’s strength.
by Ana Guzman
Growing up, I was expected to wear dresses instead of jeans, play with dolls instead of playing sports, learn to cook and do household chores and most importantly always act like a lady. My grandmother used to always say, “Leave the business work to men,” and I promised my children or nieces would never ever hear such a thing. Long story short, I was beyond excited to see that Mattel had launched its very own Entrepreneur Barbie.
Mattel partnered with Girls Who Code, Rent the Runway and One Kings Lane to create Entrepreneur Barbie. She wears a pink fitted dress and carries a tiny tablet and smartphone. Her hair is pulled back into a ponytail making her look cute and sophisticated. According to Mashable, this doll was created in hopes of inspiring young girls to dream bigger.
Over the years, Barbie has held many career titles including doctor, astronaut and was even a president in 1992. Mattel is promoting Entrepreneur Barbie with #Unapologetic and the tagline “If you can dream it, you can be it”. Although the hashtag is seen in many unrelated posts, the feedback sounds positive and women seem to love the idea of educating young girls to dream big and reach their goals.
Entrepreneur Barbie even has a pink resume and her very own LinkedIn account with more than 3,800 followers. Her linkedIn account says, “My new business is ‘Dream Incubator’ where I act as a consultant, helping girls around the world play out their imagination, try on different careers, and explore the world around them. Our company tagline is ‘If You Can Dream It, You Can Be It!’” It also explains that her true calling is to encourage girls to dream big and have no limitations on their ambitions.
The message portrayed by Barbie is positive and strong. It is great to see how toys have evolved and Barbie is a perfect example of this. What do you think about Entrepreneur Barbie? Do you think it will affect the way girls view toys? Tell us your opinion. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Image via Mashable
by Amanda Plachte
Jerry Seinfeld said it. Ham Porter said it. Even Jem from “To Kill a Mockingbird” said it. The phrase “like a girl” has been used with negative connotations for years and Procter & Gamble’s Always wants to change that.
Adweek author Roo Ciambrello writes in her article about the feminine products brand conducting a social experiment to help redefine the phrase. The research included interviews with girls ages 16 to 24 to learn what they think the phrase means and how its use makes them feel. The participants were asked to run like a girl, throw like a girl and fight like a girl. The result is a powerful ad that allows the viewer to experience the light bulb moments alongside those being filmed.
As a woman, I have experienced the negative use of “like a girl.” In fact, it is one of my biggest pet peeves; I cringe when I hear it. As a child I wore twirly dresses, I was active in sports through my teen years and I continue to set and achieve goals as an adult. I am a girl; so how can doing things “like a girl” be a bad thing? My favorite part of the ad is the following quote:
“Yes, I kick like a girl and I swim like a girl and I walk like a girl and I wake up in the morning like a girl — because I am a girl. And that is not something I should be ashamed of.”
A study conducted by Research Now, and sponsored by Always, found that around the age of puberty, girls tend to experience a drop in confidence, which may explain the varied responses in how different age groups view the phrase “like a girl.”
A Business Wire news release on the Procter & Gamble website explains the details. When older teenagers were asked to run, throw or fight “like a girl,” they fulfilled the negative stereotype by flailing their limbs to appear weak and ditsy. One of which is actually a marathon runner! When the younger kids were asked to do the same, they ran with confidence and threw strong punches.
“In my work as a documentarian, I have witnessed the confidence crisis among girls and the negative impact of stereotypes first-hand,” says award-winning documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield. “When the words ‘like a girl’ are used to mean something bad, it is profoundly disempowering.”
I belive author Laura Ramos says it beautifully in her blog post about thought leadership. First she defines public relations:
Public relations (noun)
1. the actions of a corporation, government, individual, etc. in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.
2. the art, technique or profession of promoting such goodwill
Then she follows up by saying, “Isn’t the publishing of audience-relevant, business-focused content an act of goodwill? Yes, but only if the marketers keep the selling out of the mix.”
I believe that is exactly what Always did. The company has established itself as a thought leader by being the first to reclaim a phrase that is damaging to its consumers. Plus, it managed to do so without attempting to sell a particular product.
In Ramos’ blog post, she discusses a concept called IDEA – Identify, Develop, Engage and Assess. Always has been in the business of educating and supporting girls for over 30 years; the company knows its audience, it developed this awesome campaign and now it is time to engage.
Always is inviting girls and women everywhere to join the movement and share what they proudly do #LikeAGirl. Tweet, take a photograph, shoot a video or send a message to take a stand and show young people everywhere that doing things #LikeAGirl should never be used as an insult – that it means being strong, talented and downright amazing.
by Ana Guzman
Finding ways to reach a target audience can get a little difficult at times. There are so many factors that need to be kept in mind, such as age, location, gender, religion, sexual orientation and much more. A message can work perfectly for one group but might be offensive or not politically correct to another. For example, the “Help me, I’m poor” meme from Bridesmaids that FAFSA tweeted on June 24.
The response was not what FAFSA expected. While it was intended to be humorous, some were completely offended by the tweet. Some said that it was a little insensitive but they understood that it is a popular meme that many students are familiar with. FAFSA later removed the tweet and sent out an apology tweet, stating, “We apologize for the insensitivity of our previous tweet. Our goal is to make college a reality for all. We’re all very sorry.”
The responses to the apology was met with mixed replies. Some were still angry while others supported the meme saying, “You’re marketing to young people using memes, which are popular among young people, I think you have little to nothing to apologize for.”
This wasn’t the first time FAFSA used a meme to reach its audience. On March 4, 2014, FAFSA tweeted a picture of a kitten with the caption “You haven’t filled out your FAFSA yet? Are you kitten me?” I think it is surprisingly out of the norm for a government office to use memes, but according to finaid.org, most FAFSA recipients are between the ages of 15 – 23, so I can see why they would think to use memes to get the audience’s attention.
Liz Gross, a social media strategist for a student loan servicer explained in her blog that the hashtag #HelpMeImPoor is commonly used by students when referring to their financial struggles during college. It’s like when a person says something mean about a family member. It’s okay when they utter it about someone in their family, but it’s insensitive if someone outside of the family says it.
Overall, I think FAFSA should not be condemned over one tweet. I also don’t think they should have deleted it. Deleting tweets is not a way of solving a problem since the tweet was already seen by many. FAFSA’s Twitter is full of helpful tweets and answers any questions students might have through its website and its monthly Twitter chats.
The lesson here is always, emphasizing always, think before you tweet. Make sure tweets are not offensive to others because once it is public, there is no way to make it disappear.
by Amanda Plachte
Everyone has a story to tell and if told just right, it could appeal to anyone. This applies to all stories: those shared among friends and those shared with the world.
Adweek author Tim Nudd highlights the storytelling in his article about Skype’s successful campaign “Stay Together.” It initially included three “family portrait” vignettes that featured emotional stories of people connected through Skype. It is the fourth and final spot in the campaign that sent Pereira & O’Dell straight to the 41st Annual One Show Awards to receive a gold pencil award.
In Nudd’s opinion the ads have a few flaws: they are lengthy, manipulative and highlight a service that Skype cannot provide. However, he says it is irresistible. This is all because of the story, which is flat-out incredible and clearly real and heartfelt.
The story is about two teenage girls: Sarah from Nappanee, Indiana, and Paige from Auckland, New Zealand. Both born with only one arm, the two girls have a unique bond and friendship. Never having met in person, their mothers found each other online while in search of support for their daughters; eight years ago Sarah and Paige began to Skype. The friends reached out to Skype when the video chat company asked for customer stories about long-distance connections.
Adweek author David Griner gives a behind-the-scenes look in his article about Pereira & O’Dell working with Paige and Sarah.
Agency co-founder and CCO PJ Pereira says, “One day, we’re just running through submissions and I kinda walk through the agency and I see a copywriter wiping away tears and I say, ‘What’s going on?’ They said, ‘You gotta see this.’ Then I was in tears.”
The agency instantly fell in love with the girls’ story and began to gather further information about them.
“It’s not just a regular friendship,” Pereira said. “I get goosebumps just thinking about it. I knew that was a story we needed to tell.”
The heart of the ad, the story, and the entire campaign is when the two friends were given the opportunity to finally meet in real life. All thanks to Pereira & O’Dell, Sarah and Paige get a dream come true and Skype looks fantastic for having facilitated the first eight years of their relationship. According to Pereira, “That single moment told that entire story in four seconds.”
Grab a tissue and see for yourself.
Elena from PR in your Pajamas explains in her blog how storytelling is scientifically proven to be an effective communication tool.
Hearing a story activates more areas of the brain than consuming purely factual, textual content. Areas of the brain light up, as if we were experiencing the story ourselves. The listener puts themselves in the protagonist’s shoes and, as far as the brain is concerned, experiences what’s happening in the story. As a result, emotions are aroused and thoughts are planted in the mind; the listener turns the story into their own idea and experience, then acts accordingly.
Storytelling works in PR and marketing because it allows us to take the audience on a journey — one that stimulates the feelings, ideas and attitudes consistent with our marketing goals.
Image via Adweek
by Ana Guzman
Have you noticed that it’s less people are seeing posts from your Facebook page? Over time, Facebook has applied algorithmic changes to its news feed, drastically changing the content your fans see. This algorithm was designed to create a news feed specifically targeted to you, making it the perfect “personalized digital newspaper” as Mark Zuckerberg called it. However, it has created another problem. Over the last year many organizations, small businesses and users noticed a decrease in interaction. Users feel like it has converted Facebook from a free platform to a “Pay-and-Play” platform.
In an article last year on Forbes.com, columnist Nick Bilton, explained how he noticed decreases in likes, shares and comments in his posts, so he decided to experiment with the system. Bilton paid $7 to promote his column and within a few hours noticed the huge difference in shares and likes. He publicized his reaction, a belief that Facebook could possibly be suppressing other posts in order to boost others.
Facebook immediately replied, “There have been recent claims suggesting that our news feed algorithm suppresses organic distribution of posts in favor of paid posts in order to increase our revenue. This is not true.” The company explained that engagement has gone up 34 percent for those who have activated the Follow Feature and have followers. They also explain that people cannot compare engagement rates in posts from a year ago to today. Facebook says it is as if comparing apples to oranges. The comparison in engagement is irrelevant because the posts are not the same. Facebook also stated that decrease in interaction could merely be due to the content or type of post.
Users with little to no budget to promote posts have been bothered with the changes, and some even see it as an ultimatum. They can either find the means to boost their posts or leave the platform. However, Facebook’s algorithm does not mean users have to pay to maintain social media engagement across all networks. We as marketers can blame the algorithm for some of our troubles, but we’ll always be able to get creative with other social media outlets. A picture is worth a thousand words so capture an amazing one and tweet it, post it on Instagram or Pinterest and compare the engagement. And who knows? We may just have to strengthen our content on Facebook to make it more appealing to our audiences.
by Amanda Plachte
I would like a vanilla latte, a blueberry scone and a job application, please.
This fall Starbucks will give its employees the opportunity of a lifetime with a generous tuition assistance program: the College Achievement Plan. The Seattle-based coffee company believes that supporting its employees’ ambitions is the best investment it can make. Approximately 70 percent of its employees are students or aspire to be students and knowing that money is not the only barrier preventing young adults from pursuing their dreams, every benefits-eligible employee in the United States will qualify to take advantage of the opportunity to obtain a bachelor’s degree online. Offering 40 undergraduate degrees, Starbucks made this possible by teaming up with Arizona State University.
Those taking advantage of the program are required to carry out their dreams and graduate. That is it. Of course, each participant has to meet all the same admissions requirements as any incoming student would, but there is no obligation for the employees to remain with Starbucks post-graduation. Starbucks genuinely wants its employees to excel in school and at life.
I think Starbucks really hit the jackpot in this employee relations initiative. Not only does this make the company’s external image beam with positivity, but clearly, Starbucks is a great place to work too. Although it did not make the 2014 list, the company came in at No. 94 on the 2013 Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For and No. 73 on the 2012 list.
Howard Schultz , Starbuck’s CEO, believes the company and the country will be well-served by the education initiative. In an article on the company’s website, Overcoming the ‘Fractured’ American Dream: Childhood Experiences Shape the Actions of Two Leaders, Schultz explains, “This is going to give our partners hope, opportunity and the freedom to believe in themselves and their careers for the long term. …The Starbucks College Achievement Plan is part of the answer to the question ‘what is the role and responsibility of a public company,’ and for me it demonstrates the heart and the conscience of Starbucks.”
In this Mashable article, Starbucks Plans to Send Its Employees to College for Free, author Adario Strange reports that Schultz told the New York Times, “I believe it will lower attrition, it’ll increase performance, it’ll attract and retain better people.”
In the article, Wall Street Won’t Tell You About Starbucks’ Magic Bullet, author Ted Cooper addresses Starbucks’ success in employee satisfaction and how it compares to competitor Dunkin’ Donuts. In an attempt to replicate the Starbucks atmosphere, the Massachusetts-based brand has improved its customer experience by adding comfortable seating, relaxing music and places to linger but this is only half of the problem. In order to provide great customer service, employees must be happy, motivated and inspired.
Cooper also points out that Starbucks receives high marks for compensation and benefits too. Health insurance is a cornerstone of Starbucks’ employee compensation packages. Even after admitting that the Affordable Care Act might increase the company’s insurance costs, Schultz said he had a responsibility to keep providing health insurance for his company’s workers. In addition to generous health benefits, Starbucks employees may receive bonuses, 401(k) matching and a free pound of coffee each week. Dunkin’ Brands’ compensation and benefits are tied for the lowest-ranked component in an employee satisfaction survey. Considering that compensation forms the basis of most employees’ attitudes toward a company, the low rating speaks volumes about Dunkin’ Brands’ employee satisfaction.
Health insurance, education and free coffee? Oh, my!
Image via Time
by Amanda Plachte
After almost two years of legal disputing, the Beastie Boys and Monster Energy have settled their copyright infringement case with $1.7 million awarded to the former. Following Monster Energy’s 2012 release of its promotional video for the annual snowboarding competition, Ruckus in the Rockies, the Beastie Boys discovered the unauthorized use of some of their songs. Not only did the two surviving members of the New York-native trio, Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, consider this stealing but they feel that the video also implied an endorsement for the energy drink brand on the band’s behalf. Formed in 1981, the Beastie Boys agreed long ago to never permit the commercial use of their work.
As mentioned in this Chicago Tribune article, Monster Energy’s attorney, Reid Kahn, acknowledged his client’s erroneous infringement but claims that the error falls upon an individual employee whom mistakenly believed to have obtained the permission. In response to the allegations of an implied third-party endorsement, Kahn says the claims are “contrary to common sense” and the band is spinning a “tale of an insidious corporate conspiracy”.
Representing the Beastie Boys, attorney Kevin Puvalowski says of Monster, “They didn’t care if their employees were stealing.”
…Defending your good name, that is. In many ways, situations like this just become a giant mess of “he said, she said,” So, what can an organization such as Monster do when its name gets associated with a crisis?
Author Dennis Bailey believes the key to handling a crisis is with a dark website. In his October 2012, post, Why a Dark Website Should be in Your Crisis Management Plan, Bailey explains that it is a web page or a website that is prepared well in advance of any crisis. It sits on the company’s server invisible to the public; however, should a crisis hit, the dark website is quickly modified and published, providing all the latest information concerning the crisis. Basically, it is a powerful PR trick up your sleeve.
The dark site should contain:
When a crisis occurs, the company website is one of the first places that people will look for information. If there is no current information regarding the crisis, or worse, the website has a “business as usual” feel and it can make the company look bad. In the face of a crisis, an organization must make every attempt to stay on top of the situation. Having information readily available for the public is just one of the ways to do just that.
Not to pick on Monster, but Bailey uses them as a case-and-point example. After the deaths of several people were associated with the consumption of the highly caffeinated energy drinks, Monster’s website was still full of athletes, race cars and the signature “Monster Girls.” Although the company had released a statement defending its brand, Monster did nothing to provide up-to-date information on its website. This can only cause people to get their news elsewhere.
Unfortunately, no website, regardless of how much information is provided, is going to save an organization in the courtroom. A dark website would not have affected Monster’s court case with the Beastie Boys; however, in the PR world, we know that the court of public opinion can have a much stronger impact on the image of a company. Efforts such as a strong crisis management plan can be the saving grace in a situation like this. Maybe next time, Monster.