Five Decades of Internships

At Sullivan Branding, we just wrapped up our summer intern program. Asking around the office, it became apparent that most people in our field had completed at least one internship during their college career. Everyone’s internship is unique but most people walked away better equipped to enter the workforce.

Five decades of internships have given our colleagues a wealth of knowledge. And while some of that knowledge is a mainstay, some is now useless and outdated.

Ralph Berry, our executive vice president of public relations, interned at channel 4 in Indianapolis in 1979.

When I interned as a television reporter in the late 1970s, the hardest things to do were editing the film to account for the video to audio sound lag, and keeping up with news in a non-technology world. Film editing is now a lost art form in today’s digital newsroom. Our communications technology was a police scanner and a CB radio in the news car. We stopped at a pay phone to check in with the station as we got each news item “in the can.” Breaking news was reported on a pay phone. News releases came to the station in the mail, timed for arrival to match the coverage date. Or, PR professionals dropped by the station with a release and product sample or to pitch an idea in person. News got on air during the half hour scheduled blocks, so we never worried about being scooped with today’s online post. The “technology” lessons of my internship are useless today.

 The lessons in concise storytelling, both in the news report and the PR practitioner to the reporter, are still paramount. Plus, there is still no substitute for in person pitching from time to time.

Brian Sullivan, our CEO and president, interned as a brand manager for an outdoor weatherproof line of electrical components in the mid 1980s.

While the product line may not have seemed exciting, it was a tremendous opportunity to get involved in every aspect of the brand. Innovation was not a high priority, but we worked on new packaging, package design, marketing materials, etc. and used competitive research as inspiration. So, we wanted to know what our competition was doing and how we could do it better. This meant we had to get out into the market, visit stores, see how the products were displayed, watch people interact with the display and talk to customers. This gave us both ideas for how to better present our products and knowledge to make display recommendations to the retailers. Advances in technology have surely made all of this easier, especially the packaging innovation and display design. All of which can likely be done from the comfort of your home or office.

 However, I still believe there is no substitute for getting out into the market, watching behaviors and talking to customers. You will be surprised by what you can learn, even today.

 Amy Sharp, our executive vice president of marketing and operations, interned at a small-town newspaper in the mid 1990s.

When I interned with a small local newspaper in the 1990s, my biggest challenge was always time. If the paper needed camera-ready art for an ad that was running, I either had to create it myself, then shoot it with a STAT camera (a behemoth piece of machinery I can’t even comprehend was in existence as long as it was) or have artwork sent out to get ‘Veloxes’ (camera-ready art on Kodak paper) made. All of this took DAYS! DAYS we never had! We were shipping things left and right. I laugh thinking about how slow the computer probably was at that time. Software that designers can’t live without now, like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, were in their infancy. InDesign didn’t even exist. A designer couldn’t simply email files anywhere. We were loading them on Zip or Jaz drives and that’s where the courier or mailing came in again. Deadlines are still an issue, of course, but there is so much more technology that can help these days. The one thing I believe that is still the same after all these years in advertising.

 The key tool a designer always needed was a brain. That’s where the ideas always start, whether they get executed on paper or a computer. A great designer always needs the ability to think and create.

Ashley Bowles, our public relations senior account executive, interned in the communications office for a United States senator in 2003.

Interning in Washington, D.C. was a very cool experience. Part of my role interning in the communications office for a United States senator was helping distribute news releases. We faxed news releases to TV stations and newspapers in Tennessee, then called to confirm their receipt. For some national media, we walked over to the Senate Press Gallery — a central location for then 1,500 reporters — in the Capitol building to drop off the releases in person.  This was pre-social media, but during the 24-hour news cycle of TV. Our regional offices in Tennessee faxed in cutout news clips from local newspapers every morning that I compiled into a daily packet along with national coverage.  Seems so archaic looking back.  Now, it’s all available online.

 Big lesson learned for me was that you can never assume a TV station picked up your pitch, so following up on behalf of your client gives you another opportunity to pitch the news. Tracking your client’s coverage — or competitors’ coverage — shows your value as a PR practitioner.

Madison Lathum, our PR intern and rising college senior, interned at Sullivan Branding in 2017.

 I’d never had a PR internship before. The only things I knew I would be doing for sure were communicating with media and writing. Not only did I get that this summer, but I learned so much more about what it truly means to be a PR practitioner. I was able to meet with clients, write press releases, compile media lists and editorial calendars, research clients, craft social media posts, pitch to media, and that’s just a start on some of the many things I did. Almost everything I did this summer involved writing and communicating. I relied heavily on my computer almost all day, researching, writing and sending emails. Another large component of PR now is social media. So many brands, practitioners and journalists rely on social media as a platform on which to communicate, whether that be with their public or as a direct message to someone regarding business. Smartphones are now much more prominent than landlines, and they are the perfect places to manage social media accounts.

 Though communication forms have changed, the need for good writing and messaging has remained consistent.

 From the 1970s to 2010s, the communications industry has drastically changed. Knowing how to tell a story, facilitate research, be creative, measure results and write well remain important in our industry — and I have a sneaking suspicion they always will.




New Approach to Recruitment

In 2016, a company best known for its high-quality cooking and home furnishing products recognized a different employee recruitment approach was needed and engaged Sullivan Branding to help break the cycle. The company previously engaged temporary hiring agencies to help staff up for seasonal jobs. Over the years, the company noticed a decline in the caliber of applicants the temp agencies were providing, which translated into less effective day-to-day operation. This ultimately affected the company’s bottom line which drew the company to explore other avenues to attract quality applicants.

Sullivan Branding began the engagement by conducting research to establish qualities the company looked for in seasonal applicants and what potential applicants valued most in those types of positions. Through the development of applicant personas, Sullivan Branding was able to marry job descriptions with potential applicant expectations that included competitive pay, a friendly, safe working environment and flexible schedules.

A goal was set to recruit 1,000 seasonal workers. With that in mind, Sullivan Branding developed a creative campaign and communications plan to reach potential applicants and help the company stand out from other companies also hiring seasonal and part-time employees.

The creative campaign was a whimsical play on words: “The Most Wonderful Job of the Year,” showing, through illustrations, the types of jobs the company was hiring—from warehouse worker to embroiderer. The campaign also sought to reinforce the company attributes that potential applicants would value.

The communications plan carried out the creative campaign through a mix of traditional and digital media buys, direct mail to targeted areas, a referral program, and public relations support to build awareness of job openings and hiring events.

Post launch, analytics showed an increased number of impressions and clicks above and beyond the industry standard, and an increase in the number of online and physical applications received from qualified applicants.

The success of the 2016 recruitment campaign paved the way for the company to greenlight expansion of the campaign for 2017. Sullivan Branding looks forward to developing new campaign assets and recommending additional communication vehicles to continue efforts in recruiting qualified candidates.



Back At It…A Maternity Leave Memo

So, you’ve been out for approximately 6–12 weeks. You have fully recovered from nine months of pregnancy and a grueling delivery, have perfectly bonded with your baby and figured out your new schedule, are sleeping through the night, and you’re ready to jump right back into work even before your leave is up, right? Right?!



I recognize that I’m lucky to work for a company that offers maternity leave benefits. But that doesn’t make the return to work after 12 weeks out any easier, especially since my newborn is my first born!

When I was preparing myself to return to the office last month, I took to Google. As a new mom, up at all hours of the day and night, you find yourself googling EVERYTHING — for better or worse — from childbirth recovery to how much should your baby be eating and sleeping.  So, why not google returning to work tips?

Not surprisingly, I found a lot of information from blogs to lists about what to expect. Some of the information was useful. Most was not. I’m hoping this will be helpful for those moms (and dads!) returning to the office.


  • The first few days will be tough. You will have forgotten how to make small talk. You won’t remember what is going on with that XYZ project. You probably forgot some of your usernames and passwords for your computer. Twelve weeks is likely the longest you’ve been out of work in your professional career, so give yourself some time to adjust. And, not to mention, you’ll be missing your new baby.
  • Work out childcare in advance. Leaving for work the first morning back will be easier and more seamless if you have details of childcare worked out well in advance. You’ll probably still be scrambling around to find clothes that fit (that’s a whole other blog post), so allow yourself some extra time. Have your babysitter come shadow you or go meet the daycare teachers in the last weeks of maternity leave. Do one or two practice runs of how long it will take you and your baby to get out of the house in the morning — it may surprise you how much longer you’ll need, but at least you’ll know in advance.
  • Recognize your value at work. Recognize that your employer is lucky to have you back in the office. According to the Harvard Business Review, 43% of women leave the workforce after having a child. That’s almost half! Your employer has retained a great employee in you, on top of not having to recruit, hire and train a new employee if you had decided to step out of work to take care of your child for a few years. Remember that when your skills are a bit rusty.
  • You’ll be more focused. Maybe this is just a guess, but I feel that I’ll be even more plugged in, present and dedicated now that I’m back at work. If you’re in the office, do your work, focus on getting assignments and projects completed so when you go home, you’re fully at home. Stay mindful during your 9–5 so you can cuddle baby when you get home at night.
  • Multitasking will be a breeze. While you probably feel like your maternity leave has been a blur, you really were picking up multitasking skills. I know, for me, the logistics of just trying to leave the house for the first time with an infant by myself seemed on par with those required for Delta Air Lines’ Atlanta hub. Those skills are not for naught and will help you be an even better employee in the long run.


Hopefully you’ve found this helpful! Now, brush off your first trimester clothes (you’re probably still in them and that’s OKAY!) grab a warm cup of coffee (!!!) and head to the office — but not without an adorably staged framed photo of your new bundle of joy for your desk.


Meeting Expectations

So many tricks and tips for conducting “a well-run meeting” are out there, many of them with contradicting information. A basic Google search pulls up more than a million hits on the subject.

Less talk, more rock

Before you take drastic measures to change your meeting style, there are several things to consider:

  1. Meeting size. Some people recommend keeping meetings as small as possible to avoid wasting time and some will recommend having as many people as possible attend the meeting to get input from multiple departments and levels. My opinion on meeting size varies on topics discussed. An all-staff or department meeting should include all staff or the whole department. Specific event or project based meetings should likely only include those employees working on the event or project. A lesson in common sense on this one.
  2. To have or not to have an agenda. I’m a big fan of always having an agenda, whether it be formal or not. A timed agenda is great for big groups as groups are easily distracted which will lead to longer meetings. If you are running a meeting with 2 – 3 other people, having a mental agenda will help you, the meeting holder, accomplish what needs to happen. How will you make the meeting efficient and respect your colleagues’ time?
  3. Watching the clock. Speaking of agendas, be considerate of people’s time. I grapple with late meeting attendees and whether to wait on them to start the meeting so everyone doesn’t have to repeat themselves. And, ultimately, that’s not fair to those who show up for the meeting on time. Of course, if the client or CEO is late to the meeting, you wait while still trying to end the meeting on time. The old adage “showing up is half the battle” is missing the key phrase “on-time”!
  4. Follow up. I’ve left so many meetings wondering “Okay, what do I do now?” which is partially on me for not asking but also partially on the meeting holder for not assigning tasks, dates or sending a follow-up email with that information. How will you tell attendees next steps?

If you find yourself attending, or scheduling, meeting after meeting, ask yourself what you can do to make the time more effective. I would never recommend that you decline meetings with your boss or CEO because “you have too meetings on your calendar”…that probably wouldn’t go over well. But ask yourself if you can approach your boss about how to make the meeting efficient for both of you and, ultimately, your company or the client.

Building a Home… on the Internet

Building a Home… on the Internet

There’s a reason it’s called “building” a website. In a lot of ways, the process is similar to constructing a home. First, a client decides their current arrangements are no longer adequate. We research the neighborhood and look at comparables. We evaluate the client’s priorities and draw up a blueprint based on what they can afford. Then comes framing (ours is the wire kind), construction, installation of all the bits that make it run. We undergo inspections along the way. After adding some curb appeal, tidying up and making the new home presentable, we take a final walk-through. Then we hand the keys over to the happy homeowner.

Sometimes setbacks arise. The marble countertops you had your heart set on might be on backorder. Or the weather delayed the pouring of your foundation, adding weeks to the schedule. Sometimes the wrong part arrives and the color doesn’t look at all like the swatch you picked out.

The amount of time a construction project takes depends on how big and how nice you want your new home to be. You can select one of three floorplans in a neighborhood where the only difference between each house is a slight variation in brick color. You’ll get the basics and that place will appear to have sprouted out of the ground overnight. Or, you can opt to spend a little more and fully customize your space. This will take a little longer, too.

When building a home – whether it’s a physical structure or a website – your approach determines whether you end up with a fabulous space that suits you perfectly, or a money pit. We recently completed our second project with The Orpheum Theatre Group: the construction of a new online home. And while we always strive to create work that we’re proud to share, their approach made this especially enjoyable. Here are a few reasons that stand out: 

A Client That Knows Exactly What It Needs

The Orpheum had a very good idea of what was and wasn’t working with their current solution. They knew what they needed from a new website. They had consulted with industry peers and identified best practices they hoped to adopt. They came to us with a prioritized list of needs, wants and “nice-to-haves.” They had done their homework, and therefore had reasonable expectations for what could be accomplished within their budget and timeline. Unlike those couples on House Hunters who appear to be hunting for two different houses, the team had a cohesive vision.  

Giving Stakeholders Ownership of the Process

Parents help their kids acclimate to a big move by showing them where their new rooms will be, building a sweet playset in the backyard, and accepting their input (within reason, of course). Likewise, such a drastic change as a completely revamped website can be a huge adjustment for those whose day-to-day workflows are affected.  We included the stakeholders most directly impacted by the website — members of the development, education, event and ticket departments — early on. We conducted thorough interviews about what they liked and didn’t like about the current website, what features they use, what new features would benefit them. Though these individuals weren’t the primary decision makers, their input helped us ensure the changes we were making would benefit them. Our client did an incredible job managing this part of the process, which helped us anticipate and eliminate potential conflicts down the road.

Face Time: Not Just an iPhone App

Our clients are spread out all over the world, so we don’t always have the luxury of face time.  While we spent plenty of time on calls and GoToMeeting, we took advantage of the fact that our offices are within walking distance of each other and met in person whenever possible — in all phases. That means our client got to meet every single person who worked on the project. Strong communication helps take the client/agency relationship to the next level. It’s essential to  building trust, which comes in handy in the event of what I call “little externalities.” On Fixer Upper, when Joanna calls to deliver bad news – a DIY plumbing nightmare in the attic, an unforeseen wiring issue – do you know why no one freaks out? Trust. And some editing, probably. But mostly trust.

If you’ve got a new (online) home construction on the horizon, consider these tips as you begin. And if you’re curious, check out the finished product: We’re pretty happy with the way it turned out.

Netflix and Get Inspired (Just Add Pancho’s)

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Yes, I was a probably a little overly excited (in a total art school geek way) when it was announced at a staff meeting that a group was getting together on Fridays to watch the Netflix series Abstract, The Art of Design. In my defense, I have a degree in graphic design, so I was intrigued to watch this brainchild of Scott Dadich, former editor-in-chief at WIRED. Each episode features a designer from a different discipline: illustration, photography, architecture, interior, graphic, set, shoe and automobile design — and gives the viewer a peek at the everyday challenges designers face.  All I needed was food and I was ready to binge on lunch and Abstract.

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Saturated in color — using cameras with fancy names like Red Epic Dragon, drones, quirky edit techniques and more than one director — the series format comes off as part documentary, part Willy Wonka. One minute you feel like you are sneaking backstage with set design superstar Es Devlin, listening to her talk about sketching for Kanye and Adele, the next minute, you become part of a drawing by famed German illustrator, Christoph Niemann.

I liked that each show tries to paint an unbiased portrait of the featured designer. The viewer is able to either openly hero worship as Nike design god Tinker Hatfield reminisces about hanging with Michael Jordan, or join in trash talk, as architectural rock star Bjarke Ingels’ critiques (e.g. “my nine-year-old does more interesting shit in Minecraft,”) are read aloud.

So, after wading through a vat of Panchos cheese dip and all eight episodes, I think, for the most part, Dadich delivers. At its best, the show pulls you through each interview, giving you a glimpse into the life of the designer and leaves you wishing you had more time with each one. At its worst, the show veers into a wacky world of animation/edit treatments, which seems to be used more to fill the voids left by some of the less charismatic subjects, than to enhance each story. I mean, I do want to see how the Everlasting Gobstopper is made — but like Wonka’s Tunnel of Terror, there were a few times I wanted off of Abstract.

I am totally in for season 2 and would love to see leaders in fashion, museum, industrial and/or environmental design.

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If you don’t have enough time (or Panchos), here’s my ranking of Season 1:

Paula Scher | Graphic Design:

Of course, it’s my favorite, because she’s freaking phenomenal, AND this episode does the best job of showing how Scher works and tackles everyday challenges.

Platon Antoniou | Photography:

Fascinating and emotional story

Tinker Hatfield | Shoe Design:

Makes you realize no one is really as cool as Tinker.

Bjarke Ingels | Architecture:

Whether you believe the hype or not, the work is inspirational.

Es Devlin | Set Design:

Interesting subject, but not enough about her process.

Ralph Gilles | Automobile Design:

Best backstory of how he got to where he is now.

Christoph Niemann | Illustration:

Interesting, but I might have been rummaging around for more chips during this one.

Ilse Crawford | Interior Design:

No amount of interior design can make me think hot dogs are a healthy choice in IKEAs rebranded restaurant.

Journalism vs. PR: A Tale of Two Industries

Journalism vs. PR: A Tale of Two Industries

Public relations and journalism are not the same. Although many people confuse the two industries, they serve different purposes. Journalists go out and get newsworthy content and report it for their audience. PR practitioners create newsworthy content based on their client and release it to the client’s public. However, the two have one main common denominator: the art of storytelling.

In the past month and a half, I’ve had the opportunity to have two internships, one in public relations and one in journalism. Though public relations is where my heart lies, I was excited to get the chance to gain some valuable experience as a journalist. I have been working as a public relations intern with Sullivan Branding for a little over a month, but I took a 12-day hiatus from being a PR practitioner to report news for the 2017 National Senior Games in Birmingham. My responsibility for that internship was to interview senior athletes and write stories about the athletes on The Games Daily News online publication. Interviewing someone was something I had very little experience in. Going from working with clients who have stories to tell me to being on my own and having to find a story was a daunting task.

While my responsibilities in both internships have been very different, I have learned so much about storytelling. It is one of the most important aspects of both industries. Without storytelling, it’s hard to engage with your public. Based on my experiences, I believe there are four main areas when it comes to storytelling where journalism and public relations overlap, and I’ve had experiences dealing with each of these areas this summer.

No matter how you get the information for your story, you’re the one who has to create the story for your audience.  

PR: I had to write a case study for a client and recreate their success story with one of their clients into this format. Dissecting the story and creating the components of the case study was hard, especially from an outside standpoint and knowing little about their industry, but I was able to do it and find that message they would want to convey.

Journalism: While working at the National Senior Games, I would have to tell the stories of athletes who were complete strangers to me in a way that would do their story justice. I spent many hours thinking of ways to convey a story, whether it be about a couple who has recently started competing in pickleball together, or a woman who still competes in racewalking in her 80s.

It’s your responsibility to get the story to your audience.

PR: I have done so much pitching to journalists in my time at Sullivan Branding that I feel like a pro now! For PR practitioners, getting the story to your public mainly goes through journalists. You pitch stories to journalists and publications so they’ll get the message out to your target audience. I have sent many emails to journalists in hopes they’ll pick up the stories I have to tell about our clients.

Journalism: Working for The Games Daily News, I had to write my story and then give it to my supervisor, who either posted it on the publication’s website or held it as an extra story to potentially post if needed. My stories needed to be worthy of being posted, since these athletes I met deserved to have their stories told. For example, I met a man who has had Parkinson’s Disease for seven years, but continues to play pickleball. When he plays, his tremors almost completely stop, and his activity level has helped slow the progression of the disease. His message is something everyone should have a chance to hear.

Make sure the story connects with your target audience.  

PR: All of the clients I have worked with this summer are in different industries ranging from logistics to medical, housing, etc. They each have different target audiences. It is important for us to tailor messages in press releases or campaigns toward that specific audience. It has been so fun for me this summer to learn a little about all of these different industries and practice tailoring messages to specific publics.

Journalism: All of the senior athletes at The Games had a special story. My audiences were senior athletes, families of senior athletes and people who supported The Games. I knew they’d want to read heartfelt stories, so I had to make sure all of the stories I wrote were ones that would grab the reader’s attention and connect with them on an emotional level. When I interviewed a man who has set multiple records for The National Senior Games in swimming, he informed me he was also a comedian. I used one of his jokes in the story I wrote about him to help the audience connect to him and spark happiness as they read it.

Get your facts straight. 

PR: I have sat in on many conference calls and a couple of in-person meetings with clients where we discussed what was happening with their businesses and clarified any facts we needed for press releases or case studies. Losing credibility as a PR practitioner, or even a journalist, is probably the worst thing for your career, so I have learned a lot about the importance of checking your facts and sources.

Journalism: I interviewed so many people at The Games, and I wanted to get their stories 100 percent accurate. A lot of what us interns wrote in our stories were quotes, because we knew our audience would want to read the athletes’ own words. Luckily, all of the athletes were fine with me recording our interviews so that I could tell the story, in mostly, their dialogue.

Although the two industries are very different, and at times butt heads, they both have to master the art of storytelling in order to be successful at what they do.

Read some of my stories from The National Senior Games here.

Does Local Media Coverage Matter for Nationally Focused Clients?

Many of our clients for public relations are in the business-to-business space. Our goal is to get them attention in the trade publications read by their customers and potential customers. That attention can be stories about advances and use of their products and services, milestones in their business and personnel stories of their people. Real success is when there are not only stories about them, but when they are called upon for any stories about their industry to contribute as a thought leader. 

For these clients, while based in city A, the amount of business from or available in city A could be very small. In that case, should they care about stories in the local daily papers, business journals or even broadcast media? I would argue yes, attention locally is still of value. There are several reasons why:

  • Business may be national, but employment is local. People like to work for companies that they can be proud of.  There is immeasurable cultural value in employees hearing from friends and family about positive stories they read about where they work.  This kind of attention helps with recruiting and retaining the best.
  • In a world of Google search, all media placement is national. One trouble with many trade publications is their web presence. Many place the full pdf of the magazine online instead of the actual stories living on their website. This means stories in trade publications can be missed by search. Daily media posts appear in search results, so those stories help contribute to national recognition.
  • Just because it is locally placed, doesn’t mean it can’t be shared nationally. A local story has the potential to be very thorough about a product or service because it is probably on a topic not covered frequently, compared to a trade story that is used to covering the industry. That in-depth local story can be an excellent outreach opportunity to potential clients that carries both a deep description and the unbiased neutrality that any coverage carries.
  • Most local daily papers and business media are part of a national organization. Local stories in business journals may also be picked up in other markets that are part of that ownership group. The same happens frequently with daily paper groups like the USA Today Network.
  • Practice makes perfect. There may not be as much at risk with a local interview as with one in a targeted trade.

In conclusion, local media is just one part of a full media outreach continuum. A local story is different than one in a trade publication, and in some cases local can even mean more. Good PR covers it all.

Google Stands Up to Ad Blockers … Kinda

How often do you visit a website, only to immediately leave due to intrusive, obnoxious ads? You know the ones: autoplay videos, interstitials that swallow the entire screen, monster-sized leaderboards that won’t go away.


If you answered “never,” I’m guessing that’s either because you’re a patient soul or — more likely — you have an ad blocker installed. According to PageFair’s 2017 AdBlock Report, 615 million devices use ad blockers. 11 percent of the global internet population is blocking ads. And Google, the biggest ad server on the internet, is doing something about it.

Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s SVP of Ads & Commerce, recently announced the company’s plans to block certain ads in its Chrome browser starting in 2018. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? Not exactly. “In dialogue with the Coalition [for Better Ads] and other industry groups,” Ramaswamy writes, Google plans for Chrome to “stop showing ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that are not compliant with the Better Ads Standards starting in early 2018.” 

Additionally, Google plans to roll out Funding Choices, which allows publishers to enact a sort of paywall for site visitors with ad blockers. Visitors will see customized message that invites them to enable ads for full access, or pay with Google Contributor for a pass that removes all ads from the site.  

What does this mean?

For users: A better web experience

The Coalition for Better Ads’ standards cover all the worst offenders: popup ads, autoplay video ads with sounds, prestitial ads with countdowns, mobile ads that take up more than a third of the screen, and others. 

For advertisers: Accountability

Google Chrome is the most-used browser in the world. Billions of users will be inaccessible to advertisers who don’t adhere to the coalition’s standards. If you value user experience, you’re probably not in any danger. If you don’t, now’s a good time to start.

For Google: More influence (and more money, probably)

For a long time, Google has held the position that the best response to ad blockers has been simple: make better ads. Now, the company is using its status as the biggest online ad platform and most popular web browser to write the rules for the rest of the web. Is that a bad thing? That depends on whether you believe they’re using their powers for good or evil. 

How to Go Viral

How to Go Viral

I’m sitting alone at a conference table. An account executive hands me a single sheet of paper. It’s a brief. On it are written four words.

 “Make us go viral.”

I awaken, sweating, my heart racing.

Thank goodness it’s just a dream.

I’m just kidding – my “work dreams” are never that scary. Anyway, going viral is easy. Here’s how:

Send a tweet from the wrong Twitter account. “Leak” some nude photos. Fall down in public. Have a wardrobe malfunction. Cry/dance/make out in the stands at a sporting event. Bomb a TV talent show audition. Go on The Bachelor. Give an interview to a local news station. Curse at a security camera.  

Enjoy your brief stint in Twitter’s trending topics — and Facebook’s, a few days later. If you play your cards right, you might get to meet Ellen. For your business or organization, “going viral” should not be a goal. And yes, there is such a thing as bad publicity.

However, if you want to create branded content that gets shared and viewed a bajillion times, we can help you with that. As long as we’re clear on the fact that’s not “going viral.”

As a metric, virality is flawed because it exploits one of social’s biggest weaknesses: the tendency to overvalue reach in the absence of measurable KPIs. It’s temporary and imprecise and doesn’t necessarily lead to conversions. “Viral marketing” is a term for strategies that rely on audiences to amplify brands’ messages. It is outdated. Because of social media, shareability should be a consideration for every piece of content you create.

You don’t want to go viral. You want to be shareable. Here are five characteristics that define shareable content:

Visually Appealing



Entertain. Educate. Inspire. Go straight for the feels.  


Timeliness is everything.

Aligned to Marketing Objectives

It may or may not be obvious to the consumer, but remember you’re selling something.  


Shareable content is sticky. Try to forget this ad. I dare you.