Insights



Insights

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.

via GIPHY

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

Duh. 

Interesting

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

Relevant

Timeliness is everything.

Aligned to Marketing Objectives

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

Memorable.

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

Is Research Worth It?

Is Research Worth It?

Yes.

While writing the world’s shortest blog post is tempting, the reality is that the value of research is a much-debated topic in agency-client relationships. Sometimes agency folks are the ones who cringe at the thought of their ideas being tested. “This is my art you’re talking about here,” a creative director might cry. Other times, it might be the client who has reservations. “Of course I know what my customers think of my brand,” a VP of marketing might say.

There are plenty of understandable barriers to leveraging research to vet out communications approaches, but just because they are understandable doesn’t mean they are right. Let’s look at some of the most common objections to research and uncover why research is often a step brands can’t afford to skip:

  • Research is too expensive.

Research costs money. But bad ideas cost more money (New Coke, anyone?). And not every marketing strategy requires a full-blown data mining, qualitative and quantitative research extravaganza – although some definitely do. There is inherent value in uncovering audience sentiment, and the insights uncovered along the way often more than pay for themselves once a new strategy is launched.

  • Research will impede speed to market.

Research takes time. But it can also save time. Findings gleaned as a result of research can create “aha” moments that hours and hours of creative brainstorming can fail to spark. And research on the front end, to know your consumers and what appeals to them, can save time and money on the back end when it comes to changes resulting from more universally accepted creative testing processes.

  • What if we disagree with the outcomes from the research?

Research might uncover some uncomfortable truths. But better to tweak before a launch than to have a shiny new strategy launch like a lead balloon. And, ultimately, you might decide to go with an approach that didn’t rise to the top of the research heap. But isn’t it better to know what you’re up against and to develop a plan of attack for any obstacles that pop up as a result of research?

  • I already know what we’re going to hear.

Research very well might confirm what you suspected. But I’ve never been involved in a single research project where we didn’t learn something new – be it a new point of view, a new angle to consider, or even an entirely new revenue stream opportunity. Don’t let what you think you know stop you from uncovering what you can learn.

Whether you are testing a campaign or rolling out a new product, the answer is yes — research is always worth it.

Where are the Listeners?

Where are the Listeners?

Considering radio to help push out your latest promotion or get more people through your doors, or just to create some overall brand awareness?  Are you looking at traditional, digital radio or perhaps a mix of both?  Radio and digital radio advertising can put your brand in the cars, offices and homes of your target audience. A few things to consider: 

Geography

The great thing about radio, both online and traditional is that you can reach anyone in any market.  And by ensuring your messaging resonates with the local community (meaning changing the message to be more local), your campaign will be more relevant.

A DJ’s personality is one of the primary reasons people continue to listen to the radio.  While online radio does not have this same opportunity (if you’re thinking about Pandora or Spotify), this still holds true when using an app like iHeartRadio.   

Targeting/Pricing

Digital radio allows you to have greater targeting options to make sure that you get your message in front of your desired audience.  You can focus on demographics, geography, language, household income and more.  On top of this, you can create a campaign that works within your budget – whereas buying traditional radio can be somewhat more expensive depending on your campaign criteria.

If you need a budget-friendly traditional radio campaign, consider partnering with one or two stations in the local market.  Traditional radio costs can vary greatly from market to market, so it’s important to know where you want to advertise in before you get started.

Availability

Both mediums can reach your users at a time when you know they’ll be listening.  By researching peak times and days, and where the user is going to be listening (in the car, at work, at home) you can optimize your buy to reflect your target audience’s behavior.  For example, your audience may be listening to the radio while on their daily commute, so running a radio ad during peak commute times would make sense.  However, you lose them when they are at work, which is where running digital radio advertising may be a good fit.

Ad Formats

Both mediums allow for different types of ad units.  With digital like Pandora, not only can you have a 15- or 30-second audio spot, you can also purchase a display ad that the users will see when they hear the ad spot.  In addition to this, there are premium sponsorship spots, which if the users agree to watch your short video, they can then listen to digital radio for an hour without any ad interruptions.

For traditional radio, you have more options when it comes to messaging length.  Traditional radio offers anything from 5- and 10-second “sponsored by” spots to 15-second spots and full 30- and 60-second spots. 

Radio and digital radio advertising complement each other.  If there is room in the budget to use both mediums, you can increase your audience and expand your reach, while connecting with your target more frequently throughout their day.

Media Planning 101

Media Planning 101

Want to advertise? Start with a plan. Developing a strategy around your end goal – what you’re trying to accomplish and who you’re trying to reach – will help you determine how to execute it. Planning your media before purchasing it is always recommended. This helps to ensure you have the right message, delivered at the right time and targeted to the right people. 

One advantage of having a plan up-front is a way to keep you on task and on budget. This also helps ensure you are airing media during your high peak times. For example, restaurants typically do not advertise in January because that’s such a slow period for them, right after the holidays, and their clientele doesn’t necessarily have additional funds for dining out. Lay out your plan visually so you can see the plan as a whole.

Make sure you understand your target audience. Start by researching what medium(s) best reach your target audience. For example, if your audience consumes the most amount of media while on the go, purchasing a mobile campaign would be a good bet for reaching them; print ads may not be. Buying media is a waste of time if your target audience doesn’t see it. You want to understand how your target audience consumes media and what mediums they consume the most (TV, radio, digital, outdoor, etc.). 

If you are buying placements across multiple platforms, you’ll want to have a complimentary plan so the mediums are working together. Integrated marketing communications emphasize the benefits of harnessing synergy across multiple media to build your brand equity.  Start your planning with research. 

If you spend time up front researching and mapping out your media plan, the end result will be more productive.  

Film for All, and Fun for Us

Film for All, and Fun for Us

This past year, we had the pleasure of working with Indie Memphis to promote the 2016 Indie Memphis Film Festival. (Selfishly, I’ve wanted to work on this project for some years now. And as life works, sometimes it waits until the most opportune time.)

When you do a search for “film festival posters” in Google you’ll find a litany of well-designed (and some not so well-designed) pieces — most of which use illustrations of film reels or celluloid as part of the concept. It was our desire from the start to go beyond a cleverly designed poster and collateral. We actually wanted to say something. We wanted Indie Memphis to stand for something.

Lucky for us, so did Indie Memphis.

But their problem was that they suffered from a lack of awareness around the city, even though they’ve been around for nearly two decades. Indie Memphis’s executive director Ryan Watt informed us that when he speaks with local groups and associations, his first question to the group is always whether they’ve ever heard of Indie Memphis. Maybe 10% of the people raise their hand. That’s a problem, especially for a film festival known to be one of the best in the country.

Early on, we knew that we had to communicate the idea that the Indie Memphis Film Festival was a uniquely Memphis institution worthy of your time, much like the other festivals in the city (BBQ, Music, etc).

So after many concepts came and went, we discovered an interesting idea with a message of inclusiveness paired with cinematic provocativeness. 

Film For All.

This positioning line was paired with imagery shot around Memphis of all different types of people — Memphians.

When we pitched the idea to Ryan, he loved it. He said that it would tie in beautifully with some of the featured films that would headline the festival — films that had a direct connection to Memphis.

We got to work on all the pieces necessary: posters, outdoor boards, digital executions, social media content, videos, in-theater video bumpers, t-shirts, festival passes, website graphics, program book cover and more. 

When the festival started, we received plenty of positive feedback from festival-goers about the work. After the festival, we got the most important piece of information — increased awareness that led to the largest attendance numbers ever in the 19 years of the festival.

Take a look at the final work. Let us know what you think.

Call Off the Quest: This Single, Magical Question is the Holy Grail of Ad Agency Success

Call Off the Quest: This Single, Magical Question is the Holy Grail of Ad Agency Success

“Is what we’re doing at this moment going to make the work better?”

That’s the question.

THE question.

Whether you work in your agency’s c-suite or in the mail room, using this question as your one-and-only decision-making filter (seriously, it’s all you need) will ensure you make the best possible decisions close to 100% of the time in close to 100% of situations.

Put plainly, when evaluating efforts through the lens of this question:

  1. If the answer is “yes” – continuing your efforts should be a no-brainer
  2. If the answer is “no” – you are likely involved in an action you may want to rethink
  3. If the answer is “no” but you choose to continue the action in question anyway – at least you will be taking that action more aware of its potential consequences and, hopefully, be better prepared to deal with issues that may arise from your decision

“Is what we’re doing at this moment going to make the work better?”

This unassuming little query is a key to helping any agency build and maintain a high-performance environment. That’s because an agency self-aware enough to put this question at the center of its culture, naturally attracts the right people – those with high levels of talent and skill who measure success by getting things done.

This question is so simple. So fundamental. So essential. Go on, say it to yourself:

“Is what we’re doing at this moment going to make the work better?”

It provides direction. Brings clarity. Removes doubt. Creates common cause. Compels smart decisions. Frames relationships.

Internally, it heralds meritocracy (the type of organization your best people desire) because it reaffirms the high value you place on talent and commitment. At the same time, it vastly decreases the currency value of gossip and office politics, nudging those who traffic in destructive behavior to seek their futures elsewhere.

Externally, in terms of relationships with current and potential clients, it helps clearly articulate the type of character that defines your shop. If you truly believe in the veracity of this question, you will always be the kind of agency brand marketing teams desire.

“Is what we’re doing at this moment going to make the work better?”

From a client perspective, any agency that evaluates itself by its answers to this question is (unquestionably) a place steeped in characteristics desired by serious brands, among them:

  • Belief in own-able strategy
  • Commitment to distinctive work
  • Development of collaborative relationships
  • Proactivity
  • Efficiency
  • Continual improvement

“Is what we’re doing at this moment going to make the work better?”

In the ad agency business, today’s smartest shops know it is much more than a question.

It’s the answer.

Note: This article first appeared on LinkedIn. View the original here, and be sure to follow us

Do It for the Grammar: Four Commonly Broken Rules

Do It for the Grammar: Four Commonly Broken Rules

Words are hard, and the struggle is real. As the company proofreader, I see a lot of syntactical mistakes. Some of them make me cringe, others make me laugh, but all are likely avoidable. Now, I can’t say when it comes to our lexicon I’m perfect, because I’m human. I do make the occasional mistake myself. But, the following are the mistakes I see most often.

1. Subject-verb agreement

Incorrect: An important part of my life have been the people who stood by me.
Correct: The people who stood by me have been important parts of my life.

We should all know, by now, that “is” is singular and “are” is plural. Simple, right? Wrong. You’d really be surprised by the amount of times this actually gets overlooked by writers when sentences start to get more complex. I know it’s not intentional (assuming you passed 2nd grade).  

2. Sentence Fragments/Incomplete Sentences

Incorrect: The best thing I’ve seen all day.
Correct: This is the best thing I’ve seen all day.

This is probably the most common mistake I see. It might seem cool and all existential to break up sentences, but in formal writing, I’ll assuredly mark it.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I think sentence fragments and incomplete sentences do have their place. Heck, look at Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, E.M. Forster; they all did it. However, if you’re name isn’t well-known in the English (or Advertising) canon, I suggest you stick to the rules.

3. Missing Comma After Introductory Element

Incorrect: Before she had time to think about it Sharon jumped into the icy pool.
Correct: Before she had time to think about it, Sharon jumped into the icy pool.

This one is probably the thing that least gets my goat. While I’m a huge proponent of using commas in the proper places, especially after introductory elements, I don’t get up in arms about it because commas aren’t always necessary. In fact, an overuse of commas is a huge pet peeve of mine—don’t even get me started debating the Oxford/serial comma. If you’re a copywriter or know anything about our lexicon, you know what I’m talking about.

4. Misusing the Apostrophe With “Its”

Incorrect: I don’t believe its finally Friday.
Correct: I don’t believe it’s finally Friday.

At this stage in the game, we should all know the difference between “its” and “it’s.” If you don’t…I feel like I need to apologize for your school system because it completely failed you. You may find yourself writing something like, “its easier for you than it is for me,” but please, save me the headache. If you’re unsure, just replace “it is” and see if it makes sense. That’s a surefire way to keep me from going to town on your project with my pen.

I haven’t listed many mistakes here, but, like I said, these are the ones I see most often. And that’s not to disparage any of our copywriters; they’re all awesome! But I know when you get going, grammar and spelling are probably the last things on your mind. My suggestion is to take a minute and re-read. Trust me, my red ink and sanity will thank you.

Solid Strategy Sparks Surprising Success

Solid Strategy Sparks Surprising Success

We recently had the opportunity to create, launch and sustain a holistic gamification strategy for more than 2,300 hospitality leaders during a three-day conference. The results? An actively engaged group of attendees and lessons in the beauty of strategy and embracing organic growth, especially when it takes on a life of its own. 

Lesson No. 1: Strategy wins.

In keeping the audience at the center of our universe, we knew hotel leaders care most about connecting with people. No way could we put a winning strategy in place that was rigid or complex. Also, let’s be real. They’re at a conference; there’s a lot going on.

So, we developed a strategy that gave attendees ownership and choice. Every action tied back to client objectives and coordinated with activities happening at conference (a.k.a. real life). Attendees could play all or some of the game elements to offer an opportunity for anyone to genuinely engage.

Why? Because we knew that’s what would work for this audience. And it did.

Lesson No. 2: There’s a reason they call it organic growth.

Honestly, it’s hard to predict success even if you check all the right strategic boxes, especially in this setting. At best, our expectation was about 50 percent engagement. Getting half the group to “play along” wouldn’t be bad. Turns out, engagement numbers grew beyond that, landing upwards of 80+ percent — which was exciting and scary. Attendees were engaging 24/7 about every aspect of conference.

There was a myriad of friendly competition. One group decided to meet up (in person) for drinks at conference, dubbing themselves the #originalleaderboard. Players evolved the game rules, which was cool with us. Our team even had to make some on-the-fly adjustments to our own execution tactics.

The organic growth was awesome, but it really took on an uncontrollable life of its own — so much so that an unexpected lesson emerged.

Lesson No. 1 (again), Version 2.0: Strategy still wins.

There’s a certain level of humility that comes with admitting the fact that you didn’t know your strategy was going to result in such an enthusiastic response. Fortunately, the framework in place herded the unexpected growth in a positive direction. Case in point for the power of strategy. All personalities had a chance to participate and engage in the app and, ultimately, conference. That’s a win for the client.