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Melody Guy Loses Friend and Writing Partner — Please Join the Search

NASHVILLE, TN – March 14, 2013 – Nashville singer, songwriter and entertainer, Melody Guy, today announced her friend and writing partner, “Wilson,” was discovered missing. Last seen in somewhere in Arizona off I-40 or Highway 17 at the Sunset rest stop, Wilson, a black and orange basketball, plays an important part of Guy’s act and is beloved by legions of fans. Guy is asking fellow musicians and supporters to scour the nation for her missing partner, without whom, her life is less complete. “I met Wilson during a transitional time in my life and he inspired me to take my music in a direction that has been intensely positive,” said Guy. “For the last four years he’s been my friend, my familiar and my muse. I look forward to the day we are reunited.” Following in the footsteps of father, Bobby Guy, Melody’s songwriting draws comparisons to Lucinda Williams, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Kim Richey and Melissa Etheridge. She is most well known for her song, Mistakes Like Me, off her album I Feel Sane. Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of Wilson is encouraged to contact Melody on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/melodyguymusic.

Sharing the Joy — The Blogmobile!

Introducing The Blogmobile

Cycle Oregon is one of the greatest cycling events on Earth. Each year, 2,200 cyclists embark on a 7-day ride through some of the most scenic parts of the state. Along the way, a lot of money is raised to help support the rural communities that serve as our gracious hosts. For many, Cycle Oregon is a life-changing experience and one that begs to be shared with fellow cyclists as well as non-riding friends and family. And this year, it will be easier than ever for them to do just that thanks to The Blogmobile. The Blogmobile is a mobile platform for the growing number of bloggers who cover the event on a daily basis (Including the KoiFish team, which manages and writes for the Cycle Oregon Blog). It also has a bank of PCs for everyone else to use to access Twitter, Facebook or whatever social network tickles their fancy. Our hope is that The Blogmobile also makes it easy for the community to make a collective record of the event unlike anything that we’ve previously seen before and that this record inspires a few folks to join us in years to come. You can follow the action at: www.facebook.com/cycleoregon http://www.flickr.com/groups/co2012 http://www.youtube.com/user/cycleoregon www.cycleoregon.com/blog www.oregonlive.com/cycleoregon http://hollerit.blogspot.com/

Keeping Your Brand Out of Politics

Politics has gotten ugly. OK, it’s always been ugly, but in the last decade, it’s gotten extra super ugly. As a nation, we are more divided than ever by politics and it doesn’t look like this is going to change any time soon. Many companies (wisely) try to stay out of all things political as much as possible. As we saw with the Susan G. Komen PR disaster earlier this month, doing otherwise can create an unwanted poopie storm of biblical proportions. Unfortunately, sometimes particular special interest groups try and drag brands into their fights. Such has been the case with Starbucks and guns. In most states, if you don’t have a criminal record and meet certain established requirements, you can get a license to carry a concealed firearm. While this fact completely freaks out a vocal minority of people who envision gun fights over parking spaces and a return to the Wild West, the truth is concealed carry is a non-issue. As a matter of fact, concealed carry permit holders are among the least likely people around to commit a crime with (or without) a firearm. They aren’t really a threat to anyone except, from time to time, criminals. In California, the process of getting a concealed carry license isn’t straightforward at all. Decisions about of who may or may not get a concealed carry permit is left entirely up to local law enforcement. Words like arbitrary and discriminatory come to mind because in practice, the only people who are able to get a permit are judges, politicians or people of privilege. Until the beginning of this year, the only way a California resident could legally exercise their Second Amendment rights was to openly — meaning visibly — carry a holstered and unloaded firearm. Now they can’t even do that (but for the time being, they can still carry shotguns and rifles). Openly carrying a firearm is can be alarming to some people (though, in reality, most don’t even notice). It also exposes the person carrying the firearm to being handcuffed and harrassed by overzealous/uneducated law enforcement personnel. As a result, a growing group of Californians decided to ban together and meet in public places as a way to draw attention to the state’s unfair and inconsistent gun laws and educate others about their cause. One of the places they congregated was Starbucks. The open carry movement drew the attention of several anti-gun groups who began putting pressure on the businesses they frequented to ban firearms entirely from their establishments. Many businesses caved in to the pressure but Starbucks did not. In 2010, the company issued the following statement: While we deeply respect the views of all our customers, Starbucks long-standing approach to this issue remains unchanged.  We comply with local laws and statutes in all the communities we serve.  That means we abide by the laws that permit open carry in 43 U.S. states.  Where these laws don’t exist, openly carrying weapons in our stores is prohibited.  The political, policy and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores. This simple response provides a BEAUTIFUL example of how a company can – for the most part – stay out of difficult and (emotional/incendiary/divisive) issues. This was probably a tough decision to make, but it was unquestionably the right thing to do in the long run. They took control of their own message and opted to stay focused on the issues that matter to them. As I’ve written here numerous times, companies no longer get to control their own message completely. Customers and others play an increasingly important role in defining any company’s brand. However if a company plays its cards right, it does get the final say. With that one simple statement, Starbucks is now in a position where it no longer has to do or say anything more about the regardless of whether or not it fades away or goes on for years to come — the latter being more likely. Today, for example, The National Gun Victims Action Council made a very lame attempt to paint Starbucks’ refusal to take an anti-gun stance as being part of the “NRA’s lethal pro gun agenda.” They also attempted to organize a nationwide boycott to try and hit Starbucks where it hurts. The result? The NGVAC Facebook page — with a whopping 240 “likes” as of this afternoon — has been taken over by  folks who went out of their way to visit Starbucks in support of its decision to rise above the fray. The Starbucks Facebook page is also loaded with positive comments and words of thanks from sensible and rational people (the majority of whom appear to support the first and second amendments). In all likelihood, the result of the boycott was a noticeable spike in sales for Starbucks. I’d love to know how much but I’m sure this isn’t a story the mainstream media is going to cover. Presumably, Startbucks will have the sense to keep mum about the whole thing as well.      

Most Amazing News Release Written?

Wow. A gimmick news release was put out today by a company called Pitch Point Public Relations claiming to be the “Most Amazing Press Release Ever Written.” Perhaps I’m getting old, but I just don’t see it. In the past 10 years we’ve seen a lot of attempts to change the nature of the news release. And along the way there have been some improvements. The fact that they can now be easily distributed online along with hyperlinks, meta data and rich multimedia content is pretty cool and a drastic improvement to what we used to do back in the pre-Internet days. But as fads come and go, there are a few things that any good news release still needs to accomplish (and, yes, there is a reason I call it a news release and not a press release, which is more valid today than ever). Below are some choice nuggets from some training materials I put together for our junior staff and clients about a decade before the author of “the Most Amazing Release” cut his teeth in the PR racket:
  • A news release must be newsworthy
  • It must work as a stand-alone story
  • It should be written using AP style
  • It should be written in the “inverted pyramid” style
  • It should be free of hype and jargon
  • It should be objective
  • It should be complete
  • It should be straightforward
  • It should contain context and inform the reader (ultimately the journalist’s audience) why the news matters
Even today, as news releases are used to serve multiple audiences, these fundamentals are still important. Perhaps that’s why the traditional — even somewhat formulaic — news release remains the weapon of choice for the world’s most marketing savvy companies. Why? Because they continue to generate more media coverage than anything else. The fact that this release got coverage in some pretty high profile places including TechCrunch and even the Huffington Post is impressive — and to be honest, a bit of a surprise based on its lack of any real content or news. So kudos to Pitch Point. I don’t think I’m going to start recommending a strategy of sending newsless news releases to clients any time soon, but this release does demonstrate that it’s OK to have a little fun and lighten up with language once in a while. And that’s refreshing indeed.

Social Media On a Mobile Phone or a Smartphone – A Beginner’s Guide

Socia Media and Cycling Go Totether Like Peas and Carrots

Today Facebook has more than 500 million users. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re one of them. If you’re younger than 30, chances are you already know how to post status updates or photos to Facebook from all your various mobile devices. This tutorial is not for you. If, however, you’re new to Facebook and/or accessing Facebook from your mobile device, read on. Facebook from an “old-school” mobile phone Facebook can be accessed from any mobile phone that can send e-mail. Through e-mail you can post status updates and – provided your phone is equipped with a camera – you can also add photos. The first thing you need to do is find your personalized Facebook upload e-mail. To find your upload e-mail: 1)   From a PC, log in to your Facebook profile 2)   Type http://facebook.com/mobile in your browser and hit “Enter” At the top of the page, look for the heading that says Upload via Email. There you will find your personal Facebook e-mail address.  To update your status in Facebook (in other words, write on your page to let your friends know what you’re doing), simply send an e-mail from your phone to your personal Facebook address. The subject line of the e-mail will become your update. If you want to post a photo, e-mail the photo to the same address. The subject line of the e-mail will become the caption. That’s all there is to it. Facebook from a smartphone If you’ve got a smartphone (an iPhone, Android or BlackBerry), you’ve got options. You can e-mail updates and photos as described above. You can also simply use a Web browser – go to www.facebook.com and use the program in the exact same way you use your PC. And once you try that method, you’ll understand completely why it isn’t ideal. The best way to do it is through a Facebook application that was designed specifically for your phone. To download the Facebook app for your device, follow one of the links below. Facebook for iPhone Facebook for Android Facebook for BlackBerry All these apps are easy to navigate and fairly self-explanatory. With any of them, you can do pretty much anything you can do from the Facebook Web page. This includes posting status updates and photos to your page as well as posting on the walls of friends or on Facebook pages that you already “like.” To post a photo to your own profile, simply login to the application, choose “profile” from the menu page, then tap on the “What’s on your mind?” area. This will invoke your keyboard and allow you to type your update. If you want to post a photo or video, touch the camera icon just to the left. You’ll have the option to shoot a photo or video or choose from one in your library. Posting to a Facebook page is also easy. For example, let’s say you’re out on Cycle Oregon and just snapped a photo you want to share on the Cycle Oregon Facebook page. Here’s how it’s done: 1)   From the main menu, touch the “search” menu at the very top of the screen 2)   Just underneath the search menu, touch the “pages” button 3)   Search for Cycle Oregon 4)   Open the Cycle Oregon page 5)   If necessary, “like” the page (if you already post stuff on the page, you’ve probably already done this) 6)   Touch the camera icon and follow the same steps outlined above It’s that simple. One thing that might not be so simple is navigating your way back to the page from the main menu when you want to post another photo. That’s because the main menu consists of multiple pages. When you open the app, you always go to page 1. To get to page 2 – where your favorite pages are saved – simply swipe your finger to the left as you would on the main phone menu page.

Want to Write a Mission Statement That Doesn’t Suck?

This is the best online video I’ve seen in a while on any subject. I hope more businesses take it to heart. My take on the subject comes in the form of two lessons. Lesson one — lighten up and show a little personality. That’s what will let people connect with your brand on an emotional level. Lesson two — ban writing by committee. Brainstorming as a group is good. Writing as a group is bad. If this process is mandatory, have the testicular fortitude to be the guy at the end of the session who steps up and points out that the vapid, milquetoast crap you all just hammered out is just that. Thanks Fast Company!

Delta Sky Miles Dining — How NOT to Do Social Media

Come on, Delta, understanding social media isn't hard -- the Golden Rule is that the community comes first

I recently heard a tale of sadness and despair from my normally cheerful and up-beat father. He is a member of the Delta Sky Miles Dining program, which offers extra bonus miles when you use your Delta credit card to pay for meals at certain restaurants (three miles for every dollar spent). As part of this program, diners may leave reviews on the Delta Dining Website about the participating restaurants they visit. More specifically, they may leave POSITIVE REVIEWS. Alas, dear old dad had a terrible experience at one of these restaurants and submitted an appropriately negative review to the Delta Dining community. Sadly, his review was never posted. Concerned for his fellow diners, he called Delta Dining to find out what happened. Point blank, he was told that they can’t post negative reviews. They have a policy that forbids it. After all, these participating restaurants pay good money to be included in the program and bad reviews would make them sad. It doesn’t take a genius to see how short-sighted Delta is being here. In fact, this provides a stellar example of a company not understanding the whole point of social media. If you are going to ask for feedback, you have to take what you get. Otherwise your credibility is shot. And once that happens, the backlash can be severe. Since Delta is pretty much ripping off CitySearch or Yelp, by adding a reviews component to the site, they should take a few minutes and realize WHY those sites are successful in the first place. The reason is obvious — credibility. While there will always be positive reviews for crappy restaurants and crappy reviews for excellent restaurants, the reviews for any given establishment — when taken as a whole — are usually pretty accurate. You can almost always weed out the reviewers who don’t know squat (or don’t care) about food. You can also easily spot the people who are just looking for a venue to bitch because that’s what they like to do. Even if you aren’t sure, if someone is really far off, the community will let this be known. And that’s the whole idea. Because when it comes to social media, you need to trust, respect and protect the interests of your community. Sponsors may come and go, but once the community realizes you have sold them out, they are gone for good. For the record, the restaurant my dad visited is Joseppi’s in Tacoma, WA. His chief complaints were that the restroom was dirty and the hostess was too busy talking on the phone to her boyfriend to do her job. He also found the food to be mediocre.  Looking at reviews for Joseppi’s on Citysearch and Yelp, most people find the staff friendly and helpful. Some like the food and some find it so-so. Taken collectively, I think I get a pretty good picture of what to expect — decent service and lousy food. I’d expect the food to be bad because a large number of people in this part of the country don’t know  good Italian food from Chef Boyardee. If several find it mediocre, that’s a bad sign. Regardless, if I visited Joseppi’s based on a bunch of glowing reviews from the Delta Sky Miles program, I’d almost certainly be in for a nasty surprise. And that’s just not cool. Sorry Delta, but you blew it.

If Your Next Marketing Campaign Involves Tattoos, it Might be Time To Hire an Agency

Harley doesn’t have to pay for it — they get it for free

Branding is a very powerful thing. One of the best ways to know your brand has truly struck a chord with customers is when it starts showing up in tattoos. It is entirely possible that, at this very moment, someone somewhere is getting the words “Harley” and “Davidson” forever inscribed on their skin. After all, Harley is a truly iconic brand that, for millions and millions of people, defines cool (despite the fact that Harley makes crappy motorcycles). Unfortunately, over the past several years, there have been some marketeers who have seen fit to create marketing campaigns involving tattoos. Perhaps the most famous is Golden Palace, an online casino that actually found someone so desperate for cash that she was willing to have the company’s logo tattooed across her forehead for $15,000. The move was demeaning and sad, but generated a ton of publicity. While nearly all of it was negative, the campaign met its objective — to get the company’s name out there. It’s OK to be gross if you are an online casino. Earlier this month, a video of a guy getting a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses tattooed on his face went viral. It isn’t clear whether Ray-Ban or one of its agencies was in on it (or even whether or not it is real). If Ray-Ban is behind it and actually paid this kid to get that tattoo, that is pretty awful. Even if they got away with it without being directly implicated, I still don’t think it does anything to help the brand. Unlike Golden Palace, Ray-Ban does have an image to uphold. Convincing some rube to get a terrible tattoo on his face as a marketing stunt isn’t hip — it’s immoral and wrong.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

Right now, Titus Cycles is running a campaign on Facebook where people design a Titus Tattoo and tell the community of Facebook fans where on their bodies they would put it. Fans vote on which concept they like best and the “winner” is flown to Titus headquarters in Arizona, gets the tattoo (applied by an artist of the company’s choosing) and is awarded a mountain bike worth about $5,500. It is true that Titus does make one hell of a mountain bike (I actually own one and love it). Some might even say the brand is tattoo-worthy. But this campaign is sophomoric and shows the company doesn’t truly understand either branding or tattoos. Titus makes high-end, high-dollar bikes. While I’m sure there are plenty of potential Titus customers who dig tattoos there are many more who probably don’t. Tattoos just aren’t an integral part of the cycling or mountain biking culture. And, while tattoos are a lot more mainstream than they used to be, they are still pretty edgy. The problem is, Titus doesn’t come off as a particularly edgy company, nor should it. Titus has actually earned the right to position itself as a premium brand. When a company legitimately can position itself that way, it absolutely should. Obviously someone at Titus understands this nuance because the company’s new Website does just that. It is gorgeous. It is worth noting that most of the riders pictured on the site are conspicuously ink-free. Then there’s the matter of the tattoo itself. When people choose to get a tattoo of a brand, it’s because they identify strongly with that brand. In a way, they are using the meaning of the brand to help define who they are. They are doing it because they want to, which makes it an authentic form of expression. Paying someone to get a tattoo of a brand changes all that. At the end of the day, it just turns the person into a living billboard. At that point it stops being authentic and is just lame. In addition, no serious collector of fine ink will let just anyone slap a tattoo on them. Many people — at least those with truly great work — will wait months or even years to get an appointment with the right artist. At the end of the day, there will always be people willing to do all sorts of odd things for a little bit of notoriety and a few dollars. But just because you can find people to do those things doesn’t mean you should. That tattoo is going to last a lot longer than any buzz you generate and, quite possibly, longer than your company will even be around.

Local Marketing in a Global World and Political Correctness Gone Wild

I’ve written a lot on this blog about edgy vs. inappropriate advertising and where to draw the line. There’s a new controversy afoot over a KFC ad from Australia. When viewed through American eyes, it is nearly impossible to see this ad as anything but racist. However, apparently when viewed from an Australian context, it is anything but racist. You can read all about the controversy in Mashable. The sad part is that the outcry was enough to make KFC chicken out and pull the ad. Worse yet, pulling the ad caused a bit of an outcry with Australians — and rightly so. If the ad wasn’t intended for an American audience and wasn’t ever going to run in America, why should the campaign be changed just because some ignorant whiners in the US didn’t understand it? Yes, companies do need to realize that even local campaigns may be seen globally thanks to social media. And, yes, this is something global companies might want to consider. On the other hand, perhaps the people who are always on the lookout for things to become offended by just so they can feel “progressive” should be ignored from to time. Getting all worked up about an ad meant for another culture (even if that other culture happens to speak the same language) is lame. Part of being politically correct is accepting that you don’t know everything and minding your own business.

Communications On the Edge II — Pepsi's Done it Again

Another sign that we are doomed as a society or just some juvenile humor?

Another sign that we are doomed as a society or just some juvenile humor?

Last year, Pepsi found itself in the middle of a controversy over some suicide-themed ads they put out that were pretty tasteless. My assessment of that particular issue was Pepsi messed up good and proper. Now the company is back in the hot seat over a (sort of) tasteless iPhone application it created to help promote its AMP energy drink. The application — like the drink — is marketed to pubescent males. The idea is they can use the app to get advice on how to score with different types of chicks. Unfortunately, they took it one step farther by also building in a feature that lets them brag about their conquests to their friends. As was obviously expected, the campaign got Team Political Correctness all up in a tizzy. Pepsi then “apologized” to those who were offended on Twitter and asked people to Tweet their opinions about the issue. They even asked people to use a pepsifail hashtag.  Brilliant. What they didn’t do is immediately kill the application (which they have since done). CNN had Adam Ostrow of Mashable and PR “guru” Kevin Dugan on to discuss the topic. Both made some excellent points about the pros and cons of the campaign and whether or not Pepsi should pull it from the Apple App Store. I tend to agree with Adam on this one. Yes, it is tasteless; but, at the end of the day, it is designed to appeal to young boys and that’s what young boys like. Yes the “brag about it” part was a little over the top and was probably not necessary. Yes, it was bound to piss people off — and get a lot of publicity in the process — and there is no doubt that this was a calculated strategy. But should Pepsi have pulled the app? Ultimately, I say yes but ONLY because AMP is owned by Pepsi and the Pepsi brand needs to stay squeaky-clean. If AMP was its own company, I would have said there would be a strong case for keeping it, political correctness be damned. It might get some people’s panties in a bunch, but not AMP’s target audience. In a way, the controversy is good for the brand if the goal is to appeal to pseudo bad-boys. And, as Adam pointed out, a “sister” app. that poked fun at guys would have been another legitimate way to mitigate the “outrage.” I also suspect that the reason Pepsi didn’t pull the app right away is because they wanted to get the Twitter publicity first. By “admitting” they screwed up, they had already set the stage to later make it right. I also suspect that if the “it’s a joke — lighten up” crowd dramatically overwhelmed the “oh my heck, I’m so appalled” crowd they would have kept it up. Pepsi took a risk. I think it paid off. They also provided another great case study for savvy social media marketing.