Lessons from DMSUSA17


Digital Media Strategies answers what's keeping digital media executives awake at night

On Wednesday, I spent the day at Digital Media Strategies USA which was hosted in the beautiful Edison Ballroom in midtown Manhattan. As a PR person who specializes in advertising technology and digital media, it’s vital to understand what keeps key people in the industry up at night.  From learning about WashPo’s headline algorithm and Henry Blodget’s journey to acquisition to the stance, the day was filled with surprises and key learnings.

Here are some of my favorite tips and insights that I learned from the variety of speakers who shared their expertise on stage.

Trend to Video: Almost every speaker had something to say about long-form video being a key format for them in 2018 and beyond. Especially vertical video for mobile.

In fact, WashPo made a large investment in video last year with 100+ video studios, Bloomberg is launching a 24 hours video news partnership with Twitter in December, and Reuters just re-launched and expanded their live video offering. As no one is dominating the digital video space yet, it provides a huge opportunity for publishers to back a name for themselves in the space.

When is the best time to reach with video on social? According to Diply, the most videos are around lunch time and at night. But that isn’t when you should post your video. They advise 3-4 hours in advance of those time frames.

But video isn’t everything. Henry Blodget said although video is key, print and words aren’t done. There needs to be a mix of different mediums depending on the story.

What it takes to be successful: Many speakers touched on what it takes for a media company to be successful. Most important is innovation and leadership. With how quickly the tech industry moves, media companies need to be constantly innovating how they create and distribute media. From 360 video and VR to Alexa and podcasts, they need to go where the audiences are and optimize for the platform. And leadership needs to steer them in that direction.

This includes social channels. They are finding that younger audiences are moving from Facebook to Instagram and YouTube forcing publishers to figure out the best content strategies for those newer platforms moving forward. But don’t fear, they aren’t abandoning Facebook all together, after all they do need a decent cash flow while the transition happens.

However, the next big medium is voice. It’s not there yet but according to comScore, in 2020 50% of searches will be voice. Right now, there is only 3-4% penetration for Google Home and Alexa. When our society gets to voice being mainstream, the media industry will have to reinvent itself again.

Subscription-based vs. advertising based: Last but certainly not least is the argument between subscription-based and advertising-based business models. Subscription-based models were widely agreed to be the future of the publishing business. Just look at NYTimes success with it--60% of their revenue is subscription based! However, there is concern that lower income households won’t be able to afford to pay multiple subscription costs. So why not have a mix of both? Have subscription offering for those who don’t want ads and can afford the cost while having advertising for those who want to interact with the content but no subscription.

In conclusion, the secret sauce in running great media businesses is focusing on serving audiences quality content on the platforms they are on. Don’t retrofit, innovate. I highly recommend attending this event next year. Thank you to Campaign for a great day. Cheers!

Using PR at Thanksgiving


Tips from a crisis communication professional to help keep Thanksgiving filled with warm fuzzies rather than white hot fury

Many PR pros await Thanksgiving festivities with anticipation—some with dread.

Chock full of over-indulgence, “quality” family time, horrendous travel delays, screaming children and full-contact family brawls, this time of year is intense, exciting, stressful and wonderful all at the same time.

Given that Thanksgiving celebrations of one kind or another have occurred for over 600 years, you would think more people would be prepared for the potential pitfalls endemic in the holiday. Yet, every year everyone forgets the effect that tight time schedules, travel nightmares and forced fun can have on their stress levels.

Don’t fret. Here’s a foolproof guide from your neighborhood crisis communications professional to help ensure this year’s Thanksgiving is filled with warm fuzzies rather than white hot fury.

To read the full piece from SourceCode co-founder Becky Honeyman, please visit PRDaily at https://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/23561.aspx

7 ways to guarantee you lose the pitch


Paying attention to these seven factors will help you and your colleagues win more, land better clients, and build better relationships.

For those of you that partake in the glory and agony of presenting your proposal to a potential prospect, you know how losing feels. You know the effects it has on morale and the ability to get team members to eagerly jump on board next go-round.

Winning has an enormous effect on all aspects of your business, so I figured I'd share with you some lessons I learned the hard way. Let me know what you would add to the list—I'm still on my quest for a 100% win rate.

To read the full piece from SourceCode co-founder Greg Mondshein, please visit PRWeek at https://bit.ly/2lESq1N9

Avoid the scary fate of these brands...


Stranger Things? A roundup of the most spine-chilling PR horror stories of 2017

From things that go bump in the night to a cold spell in the Upside Down, Halloween brings its fair share of spooks and scares. Needless to say, 2017 has already had it’s more-than fair share of PR horror stories. Ghosts, ghouls and wizened-faced witches are nothing compared to the spine-chilling, bone-trembling effect that these PR horror stories have had on us this year.

Let The Right One In

Fewer things gave PR professionals more of a creeping sense of dread than the quickly-pulled Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad.

You can see how it happened - The Women’s March made activism mainstream, millennials were purportedly more engaged and, heaven knows, we could all use a little togetherness versus divisiveness.. It must have looked just great on paper. So why the horror story ending? The sinking sense of dread experienced by most PR professionals as they watched it’s near-shameless lack of authenticity. Most of us predicted the backlash.

For brands looking to confront or take a stand in a controversial topics, you must to do it with bravery and sensitivity or don’t do it at all. The galling thing is that they were almost right, they almost hit the zeitgeist nail on the head but for a few important factors. There was a lot of engagement, protests and marches early this year, and as a result, there were numerous vocal, opinionated and informed individuals who could have given this ad a touch of credibility. Which is why it was all the more confusing that the symbol of unity selected was multi-millionairess, celebrity, Kendall Jenner. A true woman of the people, right? Right….

And then there is the content. What were these people protesting? In a world of #blacklivesmatter #womensmarch and #lovewins among hundreds of other worthy causes, the protesters were all carrying anodyne ‘peace’ and ‘unity’ signs. Very valid ideals but way to miss the point. By trying to remain neutral Pepsi missed an opportunity to really engage in the conversation. As the British would say, ‘they bottled it’ (pun definitely intended).

The Descent

And then, as one horror story ended, a new one began. We all watched with bated breath as friendly skies became threatening, brooding and destructive stormclouds for United. This horror story starts with the really gruesome, violent ending. After the incident, PR professionals watched with rising panic as the airline downplayed the situation, apologising only for having to ‘re-accommodate’ some passengers. Where an apology and evidence of humanity and empathy might have helped United to regain some trust, the airline adopted an ‘I’ll pull the sheet over my head and just wait here until it’s gone’ approach.

Spoiler, this doesn’t ever work in the movies, and it doesn’t work in communications either.

After three days, the team finally peeped out from under the sheet to find the specter still there. Eventually the team realized the only way to take down this particular monster was to face it head on, acknowledging the incident, apologizing and trying, finally, to make the situation right. By then of course, the brand had taken quite the beating both at home and abroad and, according to Fortune, wiped $1.4BN off its stock value.

The Babadook

Everyone’s favorite horror story, and one with enough chapters to inform PR textbooks for years to come, our last tale of fear-filled twists and turns features Uber. From toxic culture allegations to driver pay disputes, and the adventures of a CEO who yelled at his own drivers, the brand pushed the boundaries of what the term ‘PR crisis’ really meant this year.

The real horror for PR professionals was watching the same pattern unfold repeatedly. Like a haunted carousel we saw scandal, denial, crisis, admission... again and again. The really scary thing was the number of times we saw Uber repeat the same missteps, each time tarnishing the brand a bit more. Halfway through the year we saw the rot stopped (at least we hope) when the board stepped up to investigate and address the issue. The resulting change in leadership gives Uber a chance to meaningfully change its narrative, developing thoughtful and sincere initiatives to address previous missteps and move from media demon to darling once more.

There are clear lessons for us all if we wish to avoid the scary fates of these three brands and escape the clutches of a PR crisis.

  1. Be honest - don’t lie and don’t pretend to be something that you’re not. Feather ruffling is fine when it rings true but fakers are almost always found out.
  2. If you screw up, own it. We are all human and we all make mistakes. It’s only when we try to pretend those mistakes didn’t happen that a misstep becomes monstrous.
  3. And speaking of missteps…we have to try to learn from challenges as well as successes as communicators. The most tempting thing to do post-crisis is to move on but this loses an opportunity to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes next time…

Happy Halloween!

Bringing Humanity Back to Brand Marketing


These six brands are leading the way when it comes to bringing humanity back into marketing

In a time when everyone in our industry is chatting about the dawn of AI and machine learning, we want to acknowledge those brands that are working to keep humanity alive in their marketing strategies.

Here are a few of our favorite campaigns that truly demonstrate the best of humanity.

  1. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge-- This isn’t really a brand campaign (and admittedly from a few years ago) but it’s an amazing example of effective social marketing. When the ice bucket challenge took off in the summer of 2014, videos of social media user pouring freezing water over their heads was all anyone could talk about. It engaged the social media community like nothing anyone had seen before. Supporters ended up raising over $115 million which helped scientists discover NEK1, one of the most common genes that contribute to the disease. What’s more humane than the world working together to raise money to cure a debilitating disease?
  2. Intel: "Meet the Makers" Series-- Intel's five-part "Meet the Makers" video is a campaign filled with inspirational stories that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see from a brand. Each video profiles someone from around the world who uses Intel products to help make the world a better place. With this beautiful look at how technology is changing our experiences, Intel successfully brings humanity back into brand marketing.
  3. Reebok: "Be More Human" Campaign-- Reebok stresses not only physicality but also personal connection and transformation in their long-running campaign which looks at how fitness internally changes people. Yan Martin, Reebok's VP of Brand Management and creative direction, said, “In a world that often tries to make us less human, fitness and physicality has this unique power to help us find our best." By encouraging consumers to transform themselves, Reebok positions itself as the lead cheerleader for those looking to better themselves.
  4. “Share A Coke” Campaign-- Started in 2011, the campaign left behind the traditional Coke logo, and instead replaced it with the phrase "Share a Coke with (insert name)." This has to be one of the best examples of personalization and pathos in recent marketing history. The campaign connects people on a human level with a concentration on sharing and togetherness, something that we don’t often see in the digital world.  In 2014, Coke reported their first rise in sales in over a decade demonstrating  that consumers clearly appreciated the sentiment.
  5. Dove: Real Beauty Campaign-- While Dove’s recent advertisement was a little off the mark, their Real Beauty campaign overall was a stroke of genius. Launched in 2004, the campaign aimed to change the conversation about female beauty. Using real, unphotoshopped women, Dove celebrated all different types of women. And to put their money where their mouth was, they also created a fund to partner with Girl Scouts, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Girls Inc. to organize anti-bullying workshops and to promote activities of self-love.
  6. Honey Maid: This is Wholesome Campaign-- And last, but definitely not least, is Honey Maid’s campaign that illustrates the beauty of diversity. These spots show that American families come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors with the tagline of “no matter how things change, what makes us wholesome never will.”. Similar to Dove, they are preaching acceptance of all types of humans, which is more important than ever considering the current political climate.

Today’s consumer purchases are not decided upon solely by quality and price but also by the brand’s intent and purpose. These successful campaigns resonated with consumers because rather than promote their products, they made themselves relatable through inspirational stories about what it means to be human.

What’s your favorite brand marketing campaign that demonstrates humanity in the era of tech?