Posts Tagged ‘communications’

What’s in a Hashtag? Entire strategies!

February 27, 2014

Hashtag

Pound sign, number sign, hashtag; whatever you want to call it, this little symbol has impacted the marketing sphere for all who work in the communications industry. It’s hard to remember a time when hashtags weren’t part of marketing campaigns because they play such a significant role when building a strategy. In fact, in some cases the hashtag is the strategy.

Since hashtags are supported on multiple social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest) marketers realize using hashtags can be advantageous for bigger picture gains. Hashtags can be used to reach target audiences in a fun, engaging and social way that other forms of marketing materials can’t. By using hashtags, brands can create a quick connection to a large group, and if brands are really smart, they’ll connect the hashtag with a feeling. Creating an emotional connection enables the hashtag to leverage a positive brand image for an organization or individual. For example, Honda aired its touchy-feely #HugFest campaign (starring Bruce Willis) during the Super Bowl. Honda purposely did not mention their brand within the hashtag, in order to generalize it and position it to a larger group. Honda then went the extra mile and supported the #Hugfest social media campaign by launching a series of YouTube videos. Doing so caused the #HugFest hashtag to take off like a Civic Coupe on a race track. Marketers at Honda clearly know that everybody can use a hug now and then, and were wise to correlate a “warm and fuzzy” feeling with the famous auto maker.

Additionally, hashtags can be used as a fierce weapon to differentiate brands from competitors. For example, Yoplait Greek Yogurt flipped their lid and created a duel with competition brand, Chobani (the Greek yogurt giant). After realizing they would rather win the “who’s better” battle fair and square (instead of swooning shoppers with studly John Stamos) Yoplait formed the hashtag #TasteOff as a way to motivate customer feedback. A risky move that even Uncle Jesse couldn’t combat.

Yoplait invited real consumers to go spoon to spoon and vote in the #TasteOff on Twitter. Ladies and ‘gents, Yoplait won the brand battle right then and there. At EZG, we can stand behind a hashtag campaign that inspires direct engagement with consumers and promotes real brand loyalty across social media. Consumers want to be involved; they want to be spoken to and know when they’re being sold. Through a simple hashtag, Yoplait kicked off the conversation that inspired brand loyalty amongst consumers, a tasty move indeed.

At EZG we participate in hashtag specific campaigns on behalf of our clients. We conduct industry research and survey the conversations taking place on social media in order to be active social listeners. When monitoring hashtags, we filter out the noise and find the windows of hashtag opportunity where our clients can promote their brand, position the brand ahead of competitors, or just simply engage with an existing audience. Whether it is a brand specific campaign using a designated hashtag, or a hashtag that is used during an event, we understand the power that hashtags have and we love it.

What are some of your favorite hashtag campaigns? Comment and let us know which brands you think use hashtags effectively or tweet us @ebben_zall.

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Is online marketing the new dot.com?

December 11, 2013

Here’s a question: is online marketing the new dot.com?  (Hint: the answer is “yes.”)

I don’t pretend to be an economist, but bear with me here.  When Facebook went public in 2012, there was no real revenue model, no real plan, and the economy was stagnant.  The company targeted a $38 opening stock price, which it couldn’t legitimately garner.  Bankers scrambled to make it happen and the world cried foul.

Guess what?  Facebook is currently trading at $50.24, and everyone on the planet still uses it to post pictures of their children in snowsuits.  For now.

In 2013, Twitter headed for the public markets with lessons in hand from the Facebook “debacle” (I struggle to call what is now a $120B company a true misfire).  Smooth sailing, sneaking under the radar at a measly current market cap of around $28B and now trading at the same price as FB.

Forbes.com would have us look at all the ways these IPOs were different.  But surprise!  They’re actually very much alike in the most important way: once again…no real revenue model, no real plan, no clear economic picture.  Just a giant, overly communicative audience at their fingertips.  In the end, the markets bought bandwidth, and little else.

Certainly there’s tremendous value there, as the world runs on connectivity.  There is no shortage of ways in which these platforms can evolve and serve as launchpads to great new ideas and products.  They factor into our daily marketing strategies and serve as a common touchpoint for audiences across every industry.  The question is whether the current iterations will  translate into long term viable business models, or go down in flames and give rise to a phoenix we haven’t yet imagined?

Here’s where I flashback to 2000, though, and this crazy thing called the Internet.  You’re launching a website, you say?  How will you make money?  What’s that, Pets.com, Flooz.com, and theGlobe.com?  Oh, I see: “if you build it online, they will come.”

[Sound of U.S. economy collapsing]

The way we communicate globally is nothing short of miraculous, and creates an incredible new pair of pants into which marketing will grow.  In our glorious tradition, though, we’re assuming value before the fabric is fully cut; my hope for 2014 is that we can find the seams  before we get, well, too big for our britches.

3 Key Elements for a Successful PR Campaign

November 25, 2013

The Marist College (my Alma Mater) PRSSA chapter recently entered the Bateman Case Study Competition and asked me to serve as a Professional Adviser.  The competition tests students’ skills, knowledge and creativity when it comes to public relations.  Students are required to produce a full-fledged PR campaign for an innovative personal payment system—which is an exciting and cutting-edge opportunity for any young person ready to embark on a career in PR.

Based on my experience, successful campaigns exceed client expectations, deliver results, and reach intended goals.  As the Professional Adviser, the students have already come to me with several questions and I’d like to pass along the tips I shared with them:

  1. Ask Yourself: Who is the client? When you begin to work on a new project or campaign, due diligence is key. With any project in public relations, research is the foundation for success, so it is important to take the time to become immersed into researching the client’s history, industry and products/services.  This will help you to understand who they are and how to create an appropriate campaign. To take this step a bit further, getting to know the client’s competitors will shed light on industry trends as a whole.
  2. Manage Goals and Expectations: Asking the client what their goals and expectations are is vital to understanding their overall needs. This is where you set the bar for realistic outcomes and identify your professional limits. Be as specific as you can when sketching out goals, and ensure that there are no questions left unanswered or ambiguity. Additionally, it is wise to establish deadlines in order to stay on track and make the client feel at ease with the strategy.
  3. Strategize: Last but certainly not least, creating and implementing a detailed strategy will effectively lead you toward the goal-line.  Strategizing will help you to identify which media platforms and outlets you will use in order to get your client’s message in front of their target audience. You can’t expect to hit your marks and gain media attention unless an effective strategy is in place. In PR, the term “toolkit” is used often–and for good reason! Our team at EZG has various skills and we provide customized PR plans for each client based on which tactics will be most valuable for their brand.  It is important to remember that there isn’t a one size fits all strategy for PR; each campaign is unique.

Developing a creative PR campaign is a project within a project. And although each client’s goals are different, I can guarantee that the above tips will apply to every engagement. You can always count on research and strategic initiatives to guide you in the right direction.

What other steps do you think are important to take when developing a PR campaign? Let us know @ebben_zall.

What I have learned about using video in public relations: 3 Valuable Takeaways

October 21, 2013

As an intern at EZG, I have seen several video projects begin with a simple idea and transform into a valuable part of marketing campaigns.  Part of my responsibilities at EZG include helping out with a variety of traditional and new media initiatives for the PR team, but I’m most interested in the video production process and how it fits into the client strategy.  What I have learned so far is that producing informative marketing video requires a great deal of creativity and legwork—but the results are worth it.

As more digital channels become available to for us to utilize in public relations, we have seen the demand for viral content increase.  Just look at the way we share news today, often through popular sites like Newsy.   I have personally seen the demand for videos rise during my internship time at EZG—which is a good indicator of things to come.

At the end of August, EZG posted about the benefits of using video to help boost a client’s brand.  Today, I want to take an opportunity to share a few tips that I have learned from my leaders and mentors while editing PR videos here at EZG.

  • Shoot more video than you need: This tip seems like common sense, but I have found myself in the position of needing more footage when I have assumed that there was enough. It is always better to have too much footage than not enough.  For example, filming fifteen minutes of footage for a two-minute video usually provides enough usable content in the end. It is always better to get too much content during the original filming of the video than to have to go back and re-shoot more footage later; it can be very difficult to re-create a scene.
  • Tell a story: Like everything we do in PR, video is another tool that helps us tell a story.  Without a clearly defined message within the video, the story will get lost and inevitably the work will lose value.  To stay away from this misstep, I always try to connect the edited clips in a way that the story is told fluidly.  Our videos are not scripted, so we often end up with a wandering narrative until the source clearly defines their main points. It can take people awhile to get to the point, but it’s the video editor’s job to hear through the words and amplify the most interesting points in an easy to understand story.
  • Use the correct tone for the video:  Our EZ|TV videos are designed to show our personality, and we think that’s great—but not every video will have the same feel.  When creating videos for our clients, I have to remain mindful of their branding messages to maintain consistency with their other marketing materials. Design, music and font choices are all part of distinguishing the client’s brand in the video, and are used as an accent to highlight the expert content that is communicated to the audience.

It is important for videos to be professional, engaging and creative in order to appeal to target audiences and inspire viral pick up.   In the public relations field, we are constantly required to attract attention to messages that reflect our clients’ brands.  Simply put, the videos that we produce are not just footage of talking heads, they are multimedia vehicles meant to teach, inspire, and motivate.

If you’re interested in learning more about video used in PR campaigns please check out these articles:

Staying on top of the media mix

September 6, 2013

When it comes to PR, advertising, social media, and marketing, it’s all blending together. Many times, these disciplines cross over one another as the digital influence continues to grow and becomes intertwined with other tactics. The different spheres are no longer their own element. Social isn’t just a Twitter account, and ads are not just aimed at people watching TV; every piece is being integrated. As everything meshes the goal is still the same – to influence the audience with your message. So why not become a fluid brand and spread your message across all channels? Two brands that really come to mind when thinking about integrated campaigns are Honda and VitaminWater.

Even if you tried, you couldn’t escape Honda’s Summer Clearance campaign, it was everywhere. Whether you were watching TV, on Twitter or Vine, or listening to the radio, Honda utilized all of these outlets to fuel their annual Summer Clearance event. They advised consumers to use the hashtag, “#WantNewcar” to express why they want a new Honda and they could win one. Honda’s commercials then also featured some of these tweets. This campaign enabled Honda to do a very important thing: engage with the consumer and reward them for it.

honda pic

The sport drinks arena is a competitive one, so VitaminWater came up with a campaign to differentiate themselves from the others. Like Honda, they implemented a hashtag (#MakeBoringBrilliant) and used it not only on Twitter but across their ads as well. They got their audience talking about their brand, and engaged with their consumers.

vita water pic

These are the case studies that jump out at us, because from social media management to traditional PR efforts, advertising and creative design, EZG handles a continuous mix of tactics to build the best strategies for clients. The best part about it? We get to keep an eye on the ever-changing landscape, and look for ways to take campaigns to the next level – with kudos to campaigns like Honda’s by RPA and VitaminWater’s by CP&B.  If you’ve seen campaigns that put brands in the best light by integrating their message across different channels, please share!

Boosting brand with video production

August 15, 2013

Public relations – and marketing in general — never seemed boring to me.  Even in the early days when I was faxing letters to the New York Times (yes, faxing), the ability to convey a story through channels that reached such a wide range of audiences was a fascinating exercise.

Today, the core of that buzz is the same.  It’s about the story.  And yet the channels available to us have expanded tenfold (stay tuned for more on this from EZG TV).

Video production is a great example that we’re seeing more of every week.  A medium that used to be reserved for big budget clients looking to mass-market has now become a tool we can use on a variety of levels.  I dug into this a little in PRNews, examining when it’s appropriate to use film clips in-house and when it makes sense to seek out a production house.

That’s a valid discussion, as we use deploy video for quick Facebook clips, YouTube channels, multimedia press kits, corporate branding exercises, and of course B-roll and commercials for more traditional broadcast placement.  We have longstanding relationships with production professionals who can do a far better job than we can of creating sophisticated, crisp content that will play well with more discerning audiences.  Those studios are expensive, but they play a key role in maintaining client brands in some circumstances.

Hemenway & Barnes, investigated these options earlier this year.  H&B is the oldest law firm in Boston (celebrating its 150th year in 2013), an EZG client, and was looking for a way to convey its traditional values through a modern vehicle.  When it came to developing a video overview of the firm’s history, a high end production house – in this case, Moody Street Pictures – was absolutely appropriate for the job.  Our internal team could certainly have filmed interviews and spliced together clips that conveyed H&B’s character, but to capture a culture that has persevered for centuries it was more powerful to invest in a higher end product.

The resulting video series has generated outstanding awareness of the firm and stayed true to its traditional values.  For H&B, it speaks well to the firm’s client base and influencers; for EZG, it becomes another effective storytelling device as we interact with the media.  A lower-budget effort would have cheapened the look and feel, and in this case the brand itself.

We know more video is on the horizon, and likely more innovative channels through which to distribute it.  PR continues to bring the ultimate media mix to the table, keeping us engaged at every corner.

Bringing interaction with real HUMANS into social media

July 19, 2013

Social media is awesome. I live, love, and breathe my social networks, and if you’re reading this post you probably do too. New apps and social networking sites continue to pop up daily (example: #RoyalBabyApp), and to keep up, our eyes and ears become glued to our devices. We take “selfies”, check emails, create short videos on Vine, and filter photos on Instagram.  Let’s be honest, we’re all hooked.

In the age of social media communication, news is traveling at light-speed.   As social media users, we all live this experience every single day. YouTube videos go viral and are passed around to co-workers and friends; a cute note written by a child is plastered across Twitter, and sporting event highlights are replayed over and over again.  So it’s shocking to think that until recently, a Facebook page had fallen under my radar.  There is a community page on Facebook that I wish I had been aware of all along, because of its emphasis on the human spirit. Simply put, I think this page is the bee’s knees.

Humans of New York (HONY) was started by a man named Brandon in the summer of 2010 with the idea that he could construct a photographic census of NYC’s inhabitants. With every photo, Brandon interviews the person (or persons) in the photo and includes a few blurbs from their chat as a caption to the photo.  Over the course of his journey, HONY has become a sensation on Facebook. With close to a million “likes”, the page is verified, and followers comment, like, and share every post. HONY doesn’t give out prizes, they’re not a consumer brand giant, and it is not a celebrity news page–so what makes photographing people in NYC so captivating?

I believe that HONY’s popularity is due to the fact that it combines social media with a personable touch.  In the infinite sea of social media profiles, all users are looking for something that provides a personal connection and HONY is that something.  From NYC’s smallest members, to the oldest, wisest, and most unique, HONY showcases it all.  HONY displays real life situations through its photos, and because of this, followers can relate to their own experiences through the stories.  Followers of the page share their thoughts and thank Brandon for the photos because they serve as a way to stir up conversation and provide insight on the human experience.  Here are a few of those photos taken from the HONY Facebook page:

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As a PR and social media maven, I want to take a step back and analyze HONY from a personal point of view. I’d say that HONY is doing an amazing job of:

  1. Fulfilling their goal/mission
  2. Engaging and connecting with their audience
  3. Creating and spreading important and profound messages

All brands attempt to relate to their targets, and establish a trust in their audience. With a book drop scheduled for October, I’d say that HONY has not only captured the hearts of its digital friends, but those traditional print minds as well.

I Know What You Are, But What Am I?

November 28, 2012

The holidays have always meant the same thing; my extended family comes over for an evening of food, fun, and a decent amount of wine. There are also the inevitable conversations about our careers, when I get the question, “what exactly do you do?”

Of course, I answer that I am a Public Relations professional for an array of clients in different industries. The response? Blank stares and someone says “Oh yeah! Like that Samantha Jones from ‘Sex and the City’.”

Uhm, not quite.

Explaining to my family what Public Relations is — and what I do on a day-to-day basis – is entertaining. I’m always surprised at how little some know and how on point others are. Most thought I spent my days planning lavish parties, or attending events with Boston’s elite. I pulled up the PRSA definition that was created earlier this year and read it aloud to my audience:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

I think this definition hits the nail on the head. We PR Gurus are the storytellers. We shape and mold what you see from our clients. We ensure that the message we convey advances or protects our client’s image, audience, and goals.

After an enlightening conversation about public relations, I thought; if my family doesn’t know what PR is, what does the general community think? I was intrigued and compelled to find out! With the help of my fellow EZG’er-turned-camera-woman, Jenn, I hit the streets of Needham to ask average Joes two questions; what is public relations, and could they name someone or a company that needs public relations assistance?

Some of the participants we asked had answers that were in the ball park. I was surprised to find out that one woman was able to touch on key points of what a PR pro does and even named a hot topic in the news (General Patraeus).

Although I think the PRSA definition illustrates the profession of Public Relations well, it’s still missing the heart and soul. Public relations professionals know the story from the inside out and vice versa – we track the news and media, write pitches and releases, liaise with media, and yes, we utilize acronyms that were taught in school. We are smart and savvy, and are “people persons.” We have strong social media skills, and know that preparation, planning, and research are necessities to creating a successful PR campaign. When a crisis breaks out, we step in with strategies that have been carefully crafted to suit a client’s situation. We engage with the target audience, and tell the client’s story in the most compelling light.

The moral of the story?  As good as we are at telling our clients’ stories, we may need to upgrade the way we talk about our own profession.

When the poetry of politics misses the point

January 27, 2011

A few years back, it was no secret among my friends that Jon Favreau was my hero.

If you’re wondering who he is, or why he was once worth the crown, let me explain. No, Jon Favreau didn’t have a superhero cape to serve justice to the city’s underworld, nor did he have the bat to belt the bottom of the ninth walk-off homerun in the ballpark, and no – he didn’t have the key to open my local pizzeria to let me grab the last available meat-lover’s slice after closing on a Saturday night. All Jon Favreau had was a pen.

You may know him as President Obama’s Director of Speechwriting; for me, he was a shining example of everything a communications role model could be.  A Massachusetts native and just a few years out of college, Favreau quickly became a reputable force in political campaign writing. At perhaps his most inspirational, Favreau was the man behind Obama’s remarks after he won the Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina – or, for those of us who would remember, the best Yes We Can-inspired speech of the campaign.

Regardless of your political leanings, Jon Favreau has a gift for gab. His speeches, scribed on behalf of the Obama Administration, have left party constituents feeling inspired, optimistic, loyal, and perhaps most importantly, vested with the capacity to create change.

But hero-worship for the writer aside, a recent article by Peter Canellos for The Boston Globe got me thinking about what it means to be a truly effective speech writer, and the lessons to be learned from those in the center ring.

Politics, for myriad reasons that far surpass acceptable length for a blog post, has gotten a pretty bad rap when it come to rhetoric, writing and mass messages. Still, between the speaker at the podium and the man (writer) behind the curtain, I find many political orations are prime fodder for entertaining analysis of effective communication.

Take Canellos’ view of the current political climate: that while speeches which thump on inspiring ideals might feel the most compelling, their goals are lost if they can’t communicate the moving pieces of the puzzle or the speaker’s overall goal. For a politician, that goal is action, or at least defending their choices in the course of it. And while Canellos particularly targets the politician in his Boston Globe piece, I’m looking more closely at the speech writer – and I’m starting to catch the flaws.

According to Canellos, lofty, melodious speech may at first glance meet sufficient criteria to be considered great – but as he aptly points out, if a disconnect grows between that music and communication on the actionable policies needed to support the speech’s goals, how effective, if at all, can it be?

I know I’ve merely scraped the surface of what could be more than a full course load of academic discourse or at least an hour long debate over a coffee-house latte, but I just wanted to touch on what I see as an important consideration for any communications professional or message handler. As Canellos points out, and as demonstrated by Tuesday’s State of the Union address, charisma, style and delivery  might get you in the door – but without artfully crafted, clear messages to connect the inspirational with the actionable, you and your intended audience will just be left standing there, wondering which road the next few years will take you down.

More Than Just the Man of the Hour

December 16, 2010

“For connecting more than half a billion people and mapping the social relations among them; for creating a new system of exchanging information; and for changing how we all live our lives, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg is TIME’s 2010 Person of the Year.”

I had a feeling this might be a bit controversial. Person of the Year – an award reserved for the most influential icon in culture and news for good or for ill in the past year. The fact that Zuckerberg has earned this honor is a given to me, but apparently not for all.

Notwithstanding his being named the youngest person ever inducted to the California Hall of Fame, or his status as the CEO of a company set to reap $2 billion in revenues this year, or the fact that he’s the youngest self-made billionaire with a soft spot for philanthropy, comments posted to the many announcements of his Person of the Year award are lukewarm at best. Whether it’s because Zuckerberg is so young and refuses to rock business casual duds, or because staunch critics continue to ridicule Facebook as a flash-in-the-pan social fad, it seems many eager commentators feel Zuckerberg is undeserving of TIME Magazine’s annual honor.

For some background, the curly-cropped face of Facebook beat out such competitors as the questionably qualified Tea Party movement, the now-jailed Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, and Hamid Karzai, the “need to know name” when it comes to Afghanistan. Zuckerberg even topped 33 of Chile’s most resilient miners to win the award.

But is he worth the rank?

In my opinion, you need only recognize the sheer reach of Facebook to begin to fathom the breadth of its impact. It turns out I’m not alone in this theory. “Facebook is now the third largest country on earth and surely has more information about its citizens than any government does,” says Richard Stengel, editor at Time Magazine. “Zuckerberg, a Harvard dropout, is its T-shirt-wearing head of state.” At nearly 600 million registered Facebook users to date, he’s not kidding.

Beyond Facebook’s size and global reach, Zuckerberg is worth the recognition for what he’s done to reshape the very nature of human connection and interpersonal communication. The Facebook platform has led a social evolution, capitalizing on a time when our understandings of truth, authority and identity are tested daily.  There’s no arguing that the archetypes of personal and professional relationships haven’t been dramatically changed with the advent of this one collective, expansive social network.  For better or for worse, Facebook is at the heart of it all.

In this transformative age, Zuckerberg has been our shepherd; we will not log-on in vain. That may sound extremist, but even Stengel points out that as much as Zuckerberg is a product of this malleable generation, he’s also its engineer, guiding us through unfamiliar terrain to a better, more open world.

Of note, Zuckerberg joins former Person of the Year titlists like Britain’s young Queen Elizabeth and the omnipresent, otherworldly U2 rocker Bono, as well as more nefarious candidates, like 1938 honoree Adolf Hitler. Without question, World War II changed the face of Europe, U2 changed the course of post-Beatlemania rock ‘n roll, and Queen Elizabeth breathed new life into a fading royal empire. Regardless if you feel Zuckerberg personally deserves the nod or not, it’s true – the world as we knew it will never be the same after Zuckerberg’s Facebook revolution.


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