Homecoming mums go social

18 Oct
Source: hairbowblog.fifthavenuebowtique.com

Source: hairbowblog.fifthavenuebowtique.com

Drive around most Texas cities on a fall Friday night, and chances are you’ll pass by glaring stadium lights, busy parking lots full of cars, bleacher seats packed with color-coordinated fans cheering with megaphones, plastic pompoms, wearing letter jackets and bearing the sacred colors of their local team as the marching band plays in the background.

Friday night high school football has an electric energy all its own. Never is this truer than during homecoming, a right of passage for Texas teenagers.

Other than going to play-offs, the homecoming game is as big as it gets. The cheers are louder, the sea of colors is larger and homecoming mums are on full display in all their glory.

If you’re from Texas, there’s no need to describe to you what a mum looks like, but, apparently, if you’re from outside the borders, it’s a different story.

Source: my personal photo collection - junior year of high school

Source: my personal photo collection – junior year of high school

My junior year of high school, my homecoming date’s craft-gifted aunt had used three regular sized round mums to make me one huge heart-shaped mum.

Garland, bells and whistles adorned the purple, white and black ribbons that swished all the way down below my knees. My date’s name and football number were written in a cardboard star right at the top of the mum. In case that wasn’t eye-catching enough, the dang thing lit up.

There was a string of white Christmas lights powered by a battery pack that was mounted to the back of the mum, which was mounted to little me. This was more than a decade ago, so before neck or shoulder straps were used to help bear the weight.

The 16-year-old version of me felt a mixture of mortification and victory at all the attention my mum and I received.

I secretly loved that mum, even though I felt like a walking pep rally.

The rise of the Internet has taken mum-making and exposition to a new level.

It use to be that high school yearbooks and personal photo albums were the final resting place for visual archives for mums, but social media has exploded with ways to digitally share photos and videos.

There are 60 pins and 841 followers for mums on Pinterest, although the California-based site lists them under the “sports roses” category, which I’ve never heard before.

There are numerous how-to blogs and videos. One 15-minute video on YouTube has more than 60,000 views.

Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Statigram, house ever growing photo collections of mums of all colors and sizes.

What about the mum-makers?

Growing up, you were either related to someone who made your mum or you paid someone to make it for you. There weren’t too many options in our town. The lady who worked at one of the only two dry cleaners we had downtown also ran a side mum and garter business during football season.

Other than that, Hobby Lobby or H-E-B grocery store made more generic looking mums for a hefty price.

Now, in addition to having their own websites, mum-makers have set up virtual shop on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I think this is a good partnering of new technology and Texas tradition to let mum-enthusiasts have their fun year round.

Lack of social media presence is bad PR call for federal government

10 Oct
Source: outsidebeltway.com

Source: outsidebeltway.com

Everyone in the broadcasting world knows that dead air is a sign of loss—loss of signal, loss of the technology and loss of control.

The abandoning of official government Twitter and Facebook accounts during the current government shutdown is like radio static in the social media world.

Going radio silent during a crisis is a big no-no in crisis communication, and PR professionals and some media outlets are taking the government to task about best practices.

“Like any successful business, the government needs to have a top notch crisis strategy in place,” said Gabe Shaoolian, CEO and Founder of Blue Fountain Media. “The worst thing to do when your customers (or in this case the American people) are upset and nervous is to cut off communications. It’s the same as telling people you don’t care.

1. Never shut down communications during crisis. It tells your employees and staff you don’t care. It also threatens the future rankings of your digital properties as well (the SEO and online reputational damage could carry forward for many months, or even for years.)

2. Never underestimate the power of the underground communications network – especially in this day and age. If you are not in control of your communications someone else will take over (namely, the unsatisfied customers or employees who take to the internet and create negative impressions  or gossip about you in a variety of ways).”

Source: abcnews.go.com

Source: abcnews.go.com

At least 11 members of the House and Senate have taken to their Twitter accounts to tell Americans who are on mandatory furlough that as long as they aren’t getting paid, they will also forgo their own salaries or give them to charity.

“The government shutdown comes with peril to both political Parties.  Both need to be savvy PR wise.  But ultimately one side or the other must prevail when that happens, a whole new PR strategy will be needed for both Parties,” said David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, LLC.

For most people, the shutdown has only heightened their opinions of certain political players in the game. Blame debates are taking place in the court of social media.

“Social media channels are very powerful and important to us. We thrive on learning and staying up to date with the day-to-day gossip and the latest news. In this day and age, we control the social media we want to use, and block the rest of it out of our lives.  As a result, the government shutdown crisis is an example of just how big of a role social media plays in our lives. Luckily, social media comes to our rescue by summarizing the issue using very few words, something all Americans can understand, therefore making it not only addicting, but also demanding,” said Justine Barretta, of CPR Communications.

We don’t know the short and long term domestic and international consequences, yet, but social media is playing a huge part.

Who will the PR winners and losers be at the end of this? We’ll just have to wait and see.

ObamaCare – the lemon of the decade

4 Oct
Source: jacobsmediablog.com

Source: jacobsmediablog.com

PR consultant Chikodi Chima has an interesting take on eating “your own dog food.”

“The term ‘dog fooding’ is a well-known concept about being an enthusiastic user of your own tools.

If you build a factory to make dog food, you’ll be in serious trouble if your dog won’t eat it. The only way to know is if you sample your product and delight in using it to solve your own problems,” Chima said.

President Barack Obama is in a public relations pickle right now from public backlash of ObamaCare, aka the Affordable Care Act, which was supposed to start taking new enrollees on Oct. 1.

Part of what’s at stake during the current government shutdown, is that there are reports that aides and members of the House and Senate are threatening to quit or retire if they are forced to be covered under the Affordable Care Act, the very same act that Obama told the media several times must pass for the good of the American people.

Also, this is the very same act that Obama and his family, and the Vice President Joe Biden and his family are fighting to not be made to enroll in and give up their current insurance like the rest of the American population will be mandated to do, or risk paying hefty penalties to the government.

Source: bangitout.com

Source: bangitout.com

“This is a good law but it can’t work if people don’t understand it,” Democrat Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, said. “I hear from people on the ground in Montana that they are confused about the health care law. For the insurance marketplaces to work, people need to know their options and how to enroll. I want families’ lives to be easier, and I want small businesses to focus on job creation, not confusion.”

People are confused. They’re confused because Baucus, Obama, Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and all the other advocates of this act are playing fast and loose with the facts and definitions in the 906-page law.

In 2010, Pelosi, former speaker of the House, said that they would have to pass the bill before they were able to see what was inside of it. Does that make any sense in logical land? No, and it was just the beginning.

“ObamaCare advocates (and many supposedly neutral news outlets) regularly characterize the new law as health care ‘reform.’ But the term ‘reform’ presumes that the law is a step in the right direction — which is the very issue under dispute. By implication, ObamaCare opponents must be against progress.

This is an old tactic, long used by politicians by both parties. Names such as the ‘Save American Jobs Act’ or the ‘Patriot Act’ are deliberately chosen to undercut opposition. After all, who could possibly be opposed to saving American jobs (or to patriotism)?

If ObamaCare advocates use the term ‘health care reform,’ insist on a more neutral term like ‘health care law.’ Don’t concede the moral high ground without a fight,” said Forbes contributor Paul Hsieh.

Source: blogs.edweek.org

Source: blogs.edweek.org

If you’re not honest about all the quarks of your product, and you don’t even want to use your own product, that instills 0 percent confidence in your consumers, in this case the American people.

Got an ugly e-newsletter?

27 Sep

Lack of people, time and financial resource are often at the root of some well-meaning, but ill-conceived, nonprofit and small business communication campaigns. The main offenders are usually social media messaging and e-newsletters.

One of the best things about working in a technology-heavy media age is that there are some really good platforms available to nonprofits and small businesses that fit their specific needs.

Constant Contact has been around a while, but I only recently saw what it could do in action.

The company, based out of Massachusetts, “offers email marketing products, which allow customers to create, send, and track professional and affordable permission-based email marketing campaigns and social campaigns,” according to its Yahoo! Finance profile and boasts 555,000 customers.

Constant Contact has a Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook account with creative ideas on how to launch campaigns and examples of e-newsletters done correctly.

“Then Vs. Now: How Running a Business Has Changed in Five Years,” “When is the Best Time to Post on Facebook?” and “What Does Mobile Mean for Small Businesses and Nonprofits?” are just some of the videos on the Constant Contact YouTube channel that offer helpful tips.

They have plans starting at $15 a month for email marketing, online surveys, social campaigns and event managing. Nonprofits have a different pricing tier.

This type of platform is especially useful for nonprofits and small businesses whose communications department is probably the marketing, social media, public relations and event management department, as well, and manned by one to three people.

Larger corporations will unlikely have a need for this kind of platform because they usually have two to three departments that are doing the same job with more people and more money.

I promise I’m in no way affiliated with Constant Contact. I just saw it in use, and I saw how easy, even for me, it was to use, and I thought I wish we had this when I was working for a small nonprofit in 2009. Our cause was worthy. Our e-newsletter was woefully primitive.

Constant Contact is just one of many good websites to visit. Every organization will have a different need and function based on their goals. Some might not need a platform with so many options. They might just need something they can do a real e-newsletter on, and there are great sites just for that.

Source: paper.li/WindroseNP

Source: paper.li/WindroseNP

Paper.li lets users upload text, photos and videos to set up their online newsletter to where their site looks like a real online news site that readers can follow using social media.

“The successful campaigns I have worked on, where we got over a million people interacting with a Facebook campaign, have been integrated with other marketing activities, such as email marketing. All channels have to work together. We need to think of it as more of a marketing campaign than a social media campaign,” said Marc Blinder, MEA director of social media strategy at Adobe.

I think this is where the digital tide is turning for most organizations. With so many options available, there aren’t really any excuses for a crummy e-newsletter anymore.

LinkedIn—useful for more than just posting resumes

20 Sep
Source: comunidadism.es

Source: comunidadism.es

Even though I only heard about LinkedIn two years ago, the online networking platform geared toward working professionals has been around for a decade.

While most of its 200 million users probably use it primarily for posting their digital resume and making potential business-related connections, there are others who are using the wall-posting feature to take LinkedIn to a new level.

“People who share, comment, and act as contributing members of the LinkedIn community are the aspirational leaders. They have interest beyond finding a job and show a passion for their line of work. The LinkedIn news feed is the Holy Grail for recruiters, and the more you post, the more you are seen. In fact, members who post at least once a week are 10 times more likely to be seen by recruiters. Post, read, and participate often,”  J. Barbush, a writer for iMedia, an interactive media and marketing trade publication, said.

Paula Nourse, director of Marketing at the Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance, is one of those trailblazers. The DHMCET has only 11 employees, but it has a strong social media presence thanks to Nourse.

She’s been with the museum for three years and has enjoyed a 25-year marketing career with Verizon, “The Dallas Business Journal,” Sprint and American Heart Association, among others.

I happened to be shadowing her while she was working on the museum’s North Texas Giving Day campaign, which was open to donors from 7 a.m.-midnight yesterday.  Any donations given on that day of more than $25 would be multiplied by the organizers of the Giving Day, so this was a significant opportunity to get the attention of her social media followers in order to raise funds for the museum.

Not only did she have a Facebook and Twitter strategic communications strategy for the campaign, but she integrated a Prezi into her LinkedIn wall feed.

Source: Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance

Source: Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance

She has about 25 slides answering the question “What is it like to market a tragedy?” including compelling photos of school children and a Holocaust survivor who regularly visits the museum to share his story and sign his book.

She included four talking points, addressed her core audience of teachers and students, addressed her peers, and garnered interest for those who have never visited the museum. Then, at the end, she plugged the North Texas Giving Day, with a link to donate. The audience doesn’t even see the plug coming. I thought it was a Prezi she created for the general marketing of the museum, but she told me she had just created it two days ago.I thought it was a fantastic and simple use of a digital tool to get across messaging that companies usually post an annual business report to try to convey. Up until now, I had only seen Prezi being used by college students or really creative artists. Nourse is definitely an example of LinkedIn and Prezi best practices.

Of course, I wouldn’t be my paranoid mother’s daughter if I didn’t note that a possible downside for LinkedIn users is that they are “twice as likely to report ID theft” than users of other social media platforms. So, be creative, but be careful.

‘Happy, Happy, Happy’ makes for good PR

13 Sep
Source: breitbart.com

Source: breitbart.com

When I was at Wal-Mart last week, a huge “Duck Commander” display made me stop for a few moments before I hit the check out line. There was a life-size cardboard cut out of Jase Roberton, one of the stars of the A&E reality show “Duck Dynasty,” with “Duck Commander” sunglasses on. The glasses were available for purchase at the Wal-Mart optical center, along with bins of t-shirts, spiral note books, clipboards, ice chests and other show paraphernalia.

The first time I saw the show, I was not impressed. My husband loves fishing, hunting and being a guy-guy. Naturally, he DVR’s “Duck Dynasty” on our flat-screen TV, and I watch it with him when it’s his turn to pick the show. I just couldn’t see past the beards, until one of my good friends, surprisingly, was gushing about how she loves how family and faith-centered Phil (the family patriarch), the kids and the show are.

After that, I tried to pay more attention to what was behind the beards, and I could see where she was coming from. I still don’t watch it on my own, but it’s growing on me.

That’s good public relations – making you see something in a different light that maybe you hadn’t noticed before and giving something new a shot for a reason that personally appeals to you.

“Duck Dynasty” premiered on March 21, 2012. Nineteen months and 43 episodes later, it garnered a record 11.8 million viewers during the current season premier, “becoming the No. 1 non-fiction series in cable history.” The Robertson’s are giving another reality TV family a run for their money. “Keeping up with the Kardashians” pulled in just 2.8 million viewers during the same week.

Jason Mudd, CEO of award-winning national PR firm Axia Public Relations, laid out three strategic communication lessons that industry professionals can learn from the Robertson clan.

1. “Keep it real when it comes to reputation management.”

2. “Let key characters be key characters.”

3. “Shine on through strategic endorsements and merchandise – but line up closely with what the audience already expects from the message.”

“The Robertsons themselves seem to guide the format and the pace of messages that circulate about their family and their business, rather than trying to line themselves up with a series of stories or messages that are placed before them. After all, who knows the Robertsons like the Robertsons themselves? It’s a successful piece of a comprehensive reputation management approach,” Mudd says in his blog.

Alan Robertson, oldest son to Phil and Kay Robertson and the only beardless male of the clan, also does public relations for the show. He calls his position the official “Beards and Beauty Wrangler” of the family, which I suppose is to help people like me see through the beard to the message of faith, family and ducks.

Source: aetv.com

Source: aetv.com

In addition to full episodes and video clips, the official A&E website gives viewers plenty of opportunities to interact with the “duck community” through quizzes, online chat boards, Twitter and Facebook. There is also a “shop” link with tons of merchandise, in case Wal-Mart runs out.

The long-term effects of the “Happy, Happy, Happy” culture have yet to be seen, but for now, their PR people are right on the money.

Branching out—using Qwitter as a useful PR tool

6 Sep

My aversion to technology goes way back to when I was growing up in a small Texas town. The internet came to other households in the late 90’s but not to mine. My mother developed a fear of technology after watching the 1995 Sandra Bullock thriller “The Net,” a movie about a woman whose identity is stolen through the internet and on the run from murders because she knew too much or something.

From then on, my interaction with technology was on a need-to-learn basis. I took keyboarding when I was 15 because it was a requirement. I didn’t get an email address until 2001 when I had to for college. I learned how to use Photoshop, video editing and a content management system when I did corporate communications at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport in 2007.

It’s not that me and technology are a bad combination. It’s just that I don’t have a natural inclination to want to get my hands on the latest tech toys or platforms and explore. I admit it. It’s a weakness for a journalism professional in the current social media climate.

That’s why I’m here taking a social media class because I need a little help.

I’ve heard about Twitter for years, mostly because of celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Miley Cyrus and Amanda Bynes, who are either incriminating themselves on the platform or heightening it to a new level. Naturally, I stayed away until I discovered a relevant use for it for myself.

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 5.37.25 PM

Source: useqwitter.com

One of the most interesting tools I’ve been introduced to so far is Qwitter, an application that lets Twitter users see when followers un-follow them. With Qwitter pro, you can even search by date to find out around what time a certain amount of red defectors fled and which green ones are still around. Inactive users show up as orange.

This could be a supplemental tool for public relations folk to track who left their client/s after a major blunder.

Tom Cruise’s official Twitter site, @TomCruise, has 4.2 million followers. Do you think his powerful pr team tracks the flock after each bad divorce article or Scientology outburst?

Source: bestdamncreativewritingblog.com

Source: bestdamncreativewritingblog.com

Lance Armstrong’s official Twitter site, @lancearmstrong, has 3.9 million followers. I wonder how many were there before his 2012 confession to doping? @Samjb may know this, since she’s a follower.

John McCain’s official Twitter site, @SenJohnMcCain, has 1.8 million followers. Did any of those flock away after the online poker playing incident during the open house Syria meetings Tuesday? Maybe he got some new poker-playing followers out of it.

How about @anthonyweiner, Anthony Weiner’s official page? He has 22,788 followers. Did any of them leave after Weinergate? I’m actually surprised he still has that many. Maybe it’s closer to 12,000, since 48 percent of Twitter users are apparently inactive.

Some think that Qwitter, although a very cool application, only causes drama. Others feel rejected by the whole proposition, even though the creators have been able to financially profit from the application. Who.unfollowed.me is also a similar platform worth trying.

Of course, thorough analytics from other reliable sites will be able to give a better picture of why little Tweeters are flocking away, but Qwitter could show that waving red flag to start the process of “Why?”

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