THERE’S NO “I” IN PRESS RELEASE

Press releases are to public relations like TV commercials are to advertising.   In a time of customized messaging – of programmatic advertising and brand-to-consumer tweets – the traditional 30-second spot can come off a bit like a relic of a bygone media era.  Rather than tailored to the specific interests of an increasingly granular audience, a press release seems too “one-size-fits-all” to stand on its own and hook an audience.

The press release shares another point of similarity with traditional TV advertising:  a lot of smart people have been (wrongly) predicting its demise for some time.

The press release – like any other form of communication – has evolved over time.  Once a standalone document that could be blasted out en masse, it now needs to be part of a larger PR toolkit that includes social media outreach, individualized pitches, real-time tie-ins, etc. to generate impact.

For all its limitations, a press release offers a number of strong value propositions to its sender(s) as well as its receiver(s).  For the sender, the internal approval process is essential – insuring that whatever goes out to the press is cleared by executive leadership, legal representation, etc.  Any mistake – from a factual inaccuracy to a typo – lives on in infamy on the Internet.  The formal review process that is required of a press release is integral to protecting an organization from making an irrevocable error.

For the receiver – i.e., the media – the press release is a factual reference sheet.  Its headline places the main news value front and center.  The spokespeople are identified and quoted.  The key story elements – from background facts to company overviews, etc., – are all contained within.  The actual format of a press release may seem dated to some – but the notion of it – its purpose and content – is absolutely core to communicating a company’s news to the press.  If it were to be eliminated – it would have to be replaced by something very similar in substance, if not style.

It’s about evolution, not elimination.  TV advertising has evolved from an isolated channel to working in tandem with digital media; a TV spot is part of the overall cross-channel marketing mix rather than an island all its own.  Press releases are evolving as well—from a catch-all press document that stands on its own to a key part of the PR toolkit – most effective when part of a “team.”

There’s no “I” in press release.

What Can Brian Williams Do?

The Brian Williams story will ebb and flow until NBC figures out whether it will bring him back to the anchor chair following his six-month suspension, which began in February. As you may recall, Williams, the $10 million man, was disciplined for exaggerating some of his experiences reporting on the Iraq War, among other stories.

Williams has his supporters, not least the eight million nightly viewers he drew to the NBC Nightly News.brian williams

Some of the debate has revolved around Williams’ journalistic credentials or lack thereof.

Sam DiGennaro, founder and CEO of DiGennaro Communications, is in the camp that thinks his journalistic chops are beside the point and argues that this is more of a CRM story—the relationship Williams has with the general public and devoted viewers.

She writes on the Forbes Leadership blog that Williams’ situation is a cautionary tale for everyone: “In the age of social media, public and private citizens alike, not to mention brands, are at risk of being pilloried at any moment,” and offers some steps the anchor man can take to restore the public’s trust in his personal brand.

Oh, the Wonders (and Limitations) of Periscope

We’re mad about technology at DGC, always casting an eye toward how to use new platforms to tell our clients’ stories. Right now, our obsession is Periscope, the Twitter app that enables users to live-stream content directly to your followers on Twitter.

CNN, The Weather Channel and Coca-Cola are among the myriad entities taking advantage of Periscope and its closest competitor, Meerkat, to offer viewers behind-the-scenes footage, exclusive access and content that makes you feel as if you’re truly part of the story.  Live-stream technology makes our jobs as communicators so much more interesting and offers us a platform to engage more deeply with our clients and audiences.

Some of the ways we can take advantage of these new platforms:

  • Broadcast your news: If appropriate, find a way to live-stream your next big announcement to a global audience on Twitter. Forego the press release and use Periscope to break news in a more engaging, conversational format.
  • Bring your audience in: Use Periscope to share content, engage with a live-audience and start a dialogue with them.
  • Intimate access: A live-stream is a great way for your C-level executive to connect with an audience.

Beware, however, that you don’t livestream owned content lest you draw the quizzical wrath of business titans like New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon.

Eulogy’s Ann Wiltshire Spends a Week at DGC

The first time Ann Wiltshire visited New York from her native England, she was 13, and it was the dead of winter.

In April 2015, she returned to the city to work for a week here at DiGennaro Communications in the Flatiron District as part of an exchange program with the shop’s sister agency, Eulogy, in London. Ann is an account manager there.

Ann saw lots of similarities between the working cultures of New York and London and could definitely imagine herself living in the Big Apple, especially after the celebrity encounter she had in an elevator, which she reveals in the video.

Ad Age Digital Day Two: Media, Branded Content, Talent

Ad Age Digital’s second day held a heavy focus on the evolution of media. Executives from Bloomberg Media, Daily Mail, HBO, and Nickelodeon were all part of several discussions that delved deep into their business and how brands intersect in this new era of branded content in a “post-digital” world.

Jon Steinberg, CEO of Daily Mail North America and formerly of BuzzFeed fame, told AdAge’s Michael Sebastian challenged creative agencies to step up to the plate. “I don’t want to be a creative agency, but the media agencies and brands come to us and want us to come up with the idea,” said Steinberg. “I’m still waiting for the creative agencies to jump in, and there is always going to be that opportunity for them.”

Sabrina Caluori, VP of Social and Digital at HBO, continued the Fail Forward series, this time talking about how HBO attempted to bring the second screen experience to its consumers in 2013 with HBO Smart Glass, but instead frustrated consumers by distracting from their top tier television shows, which is the main draw for the premium subscription service. Such humbling admission from a media company which is seemingly at the top of its game shows how grounded and self-aware one must be to stay ahead.

Later in the afternoon Andrew Benett, Global CEO of Havas Worldwide took the stage for a fireside chat with Ad Age’s Nat Ives. Continuing the theme of marketing in today’s “post-digital world,” Benett said this shift can be seen right down to the different workspaces seen today vs. in the 1980s, with 90% of the industry now shifting to an open floor plan model, which he says contributes to “always-on collaboration.” To that end, people and talent was a big focus of the talk, and Benett says the questions he gets most in big RFPs aren’t about award-winning work or strategy – it’s about culture and honing talent. “What do we do for internal people initiatives? How do you grow and manage talent?”

AdAge Digital Day One: Viewability, Humanity, #failing

 The 9th Ad Age Digital Conference kicked off today in New York with a packed first day lineup. Some of the hot topics addressed today included viewability, humanity, and failing.

The morning’s first discussion between Rob Norman, Global Chief Digital officer at GroupM and Lisa Valentino, SVP, Digital Sales at Conde Nast, surprised some in the audience when the two executives vaguely discussed the terms of a recent deal where Conde Nast agreed to only charge GroupM’s clients for ads that were guaranteed to be viewed by consumers. While 100% viewability is never a guarantee, the two partners stressed that they reached an acceptable & agreed upon viewability level for their ad units.

The afternoon panel “The Story Makers” talked about the evolution of storytelling to storymaking – where consumers work with brands to create the story. Hirschhorn stated that it can be much less risky for brands to enter stories already being told rather than create one of their own.  Anne Lewnes, SVP and CMO of Adobe, showed an inspiring video celebrating Adobe Photoshop’s 25 year anniversary wholly created with user-generated imagery and exhorts viewers to “Dream On.”

We loved the “Fail Fast Forward” series of 10 minute vignettes, that highlighted a “fail” moment, the learning, and what was implemented to “fix” things. Meredith Kopit Levien, EVP, Advertising, New York Times, led with the story of a 161-year old article in the Times about Solomon Northup, aligned with the release of Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave, and a subsequent Gawker piece entitled “This Is the 161-Year-Old New York Times Article About 12 Years a Slave  that performed way, way better than the Times piece about the original article.

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The three actions the Times took? One was to “defy the gravity of tradition”, by embracing the notion that finding the audience is just as important as the story itself — Alexandra MacCallum was recently appointed to audience development and there is now a “masthead level” or leadership-level focus on finding the right audience. Two was to “Invent new ways to create value” which spurred the creation of T-Brand Studio and the Times’ entrance into the branded content biz, continuing striving to create content that makes people feel things, regardless of whether it is paid or not. Number 3. is to “never lose sight of what got us there in the first place” summed up with two simple words: Quality. Storytelling.

Our favorite quotable from the “Moving at the Speed of Culture” interview with Beats by Dre’s Omar Johnson: Jimmy Iovine said to me one day “What’s a SWAT? Your job is to sell headphones, right?” We had to work at a speed that most brands don’t have to. And they live it every day – Beats agency, R/GA, has to present every idea on one slide. Love this challenge!

Atlas’ Jennifer Kattula wrapped the day eloquently with “Five Things Marketers Ought to Know,” challenging us to move on from the Four Ps from Philip Kotler’s 1967 book Marketing Management, to the 4 Cs…. from Product to Choice, Price to Convenience, Place to Cross-Device, and Promotion to Creative Sequencing. Some compelling stats within, including touting the cookie’s demise and how people-based marketing is more effective for reaching the right people at the right time – something that digital marketers have a responsibility to aim higher on.

Golf Enthusiasts Gotta Look Good

As much as golf is an outdoorsy and somewhat leisurely sport, its players are very serious about proper attire when playing. There’s no uniform of course, but looking like a tall, cool glass of gin and tonic is preferred. That’s why fashion is so important on the links.

Venice, Calif.-based ad agency  Zambezi has created an online and print campaign for golf apparel brand Ashworth, part of the TaylorMade Apparel Group. On March 23, the agency and the client launched a “magalogue” in print and a digital version online called “Golf/Man” to engage with the modern casual golfer.

As AOR for TaylorMade and Ashworth, Zambezi made the brand as much about lifestyle as about the game. The publication chronicles days in the life of the brand’s marquis professional athlete, Justin Rose, as he plays top golf courses around the world. The first issue follows Justin playing Streamsong, a luxury resort in Florida. The hard-copy and online publications are both very image-heavy with photos of Justin, wearing Ashworth attire.

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Zambezi and Ashworth published this rather upscale book of scenic photography, printed on heavy paper stock, thinking it was an innovative way to position this niche brand before a discerning audience.

Click here to see the digital version of Golf/Man. For a look at the introductory video, “here, now,” about Justin Rose click here. 

Advertising Week: NYC vs. London Town

This post was written by DGC’s International ACE Award winner, Senior Account Executive Megan Sweat. Recognizing her stellar work and contributions to the agency, DGC sent her to London to spend time at Advertising Week Europe and to meet with our strategic partner Eulogy!

 

Many people in the U.S. ad market are oblivious to Advertising Week in London, and vice versa. This year Advertising Week Europe ran from March 23-27, and compared to past ones in New York (which take place in the fall) the programming had a unique edge.

Many of the players were the same, including Publicis Groupe, Google and the IAB but the gorgeous historic venues such as St. James’s Church and outdoor settings (pictured below) gave Advertising Week Europe an entirely different feel from the New York edition.

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Outdoor seating outside of the ADARA Stage

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St. James’s Church in Piccadilly

Collaboration, creativity and inspiration were recurring themes throughout the week, and here are some of the highlights that stuck with us:

  • When asked to leave the audience with one “astounding nugget that would blow their minds,” Steve Hatch, Director of EMEA from Facebook replied that everything in our industry “starts and ends with people.” To be successful, we as an industry need to follow people’s trends, and the customer is truly always right, he said.
  • Maurice Levy, CEO of Publicis Groupe, predicted that marketing will become more and more about the “omnichannel” experience. With a few exceptions, he said this is still a complicated world to clients, and it hasn’t yet been mastered.
  • Inter-agency collaboration and how to foster it was also top of mind. One possible solution that came out of MEC UK’s session was having a shared workspace, where a client’s different agencies could meet and work together as opposed to working in silos and trying to come together at the end.

As one panelist put it, “We tell our clients they need to co-own their brand with their customers… Now, we need to co-own our ideas with others.”

A handful of other memorable declarations over heard during the week made us laugh: (Since these are not exact quotes,  I’ve removed the attribution—which didn’t include people’s titles and affiliations either)

  • “Pitches are the crack cocaine of our industry – we’re all addicted to them.”
  • “Is it better to follow your dreams and not make it, or make it and betray yourself along the way?”
  • “Stupid people think complicated is clever. If you can’t explain it to an 11-year-old, you have failed.”
  • “Be uncool. Coolness is a form of orthodoxy. Being uncool is actually a powerful creative force.”

Paris Smog Is Breathtaking. Really. Breathtaking.

This post was written by DGC’s 2015 Rising Star, Account Director Kelsey Merkel. Recognizing her stellar work and contriubtions to the agency, Kelsey was sent by DGC to London to spend time with our strategic partner Eulogy!

Paris is known as the City of Lights but these days it’s hard to see anything through the smog of pollution.

The weather apps on our phones told us it was sunny, but we couldn’t see the sun. The view from atop the Eiffel Tower was limited to say the least. On Saturday, the city’s pollution index hit seven (out of a possible 10), a number considered dangerous, according to AirParis, which monitors smog levels for the French government.

My colleague, Megan Sweat, and I were in Paris this past weekend, before heading to London to spend a work week at our sister agency, Eulogy! and attend Advertising Week Europe.

Exploring all the sights, sounds and smells that Paris had to offer was amazing. Reality hit when we tried to board the Paris metro from the Champs Elysees and couldn’t figure out how to use our cards (despite having done so multiple times before). After several attempts to pay to ride the metro, we learned that underground transportation was free for all passengers for the weekend.

Why? Pollution.

On Friday afternoon, French officials declared an emergency ban on most cars to curb heavy pollution and the overwhelming gray smog that covered the city for days. By Monday, cars carrying three or more passengers, those with odd-number license plates, and “clean” or hybrid cars were permitted, and all had to observe a 20km speed limit.  Public transit became the best alternative.

Social media played a roll in the decision as the ban sparked a political debate between the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo and the socialist ecology minister – much of it carried out on social networks. While the ecology minister did end up agreeing to a ban, he made sure to accuse Hidalgo of failing to have a “real transport policy” to deal with the pollution problem.

After the ban was implemented, Hidalgo tweeted on Monday that traffic already was down by around 40 percent. This was only the third time since 1997 the city authorities have resorted to such emergency measures.

Needless to say it was an interesting few days to be in Paris for the first time, but Megan and I didn’t particularly mind saving on our metro fare this weekend.

Stay tuned for highlights from our week in London!

DGC’s CFO Recognized as Management All Star

DiGennaro Communications CFO Michael Isaacson was among those recognized on March 16 with an Executive Management Award from SmartCEO, which lauded his leadership and management accomplishments.

Isaacson joined DGC in 2010, and as his profile attests, he has helped our company to double its revenue and headcount. He’s also a significant contributor to building the company’s robust culture through employee-engagement programs, including weekly happy hours, quarterly social outings, and holiday parties. The agency supports employee participation in philanthropy programs–several times a year, DGC devotes hours for staffers to read to elementary school students and to visit nursing homes to play bingo with residents.

DGC specializes in B2B communications on behalf of advertising, media, marketing, entertainment, and tech companies as well as for consumer-facing multinationals such as Ringling Bros / Feld Entertainment, Live Nation, and McDonald’s.

Isaacson (second from right) was accompanied by some colleagues to receive his award at the Hudson Mercantile in New York City.

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Everyone at DGC extends their heartfelt congratulations to Mike Isaacson. We’re grateful for his tireless work to make DGC the agency it is today.

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