Category Archives: The Hit Board

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.

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.

WHAT WE LEARNED: SXSWi 2015

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Another year, another SXSW. There was certainly a whirlwind of activity – and our DGC team always faces the same problem after industry conferences as big and exciting as this one: How to experience everything SXSW has to offer? The correct answer: It’s extremely difficult, so pat yourself on the back if you see at least one cool thing per day. Fortunately we saw many. Here are a few takeaways and insights that we’re bringing back to the office and sharing with our teams, clients and peers:

  1. Create Deeper Experiences with Fans

From Samsung, to the United Nations to National Geographic, many brands engaged with fans via cool, interactive experiences. The A&E network’s drama series, “The Bates Motel,” had an exact replica of its on-set hotel in Austin, and it was fully-functional, accommodating overnight guests. The promotion give fans a deeper experience with the show, based on Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” National Geographic’s fantastic activation promoting the hit series “Life Below Zero” was an immersive adventure that plunged fans into the icy, cold  conditions of Alaska. As the temperature dropped, fans were forced to connect clues, complete challenges and solve puzzles to escape back to the warm, south Texas sun. We also saw some of-the-moment brands team up to reach their fans. The Spotify House, for example, hosted daily SoulCycle classes with live DJs, free snacks and juice, and a full-on flash mob to accompany and motivate sweaty cyclists. This unique activation proved that music, fitness, and SXSW can go hand in hand.

  1. Consider all Brands as Tech Companies

Move over Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo. Today every brand considers itself a tech brand, which is part reality and partly an effort to get ahead of digital trends and appeal to the younger, more plugged in Millennial crowds that flock to Austin. For example, Equinox Fitness launched new data-driven spin technology so its members can track their workout progress and help determine future fitness strategies. The data that is gathered on the bike is also attached to member profiles on the Equinox app so users can keep track of their data.

  1. What’s Next?

SXSW wouldn’t be the festival it is today if it weren’t up to the minute. The buzziest app of the week leading up to the festival was the recently launched Meerkat, which enables users to live-stream video directly to Twitter. Twitter moved quickly to block the service, despite its popularity on March 13, before SXSW got fully underway. While live-streaming has been around for some time, it will be interesting to see how marketers engage with these platforms for future brand activation strategies.

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Live at SXSW – Weekend Recap

The DGC team hit the ground running on Saturday morning at SXSWi with a quick stop at and an 11 a.m. deep-dive into how data will build high-performing humans. The panel featured New York Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz and Equinox President Sarah Robb O’Hagan, joined by Michael Gervais and Mashable’s Haile Owens. We were fascinated with the panel’s discussion on how data can make even the highest achieving athletes more powerful on and off the field. One nugget we took away from the session was data and tools are great, but don’t forget about your body’s biggest source of information: your brain.

cruz After a quick selfie with the man of the hour, our team dispersed to other sessions before gathering to prep for DGC’s first-ever #SXSWi happy hour. The team set up shop at the JW Marriott to entertain clients and friends of DGC over margaritas, chips and guacamole, and the best darn jalapeño cornbread Austin has to offer.

 

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Day three saw us checking out some of the week’s best brand activations and experiences. We swung by Samsung’s Studio Experience, where our colleague, Sara Ajemian, made a DGC t-shirt in its design studio. While the A&E network offered up nightly stays at a faux Bates Motel to promote its series of the same name, neighboring station National Geographic took it to the extreme with a challenge to promote its new season of “Life Below Zero.” We dared to see if we had what it takes to Escape the Cold, as the promo was called, encouraged players to find clues to get out of the room in twenty minutes working with teams of 6. It was tough going – we didn’t find the key. Brands should take note for 2016 as this was an incredible way to bridge the gap between brand experience and user interaction. It tied to “life below zero” which is a show about people living in isolation in Alaska

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Other panels we checked out:

– Argonaut, an agency that’s part of Project Worldwide, had two executives on a panel: Robbie Whiting, Creative Technologist, and Garrick Schmitt, digital advisor,  who spoke to a packed house about “Malevolent Marketing.” Recap the conversation on Twitter with #letsbeevil.

– Deep Focus CMO Jamie Gutfreund cracked the code on Millennials at the Pandora Lounge, encouraging marketers to be smart about their consumer and audience. She was later joined on stage by Nana Menya, AVP of Investment Strategy of GE, whose talk on the mindset of music was equally intriguing.

– DDB’s Global Business Director Marina Zuber discussed art, tigers and an #EndangeredSong with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and on-the-rise band Portugal the Man.

Stay tuned for more!

So Many Events, So Little Time: SXSWi 2015

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From once a small, under-the-radar conference geared at early-adopter techies to now one of the digital media and marketing world’s most highly anticipated events, SXSW Interactive (#SXSWi) 2015 kicks off this week (March 13-17) in Austin, Texas.

With the entire media and tech community heading south to experience the best Austin has to offer (and we aren’t just talking about the conference sessions but also the live music, great restaurants and margaritas!), there’s plenty for everybody to enjoy. Whether you’re a 2015 conference attendee or tracking the action online, you can truly tailor your experience depending on your vantage point.

This year, SXSW Interactive includes more than 800 total sessions as well as dozens of competitions, exhibits, and networking events. This scale of programming means that identifying big-picture trends can be challenging but the DGC team will be on the ground to help report on all that is happening at SXSW via our blog and social channels. Here are just some of the events we’re looking forward to covering:

Jingle Punks, a custom-music agency, will be parked at 717 East 7th Street from March 14-17 in a fully functioning recording studio airstream trailer, which will be the shop’s temporary office, recording studio and meeting place during the festival. It will also be well stocked with whiskey.

GSD&M, new to the DGC roster and based in Austin, has its Co-Founder, Chairman Roy Spence on a panel about Right Brain Leadership on Sunday, March 14.  Spence now leads The Purpose Institute as CEO. The Purpose Institute helps leaders and organizations discover, articulate and align all stakeholders around a genuine and authentic purpose at the heart of the entity.

Later the same day, join Robbie Whiting who leads creative technology and production at Argonaut (a full service ad agency and a division of Project Worldwide) for a panel that asks—what if marketers wanted to be evil? How hard could it be in the age of the “always on consumer?”

By Monday, GSD&M is back in the spotlight for a panel called,  “Cultures of Advocacy: People, Product and Change” and on Tuesday, when the shop’s director of decision sciences, Jonathan Hart challenges the status quo of daily web content.

Also on Tuesday, Live Nation’s President Russell Wallach will be part of a discussion on how music is used to drive social change.

Other cool events on our radar include:

  • Mapmyfitness with Robin Thurston, Under Armour Connected Fitness SVP Digital & Connected Fitness
  • MTV Worlds “Love & Sex,” the network’s provocative new transmedia series
  • IBMis doing a lot with its event agency George P. Johnson:
    • IBM Trade Show Booth at Convention Center: A 20×30 booth featuring the Urban Art Cloud, Watson enablement and a Softlayer (IBM owned cloud service) server challenge
    • IBM Lounge @ Hilton (Room 406) featuring BlueMix synchronized light show and make your own mix activity with IBM ear bud give aways. Additional Eggbot/stress ball activity using IBM technology. Charging stations, soft seating, beverages and snacks
    • Three IBM surround events at the Radisson Town Lake all taking place Monday March 16: (6 PM event open to non-badge holders)

To keep abreast of these and other happenings, follow @DiGennaro and our colleagues who will be in Austin: @SamDiGennaro, @ErinDonahue, @Mary_Liz, @SaraHogan

DGC Plays Host to Rue La La and NY1 for NY Fashion Week

NY1 was in DGC’s Manhattan office doing a story about our client, Rue La La. The online fashion retailer was all over Fashion Week, looking for trends. The company’s Fashion Director, Jackie Nasser, said that what’s on the runway can be simplified into four personal every day and inspirational styles for women.

  • Turtlenecks
  • 70s
  • Lipstick red
  • Fabulous outerwear

 

To get a fuller description of each, go to the Rue La La site. A subscription is free.

DGC Rountable: 4th Annual Scavenger Hunt

The DGC Roundtable is moderated by our fall intern, Jamie Kurke.

Each fall, the DGC team hosts their annual scavenger hunt. The team breaks out into teams and treks out for an afternoon running around in the Flatiron District to complete clues ranging from the mundane (Grab an AM New York) to the bizarre (Eat a chocolate turkey.) Our winning team, “The Cluesters” won a free pizza party, and the team with the best spirit, “Team Flashypants,” won a free coffee break. To see all the photos, please check our Facebook page.

With all the fun that was had, not to mention the post-Hunt happy hour, we asked our team to share highlights from our fourth annual hunt as this week’s DGC Roundtable:

Pat Wentling, Senior Account Executive:

This year’s hunt brought some of our most “interesting” challenges yet. By far the most intriguing of them was taking a picture with a parking attendant (with bonus points for a minivan) and the attendant actually pulled up a random mini-van. We were a little concerned that it was someone’s vehicle, but we were more concerned about winning (we came in last place.) After the car arrived we provided a nice “thank you” and went about our way. We also spent more time looking for a chocolate turkey than anything else. I don’t think I’ve been to that many CVS/Duane Reade’s in such a short span and left empty handed.  By the end, I couldn’t wait to eat that turkey.

Lexi Hewitt, Account Coordinator:

For me the funniest aspect of the scavenger hunt was how many people shut us down when we asked if we could get a picture of one of us walking their dogs.  No one trusted us! When someone finally did let us take a picture, they still wouldn’t let go of the leash.  I thought that would have been one of the easier tasks, but it was the hardest.

Kathy Sampey, Vice President:

My favorite part of the scavenger hunt (also) was trying to find a dog to walk, which was on every team’s list. Usually, there are a million dogs sauntering down the block at any given time in this area, but when we were out scavenging, there was nary a canine in sight. Finally, in Union Square Park, a woman with a gentle-looking curly haired dog handed me the leash, and the poor dog thought she was being given away. When she realized she wasn’t, she jumped up to give me a kiss.

 

 

Jamie Kurke, Intern:10390272_944231045604570_7163020465331039479_n

For me, the best part of the scavenger hunt was just seeing the reactions from everyone we interacted with. To set the scene for you, my team was decked out in ’80s workout gear, complete with matching fluorescent pink sweatshirts. Among the most enthused to help us out were the Sleepy’s employees who couldn’t wait to have us take a picture sprawled out on a mattress and the two NYPD officers who graciously agreed to put their dinners on hold to do ‘The Mystical’ in a photo with us. Others, like the Petco employee who was trying to catch a hamster for us, were less than amused by our garb and requests, but those interactions were equally as entertaining. In the end, my team may not have won, but the experience of it all made every second of scrambling around the city worth it– and we did get recognition for being the most spirited!

 

DGC Roundtable: Taylor Swift Versus Spotify

The DGC Roundtable is moderated by our fall intern, Jamie Kurke.

It’s no secret that Taylor Swift has been the hottest artist on the planet (and DGC favorite) since she released her smash single “Shake It Off” near the end of the summer. Between the highly anticipated new album, upcoming tour, and overall Taylor-mania, she’s run an effective launch strategy to keep herself in the news — and this time it has nothing to do with ex-boyfriends.

The big headline of the week was Taylor’s abrupt decision to pull her entire music catalog from Spotify, one of the popular streaming services. There’s been several theories and reactions for why, but nothing definite from her camp.

With that in mind, our question this week was:

After Taylor Swift pulled her entire music catalog from Spotify, what are the implications for the industry – from Spotify’s response, Taylor’s reputation, and the future of digital music distribution?

Erin Donahue Tice, Vice President, Group Account Director

taylor-swift-jkl-2014-billboard-650-01Taylor can do no wrong, especially when it comes to knowing her own personal brand, and how to connect with her fans. She’s a savvy marketer with strong PR inclinations, and her choice to pull her entire catalogue from Spotify is only causing more intrigue and excitement around her new album, which will in turn drum up sales. Much like Beyonce’s decision to release her new album last year on itunes without any pre-publicity, Taylor is at a level in her career where she can do what she wants, on her own terms. There are a multitude of ways to get music in the hands of consumers these days, and by omitting her songs from Spotify, Taylor isn’t hurting her career; if anything, she’s breeding more “Swifties” who love her sense of honesty and integrity, and will pay whatever it costs to hear her tunes.

Sara Ajemian, Account Director

Taylor’s not the first to buck the trend and make her own rules (hello, Beyoncé). Removing her music catalog off of Spotify will have no negative impact on her career. Clearly she’s doing something right: 1989 went instantly platinum. I think more artists are going to follow in her footsteps, but only if they can afford to.

Pat Wentling, Senior Account Executive

This comes down to an art versus distribution conversation which is anything but apples to apples.  Music is an art form, and digital distribution platforms like Spotify have devalued that art but provided it on a grander scale. It’s a debate that has valid arguments on both sides. In this case, Taylor has to do what’s best for her. It’s not going to hurt her or Spotify. She’s one of the few artists who can rise above it. For digital distribution’s sake, I do hope there is a conversation on fair pay for artists who spend their time developing the music we love. In the meantime, Taylor’s just gonna shake.

Lexi Hewitt, Account Coordinator

I think that Taylor Swift pulling all of her albums from Spotify could have interesting implications for the music industry. However, I don’t think that it’s the end of the world for Spotify.  I think Spotify means different things to artists on different levels.  For an artist not as well-known as Taylor, Spotify could be an opportunity to get their name out there and get exposure to people they may not initially be able to reach.  It will be interesting to see what implications Taylor Swift’s decision has as new albums from bigger acts come out and to see whether or not more artists follow suit.

Jamie Kurke, Intern

My visceral reaction of this whole situation is how brazen it is on TSwift’s part. Spotify is, in my mind at least, in the top tier of music streaming services and it seems to be a huge snuff on her part to declare that she doesn’t need or want them. Furthermore, I’m sure there are plenty of enraged fans out there that now have to choose between their go-to music app and their favorite It-Girl. That said, however, it could prove to work marketing wonders for Taylor. She’s always been vocal about her independence and makes a big deal about having gained fame all on her own; this is certainly a power move that pushes out that message even further. Hopefully, her fans will remain loyal and respect her choice, Spotify will continue to be respectful and graceful about their loss, and balance can remain intact in the music biz.

‘Perspectives’ on Work/Life Balance from DiGennaro’s CEO

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” Shakespeare wrote.

As CEO of the 35-person NY based agency, with outposts/partnerships in Los Angeles, London, Mumbai and Sydney — DiGennaro still manages a healthy balance between her work and her personal life. Sam founded her namesake PR firm, DiGennaro Communications (DGC), in 2006.

Sam DiGennaro on Perspectives “I just haven’t given up the things I love,” DiGennaro said of about her personal life in a seaside interview at the 2014 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this past June. She told Katie Kempner, EVP/Chief Communications Officer at Cripsin Porter + Bogusky, and host of Perspectives with Katie Kempner. “I have sacred rituals and I don’t let anything get in the way of them. It keeps me centered and calm as the work week unfolds.”

DiGennaro talked about how she encourages a supportive, collegial atmosphere at her agency in which employees can spread their wings and embrace an entrepreneurial spirit.

Perspectives with Katie Kempner in an inspirational online series featuring conversations with women in business and how they balance business with their personal lives given today’s “always-on” mentality.

You can check out the full interview here.

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