Blog Archives

Rising Star Report: How Eulogy! Uses Video

Welcome to London, where the traffic is on the left, the subway is called the “tube” and the outlets—and the outlets—are different. Referring to both the pubs and plugs, aside from a few glaring cultural differences (tea is preferred to coffee, and Starbucks is slightly frowned upon) life at Eulogy!, an independent PR agency in London, isn’t too different from being at home at DGC. The office has a similar look and feel, and is filled with a bright team of Brits trying to get the best possible coverage for both B2B and consumer clients.

A few years ago, Eulogy! teamed up with Onlinefire to enhance their social media and digital offerings. One excellent feature of the partnership is the use of video, which Eulogy! employs frequently to tell their story and get messages across concisely and creatively. Check out Eulogy’s Dave Macnamara, Senior Creative Account Executive, above with more on using video.

You Need to Lean In or Think About Getting Out (of PR)

sheryl-sandberg-lean-in-book-cover-240xaWe have been following all the attention paid to Marissa Mayer’s “no-more-work-from-home” policy and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In pronouncements.  These topics hit particularly close to home for us because the team culture here is perhaps the most vital aspect of life at DiGennaro Communications — it’s fun, collegial and collaborative.

It’s no secret that practicing public relations, and in particular practicing the craft within a PR agency, is stressful.  In fact, PR is routinely ranked among the most stressful vocations around.  So, here at DGC it’s important we cultivate an environment that provides a supportive atmosphere for our team.

It’s also smart business: A major value-add for our clients is our routine delivery of experiences, media contacts, pitch ideas and other critical support that emanates from across our entire team.  We like to say that our clients work with a dedicated account team, but in truth, they actually are assigned a 35-member account team.  Unfortunately, delivering on that promise is quite rare in this industry.

But back to Ms. Mayer and Ms. Sandberg.  One could debate (and many, many are) the merits of a work-from-home policy.  We’re actually testing one ourselves at the moment.  But it’s Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In platform that we identify with even more closely.  As Drake Baer so aptly reported in his Fast Company piece yesterday, Why Everyone—Not Just Women—Needs to Lean In, we don’t apply it exclusively to women.

An essential part of the earned media business is earning trust and building strong and mutually respectful relationships with journalists, clients and colleagues and this just isn’t achieved by “leaning out.”

Living and breathing a Lean In quality – showing a passion for your job, exhibiting a genuine interest in your clients and their companies, putting forward your opinions, raising your hand, finding ways to deliver the unexpected. It’s not a quality we hope employees bring to the table; it’s a prerequisite.  We’d argue it’s a requirement for anyone who wants to succeed in PR.

Super Bowl: A Game of HORSE and the Pre-Game Debate

Twenty years ago, as a young PR buck, I was tasked with creating a strategy to help McDonald’s leverage its Super Bowl XXVII “Nothing But Net” spot.  I knew we had PR gold in our hands when the storyboards included Michael Jordan and Larry Bird in a game of HORSE. Slam dunk!

What wasn’t a slam dunk at the time was my idea: invite select media on-set (Entertainment Tonight, ESPN, a few others) to capture interviews with Jordan, Bird, director Joe Pytka and behind-the-scenes footage for segments that would air BEFORE the game to build anticipation and consumer engagement.

The heated debates at the Golden Arches over a concept that seemed heretical at the time were unforgettable. But, we hit pay dirt that year with phenomenal pre-game PR and a USA Today Ad Meter victory. It arguably kick-started what today is considered the first page of the Super Bowl Commercial PR Playbook.  In fact, now NOT finding ways to gain exposure for a brand’s Super Bowl spot before the game is considered heretical.

Stuart Elliott did a deep dive on the subject in The New York Times this week that’s worth reading…

Can Lance Armstrong ‘EmergeStrong?’

Lance Armstrong’s confession, though not in the least bit surprising, was one of the hottest news topics this week. In addition to how this affects him as an athlete and a celebrity, it also opened a can of worms as to how this affects his brand, his image, his reputation and perhaps most importantly, his foundation, Livestrong.

Though it may not seem like an obvious business story, Nick Balletta, CEO of TalkPoint, took a look at the situation from a business perspective and weighed in for a CNBC.com blog post. This is a great example of hijacking current events and pairing them with executive’s passion points. Nick is an athlete as well as a businessman, and he had a very strong point of view on the Lance-debacle, as you can read below. Do you think Lance will “Emerge-strong?”

Balletta: After All the Lies Can Lance Armstrong ‘EmergeStrong?’

CNBC.com | Friday, 18 Jan 2013

It wasn’t spousal abuse. It wasn’t animal abuse, it wasn’t murder. It certainly wasn’t child abuse or a subsequent child abuse cover up. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, they all sound familiar and are all too common when it comes to American celebrities, and in particular, professional athletes.

It was a lie, and for that, Lance Armstrong must pay and pay dearly he will. His titles, his awards, his medals and his legacy, are at best damaged, but in reality, mostly gone. Not even the secular confessional of Oprah can bring them back. Lance is done.

That’s Lance the athlete, but what about Lance the humanitarian and philanthropist? The cancer survivor and founder of Livestrong?

If you speak with anyone whose family member was treated for cancer at the University of Pennsylvania or the parent of a child who was treated at Cook’s Medical Center, you will definitely get a different perspective. How about the children whose parents fought cancer and they received counseling from Wonders and Worries or all of the Katrina survivors that received financial aid? How about the thousands of families over the last 15 years that have benefited from the support of Livestrong? They don’t care about the “lie,” they are living the truth.

In business terms, it’s time for “Philanthropist Lance” to go through a restructure. A Chapter 11 restructure is not the end for a company; it is a new beginning. It only works, however, if underlying assets have true value.

Conversely, the media pundits will tell you that “Athlete Lance” is finished. For “Athlete Lance,” they will say it’s not restructure time, but liquidation time; a Chapter 7 in business terms. In Chapter 7, you shut it down, unwind it, sell off the assets, go into the abyss and quietly into the night.

The parents, the survivors, the fighters, the families and the medical professionals don’t care about “Athlete Lance.” They believe in “Philanthropist Lance” and the value of the underlying assets. They are living proof of the good he has done and the value he has brought and can continue to bring. They will help him restructure. The brand may be damaged now, but that does not mean it can’t be salvaged or saved. Remember Chrysler, Macy’s and most of the airlines? Some of the largest brands in the world have been through the restructure process. These companies shed the baggage, recapitalized, kept the good assets and went on to fight another day. It’s time for Lance to regroup with the people that will reinvest and support him so he can emerge from the bankruptcy.

I have completed a few triathlons (although I don’t consider myself a triathlete) and can really appreciate the achievements of “Athlete Lance.” PEDs notwithstanding, anyone who competes in the Tour de France is in many ways superhuman.

More people have been touched by cancer than cycle or complete triathlons. Anyone who battles cancer or supports one who does needs to put out an effort that is herculean. There are exponentially more people who understand that. None of them know what it takes to ride a bike up a mountain, nor do they care. Lance needs to focus his efforts on that constituency and get them to reinvest in his “restructure.”

Emergestrong!

Apology accepted, Lance. Now let’s get back to the real work.

Nick Balletta is CEO of TalkPoint, an industry leader in global communications technology.

© 2013 CNBC.com

 

Mad Men – The Thrill of Victory

Finally, after several long weeks (and at least seven episodes) the SCDP team has won the Heinz account. After several failed pitches, attempts to partner them with the Rolling Stones, not even slimy Pete Campbell could coddle them to sign on. Until Megan comes up an idea that seems simple yet brilliant – that beans, like spaghetti, will never change. It will always be a staple of family life.

Megan was fortunate enough that Raymond’s wife spilled the beans on their upcoming firing so they could pre-empt Heinz’s move. The execution and teamwork between Megan and Don was flawless. Their marriage provides a soft loving exterior for their direct, hard-nosed business motives. Afterwards in the office, the mood is jovial as everyone is celebrating their first big win since Lucky Strike.

Winning new business does not happen overnight. It takes several weeks, if not months, for things to come through. Several people have to work on the push. There’s a suspense, drama and rush that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in business. To pull from sports saying, there is a thrill of victory, but there also is the agony of defeat. At the end of the day, only one company can win, while everyone else goes home empty handed.

When attempting to seal the deal, there’s a need to be ready for anything and everything, and pre-empt spelled right?  a suspected or hinted loss with a counter-strike to appease. That’s how Megan and Don were able to seize an opportunity.

For her part, Peggy is a role model when it comes to her strong support of Megan. She recognized and saluted Megan’s success even though her own creative ideas had failed with the client. Instead of being jealous, she “took one for the team” and did what was best:  support the company as a whole.

At the end of the day, it’s a true team effort; from the start of the new business chase, through the successful win, and the (hopeful) flourishing partnership between both sides. It cannot be done by just a few people. It takes everyone from an agency to succeed, so appreciate the team you have around you.

Pearls of Wisdom from the 4A’s PR Conference

Strong writing skills, strategic communications acumen, and being a good listener are some of the basic skills needed to be an effective and successful PR practitioner, according to our own Sam DiGennaro, CEO and founder of DiGennaro Communications.

“I was an art undergraduate/English major and had no idea what PR was,” DiGennaro said of her college years. She honed her craft in the communications departments of advertising agencies such as D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and J. Walter Thompson, which she left in 2006 to start her own firm, which serves advertising, marketing, media and B2B entertainment companies. “The younger folks we’re seeing now studied PR and are excited about getting into this industry.”

DiGennaro offered her thoughts during a panel session, “Tomorrow’s PR Professional: How Agile Will You Have to Be” at the 4A’s PR conference held in New York April 26-27. She and fellows panelists, Barri Rafferty of Ketchum, Judith Harrison of Golin Harris and TR Straub of Heyman Associates agreed that storytelling skills, especially in multimedia, are increasingly in demand.

“You also need to be a news junkie and know how to sniff out the news and slice and dice all the messages,” DiGennaro continued. “[PR] also [includes] the ability to take a deep breath, get your head around how to go forward and make sure the counsel you’re sending to a client is sound and strategic.”

Straub, a recruiter specializing in placing internal communications specialists, said he looks for candidates with a strong business sense—those who understand how their actions drive the bottom line of the companies they work for.

PR Week editor Steve Barrett was the moderator and asked the panelists what business issue keeps them up at night.

“Finding people at the senior levels who understand the business and really want to run a global account,” Rafferty said, adding that leaders need to have an understanding of the global marketing space and be able to keep up with everything.  “All of us our competing for the same digital talent. People don’t have enough digital strategy talent.”

DiGennaro said she wants her employees to feel just as important and respected as every client on the agency roster.

“I’m [also] always thinking about what the next step is in a 24-7 world,” she added. “Spot the trends, think two steps ahead, anticipate what’s next. It keeps me up [but everyone thinking about it] will help our industry evolve.”

Mad Men – Good Work: My Anti-Drug

The 60’s were quite the time to experiment. Peggy and the SCDP team certainly tried a few new things in the latest episode. Perhaps Peggy’s most questionable decision (at least the one we’re going to talk about) is her reaction to the Heinz client who did not approve the “Home is where the Heinz is” campaign. Peggy is used to having Don convince the client that the work is good. Don’s off in another realm and not paying attention to anything going on at the office.

The Heinz rep says that Peggy & Co. write down what he asks for, but they can’t give him what he wants. Peggy lashes out, saying that he knows the work is good, “young and beautiful,” and that he just likes fighting. She is immediately removed from the account and goes on a midday movie-marijuana-extracurricular bender.

It’s very important to stand behind your work and push back when you believe in your ideas. There is a thin line though between pushing back against your client and being aggressive towards your client. As we have said in previous posts, every client relationship is different, which means an appropriate tone for one client may not work for someone else. But insulting or belittling your client is never appropriate; doing so could rupture the business relationship and cost you your job.

Seeing Clearly

People stand behind their work because they’re invested in it; they’ve put time, blood, sweat and tears into creating something that they are proud of. But one needs to see the project with clear eyes, which is where the concept of a healthy work/life balance comes into play. Spending too much time at one or the other will sacrifice the quality of the neglected part.

Having enough time for both work and leisure is vital to a healthy lifestyle.  That doesn’t mean you can take off whenever you want, even if Don Draper thinks so. Think of it as a symbiotic relationship—we tend to do our best work when our personal lives are fulfilling, and we are happier outside the office when things go well on the inside.  It’s obvious the folks at SCDP have their work/life priorities out of whack. Peggy’s boyfriend reminds her, “I’m your boyfriend, not your focus group!”

While there are plenty of ways to de-stress from work, I recommend doing none of the things that Peggy, Don, or Roger did in the latest episode. Not that I speak from experience, but their actions seemed to cause more stress than release it. And given that stress usually kills the creative exchange of ideas, it’s a bad omen that so much of it is flying around SDCP.

 


Previous Mad Men posts on The Hit Board:

Mad Men – Fighting for New Business

Murder and Team Work: All in a Night’s Mad Men

Tech Talk: The Magical, Mystical, Wonderful World of Cloud

The cloud’s popularity has been gaining momentum as businesses continue to need ways to store, process and access information quickly. And as its reputation grows, we at DGC have wondered what effect the cloud has had—and will continue to have—on the public relations industry as a whole.

It may surprise you to learn that the cloud isn’t exactly a new concept for PR. Since the introduction of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter (both of which are cloud-based platforms—read the text box for more info!), we’ve been using these mediums to help leverage different forms of communication for both clients and consumers, including posts, blogs, tweets and everything in between. These tools allow us to create and disseminate clients’ media exposure quickly, efficiently and in real-time.

Social media sites aren’t the only cloud-based platforms the industry is using. Tools like Google Analytics help to gauge whether a clients’ website has incurred increased traffic during a news or product announcement. Other tools such as bitly—a URL shortening service—enable us to track a particular website’s stats through click-throughs. And as any PR professional will tell you, this kind of information is crucial to evaluating and reevaluating continued public relations efforts. 

The very nature of using cloud-based platforms helps to keep us—and our clients—informed during PR campaigns. In fact, we’re continually made aware of the kind of exposure our initiatives have had in the viral community (the public likes to voice its opinion, you know). And, cloud-based platforms allow us to respond to positive commentary or correct negative backlash.

As the PR industry continues to move forward, one thing’s for sure—identifying and using cloud-based platforms helps to increase clients’ reach and exposure. So, as I like to say: go, run, do…and get on the cloud!

Have you used the cloud in any of your PR initiatives? Let us know in the comments below.

HBO Runs out of ‘Luck’

Last week, HBO came under heavy criticism by animal activist groups after three horses were euthanized during production of the drama Luck. The criticism lead to Luck being cancelled almost 24 hours after the third horse was put down. While this situation raises questions about the use of animals for entertainment’s sake, it also presents an example of how organizations like HBO can handle a PR crisis — diffusing the situation before it snowballs into a larger issue.

Let’s face it — there’s always a chance of backlash from animal activists groups when producing a show that involves animals. Groups like PETA are influential and their claims can rarely be ignored as they fight for the rights of animals across situations and industries. In this case, HBO read the writing on the wall. It realized that the show could potentially lose more horses during production, leading to louder and louder opposition by these groups. Cutting their losses now avoids potentially larger problems – and headaches – later.

In this instance, HBO did what was necessary – and right. They avoided a reputation-damaging situation, while managing to keep their brand reputation at the highest level possible. While your company may not face this exact same situation, here are a few questions to consider when facing a crisis:

Can we permanently correct the situation in a timely manner? If not, what can we tell the press we are doing to rectify the circumstances?

When (not if) we come under criticism from the public and press, how do we measure the severity (and possible outcomes) from their claims?

What is more important to our brand? Short-term revenue loss or long-term brand reputation?

Always have a plan in place…And, in crisis communications, always expect the unexpected.

Book PR in a Digital World

Sometimes when you attend a panel here at SXSW, you wind up hearing a topline conversation of things you already know and not a deeper dive into things that you really want to know. Discoverability and the New World of Book PR offered a refreshing instance of the latter with a variety of tips for today’s authors.

While the discussion on the changing media landscape, use of social media and basic pitching were things we know and practice, Rusty Shelton and Barbara Henricks – book PR specialists – made it clear that timing and access are critical to success in this digital world (sounds familiar).

With fewer reporters and publications, authors need to begin the process earlier and earlier to build proper momentum and enhance success after a book is published. A bottom up approach – starting with social media and working your way to top-tier broadcast — while seemingly slow at first can have greater impact than an initial hit or two.

To kick-start your book marketing journey and enhance PR efforts, consider the following:

Timing: Start talking up your book as soon as you have a title and topic. This will help gather interest from your inner network of respected friends, family and associates to get the buzz started. Waiting until the last minute will put you behind the eight ball when it comes to securing more traditional coverage.

Social Media: Begin talking about your book or topics closely related to it on Facebook, Twitter, a blog and with bloggers to share your expertise and engage with potential readers. Once the book is available for review, these supporters will be the first to offer a positive review and start spreading the love. And don’t feel like any outlet is too small – optimization is your best friend — so take advantage of those blog opportunities.

Video: Don’t have the time necessary to dedicateto social media? Start small with an hour per week and progress from there. In the meantime, create a video for your website that allows visitors to visualize you as an author and engage based upon your passion and expertise (not to mention help with broadcast pitching efforts).

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to write a good book; it’s up to you, your community and PR team to help make it a best seller. With the proper timing, community and tools in place, this can be a reality.

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