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Until Next Year, Cannes

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is always a frenetic and fun week for DGC and the industry. It’s a unique opportunity to bring together creative minds across the world to celebrate terrific work, focus on challenges, and how to give back to the world.  As we recover from a week of hard work, lack of sleep and amazing views, we wanted to share a few takeaways.

  • Business happens when you least expect it. Always be prepared to talk shop, even when you’re walking from the Carlton to the Palais on the Croisette. You never know who you’ll run into and when the conversation will turn from the quality of the rosé to solving business challenges.
  • Madison Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard are intersecting more now than ever before. Much of the short and long-form content that won Lions was on-par with short films and documentaries typically generated by Hollywood studios.  Branding took a backseat to storytelling – with compelling content and incredible visuals. If you didn’t know you were at the Cannes Lions, you could easily have thought you were at the Cannes Film Festival.  [insert this link http://www.festival-cannes.fr/en.html]
  • Be Clear. Be Honest. Words taken from the session of healthy-cooking advocate Jamie Oliver rang true throughout the week.  Consumers are now more than ever attracted to brand messages that are sincere and honest.
  • Know your audience. It was clear throughout the week which speakers knew their audiences and which were speaking to serve their own agendas.  Facebook executive Chris Cox gave an excellent presentation that spoke to the larger issues of cultural sensitivities in communications.  In one of his many examples, Cox gave advice about brand messages in India–don’t use the word “password,” he said, because while that word is such a part of the day-to-day lives of Westerners, it is entirely meaningless even to English-speaking Indians.  Knowing your audience and what they need from your brand has become increasingly crucial to gaining consumer receptivity.
  • Strike the right balance of work and play.  There’s plenty of work to be done at Cannes – handling the press, networking, going to sessions and identifying new trends, etc.  Yet, time spent with your clients and colleagues – at dinner, at drinks, on a yacht, etc. – is just as important.  Loosen up a bit and take a moment to get to know the people you partner with a bit better.   You’ll find that a few days in the south of France can equal a year’s worth of relationship building in the States.
  • Be a better global citizen. One of the themes that resonated throughout the week was that we need to use technology to be better citizens, a message that also came through in some of the work that won big at Cannes. From the ALS Bucket Challenge and Like A Girl to Twin Souls, it was all about being more compassionate and sympathetic to one another. Monica Lewinksy, Jamie Oliver and DDB’s Amir Kassaei all spoke to how we can use our skill-set to do good.

Au Revoir!

cannes

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.

4A’s PR Forum: 8 Tips for Pitching Reporters

The 4A’s, the leading trade association for ad agencies, held its second 4A’s Public Relations Forum, this year at J. Walter Thompson’s beautiful NYC offices on May 14, and the event drew a packed house.

Dubbed “24/7 Always On Communications,” the event brought together business journalists and hundreds of communications professionals from PR agencies and ad agencies to discuss changes in news gathering and media relations practices.

Top reporters from outlets including Fast Company, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Ad Age, Adweek and USA Today, as well as PR practitioners from agencies including, CP+B, FCB and Mullen lent their expertise on topics concerning reputation management and crisis communications. Additionally, executives from Twitter and Facebook discussed how social media engagement and real-time communications continues to change the world of earned media.

Still, media relations is the bread and butter of the PR practice, and journalist speakers talked about how technology and emerging media channels continue to impact their profession.

Below are eight insights that PR practitioners should keep in mind when engaging with the media in this 24/7 “Always On” world.

  1. Technology works. Almost all reporter panelists said that if you sent an email, “we got your pitch, and there’s no need to follow up four or five times to check.”  That said, if you want to follow up once, Laura Petrecca  from USA Today suggests writing “FOLLOW UP” in your subject line to make your point clear.
  2. Relationships are key. Reporters are much more apt to take your call if they know you. The takeaway?  Build those connections now; they will pay off for years to come.
  3. Sometimes it’s just about luck: Ever wonder why the pitch you spent hours writing got no response but the one that took ten minutes got an immediate reply?  The truth is, there isn’t a real answer other than timing. As Fast Company’s Editor Bob Safian pointed out, “It’s like getting a parking spot in the mall at Christmas time – it could take one minute, it could take 20. It depends what’s happening on that specific day and time — don’t take it personally.”
  4. The “aha” moment. Reporters and editors are looking for something new and surprising for their readers. If your pitched doesn’t elicit an “a-ha” moment it will be deleted.
  5. Remember the “why.”  When pitching a story, it is essential to include the “why.” While this may seem like a given, the Wall Street Journal’s Suzanne Vranica said it was surprising how many pitches she reads that bury the “why.” Remember to include the business challenge or impetus for your storyline.
  6. Social media is critical. Reporters use social media to inform their stories and gauge hot topics of the day, so PR professionals should align pitches with topics reporters seem to have on their radars. As Twitter’s Melissa Barnes reminded the audience, “Not only are stories being discussed on the platform, sometimes they are breaking on Twitter.” With social comes more competition than ever for reporters, so it’s imperative to stay close to the real-time conversation and how it’s informing journalism.
  7. Deadlines don’t exist. They have become almost irrelevant.  Everything is so real-time that reporters don’t always have time to respond to your pitch.
  8. Be concise. Suzanne Vranica says that actually, a one-sentence pitch via phone is more effective than a three-paragraph email. Take that to heart.

 

Digital Denizens: Reporting from the Future

“Digital Denizens: Reporting from the Future” panel. From left to right: Michael Learmonth, Ad Age; Todd Wasserman of Mashable; Brian Braiker Digiday reporter; moderator is Jill Kelly, Chief Communications Officer of Digitas.

When in Austin…

A group of DGCers is heading to Austin, TX, for SXSW Interactive again this year (March 9-13), and since they are now “experienced” attendees, we asked them what people should know to get the most they can from the experience, which seems to get more overwhelming each year.

Tips for attending: 

  • Don’t be afraid to approach speakers after attending their sessions. It’s all about networking—go shake hands!
  • Pace yourself. There is a LOT to see and do.  Study the schedules (panels as well as parties) and prioritize to make the most of your experience.
  • Missed the daily keynote because you were busy networking? Check it out online at http://sxsw.com/interactive/live.
  • Attend parties. There are many that are free and open to anyone with a badge (for a guide click here: http://austin.sanfranfreesco.com/event/filter?tagFilter=26). Try to attend:
    • The Mix at Six presented by Can We Network (3/9, 6pm)
    • The Interactive Opening Party presented by frog design and Microsoft (3/10, 8pm)
    • Mashable SXSWi House 2012 (3/11, 9pm)

Despite the high-tech atmosphere, it’s a good idea to take lots of business cards with you. Yes, the print kind. Maybe  Freshbooks and Shoeboxed will collaborate again as they did last year. This article tells how their brilliant promotion helped attendees organize all those wonderful new contacts people made at SXSW.

And check back here at The Hit Board which will be updated regularly by the on-site DGC team with trends, attendee insights and more.

Feed Your PR Spirit This Season

Today marks the beginning of Lent –a season associated with reflection and taking stock of one’s spiritual life.

For exhausted PR professionals who are only just recovering from the efforts of mining every last news angle around the Super Bowl, this time of year might be the best excuse to step back, stake stock and feed our PR spirits.

Instead of denying yourself something in the hopes of becoming a better person, it might make more sense to do something or consciously give yourself something over the next six weeks that will refresh your thinking and stimulate new ideas. Taking your eye off the ball periodically may be the best way to help you be better at your job.

Here’s what I mean:

1)      Go to the cinema. Commit to going to the movies once or twice a week for the next month and a half. Or if that is too expensive and time-consuming, make a commitment to watch these movies online.  As PR professionals, we need to keep current with the times and the popular culture. Cinema is an escape and a distraction. It helps keep you current, gets you out of the house and engaged with your significant other or friends, and provides an enjoyable or even thought-provoking experience.

2)      Embrace the flesh. Not through gluttony or sloth, but since we’re having an unseasonably mild winter here in the northeast, why not commit to taking the old bicycle out for a spin each time the weather permits? Or go for a hike? Or go ice-skating? Don’t like the outdoors? Splurge on a massage. These are physically exhilarating activities that more often make you feel better than not.

3)      Open a book. Reading creates solitude and improves our writing. Select three books you’ve wanted badly to read for a long time, then borrow them from the library or buy them or download them. The topic doesn’t matter. In fact, the more light-hearted the better. It has to be something that once you begin the book, you can’t wait to get back to it.

4)      Volunteer. Many companies allow employees to donate a few hours a month during the work week to charitable groups that are only too happy to welcome their efforts. This week, DiGennaro Communications is volunteering for God’s Love We Deliver.  But there are myriad ways to donate your individual time too. Just make sure it’s something you do with an open heart and not from a place of obligation.

Help Wanted: Future Media Professionals Need Apply

Helen Gurley Brown, former Editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, announced last month that she is donating $30 million to Columbia University and Stanford University in memory of her late husband, David Brown. What do two schools with two of the top ten endowments in the country need this type of money for, you ask? The David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation.

According to Columbia and Stanford, the institute “will encourage new media, promote innovation and prototypes, and recognize the increasingly important connection between journalism and technology.” In an industry that continues to evolve in direct correlation with the digital space, this is a huge step forward in educating future media professionals. But what if your university doesn’t have a media institute? Here are DGC’s top three tips for pursuing a career in media/communications…no matter where you go to school:

  1. Intern. You may learn some of the basic concepts behind media/communications in your Marketing 101 class, but nothing you learn in the classroom will prepare you for your first job. Try to pursue as much internship experience as possible. Not only will it give you better insight into your future career, but it will also help you determine if the field is right for you.
  2. Read the news. Half the battle of the media/communications industry is keeping up with what’s happening. If you are well-versed on current events, you’ll be setting yourself up to win.
  3. Network. The job market remains tough to navigate. Make sure you are reaching out to your contacts on a regular basis so you are not missing any opportunities. And this doesn’t just mean via email. Recruiters are finding candidates through all manner of social networks these days, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others, and hiring those who show savvy and persistence online.

Are you one of those people who kick-started your career via social media? Tell us how! Are you looking for a job in the communications industry? Reach out to us in the comments section below!

Taking Your Facebook Relationships To The Next Level

DGC DiGennaro Communications Facebook Social media advice tips engage fansDavid Fincher and Aaron Sorkin may have showed the world that Facebook was created to help college students hook-up, but since then, “The Social Network” has evolved into a vehicle for interaction among its members, job recruiters, entertainment artists, academic institutions and even consumer brands.

Despite these open lines of communication, not all brands know how to effectively engage with their online audiences. Take Chapstick, for example, which late last year got itself into a “social media death spiral” after posting a weird image on Facebook and quietly removing negative comments left by viewers on its Facebook Wall. A bit passive/aggressive if you ask us.

With this in mind, the DGC team has compiled the following tips to help you and your brand avoid social media suicide:

  • Don’t forget what you stand for. Posts on your Facebook page should be consistent with your marketing, advertising, news, etc.  Make sure your Facebook strategy sets you up to achieve the same goals that you aimed to accomplish from day-one.
  • No time like the present. Facebook continues to evolve and offer new ways for users to represent themselves online. Make sure you’re using the latest tools so you put forth a page that is relevant and creative.
  • The power of Facebook compels you. Provide useful and interesting information for fans to react to and share. If you need an example, The New York Public Library’s Facebook page is the bee’s knees.
  • READ. Your fans are constantly interacting with you on Facebook, so take a look at what they have to say. The easiest way to build brand loyalty is to let them know that you are listening.
  • Keep it coming. Fans are more likely to stick with a brand’s Facebook page when the brand stays engaged—even if it’s just one post a day—so push out content on a regular basis and watch your network grow.

Do you have other tips for maintaining an active Facebook brand page? Share them in the comments section below!

I Am Public Relations (And So Can You!)

I remember a time when I absolutely hated Twitter—the idea of sharing regular meaningless updates seemed excessive and unnecessary. But then I discovered the power Twitter had to share and spread news, and from then on I was hooked. Tools like these continue to affect the way we do our jobs and shift the focus of what we do.

In its annual “State of the Media Report,” cloud-based marketing and PR software company, Vocus, identified seven things that PR professionals need to know about the shifting media landscape. Check out the list below to stay on top of your game.

  1. Serve up more than just text. In an age when pictures and video can be recorded on your phone, take advantage of technology to spice up your pitches.
  2. Traditional pitching rules apply. Just because Twitter condenses your messages to 140 characters, doesn’t mean you always have to do so. Treat reporters with the respect they deserve.
  3. Buy an iPhone and/or iPad. With everyone creating content for iPhones and iPads, it’s important to know and use the technology.
  4. Don’t pitch using social media. 80 percent of reporters prefer to be contacted via email.
  5. Do get to know reporters via social media platforms. Following reporters on Twitter is a great way to interact with them when you’re not pitching. You can also support them by posting their content once it’s published.
  6. Make it easy. Keeping your pitches short and sweet is important, but make sure you aren’t leaving any major holes for reporters to fill in. The easier you make it, the more likely you are to see a story convert.
  7. Pitch TV newsrooms between 8 and 9 a.m. Since this is before the editorial staff’s morning meeting, you are more likely to get your idea in front of them if they have it on hand heading into their discussion.

Are you keeping up with the evolving media scene? Feel free to share additional tips in the comments section below!

Inside the Super Bowl Economy: A Behind-the-Scenes Peek at PR’ing This Year’s Super Bowl Ads

This post was originally published on Commpro.biz

Brian Pittman’s spotlight: Samantha DiGennaro, Founder, DiGennaro Communications

Over 173 million people will be watching the Super Bowl this Sunday, according to the latest stats from the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association. Yes, that’s a record. So are estimates for total Super Bowl spending by consumers—now forecast at $11 billion.

So what drives all of that spending? Super Bowl ads, of course. And who drives the buzz for those ads? PR firms like DiGennaro Communications, that’s who.

For a behind-the-scenes look into getting the word out about these entertaining, highly anticipated ad campaigns, we spoke to Samantha DiGennaro. An 18-year communication strategist, she launched DiGennaro Communications in January 2006. Since then, she has built a highly reputable business-to-business public relations agency that boasts a roster of clients ranging from global media companies to full-service advertising agencies to digital and design outfits.

And this year, four of the agency’s client partners are running ads during the Super Bowl. Pretty impressive. Read on for her insights on everything from how social media is being incorporated into Super Bowl advertising campaigns this year to lessons for other PR, communications and marketing pros:

How many Super Bowl advertisers are there this year—and what is the average budget?

Firstly, on behalf of DGC, I want to say how happy we are, year after year, to play such a big role in the Super Bowl economy by promoting the ads that entertain millions of people during the game. This year, there are more than 30 advertisers, of which 11 are auto brands.

Some 30-second ads are going for $3.5 million, but not everyone is paying that price. And some advertisers are buying packages, including the Olympics. In addition, some brands have more than one spot, and as you will see, many are going beyond TV. They are investing in social, apps and user-generated content.

How many clients does DGC have in the Super Bowl?

We have four agency clients who are doing ads for major brands, and we—in partnership with our clients and their clients—are promoting ads from the following brands:

How is social media being integrated into campaigns?

The Super Bowl has always been a social experience and now technology makes it more so. That is why we see advertisers and their agencies embracing social media so fully. In fact, Mashable is running a piece on the most shared 2012 Super Bowl ads, which demonstrates that marketers are looking to maximize the return on their ad dollars. Advertisers today want people to see them before, during and after the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, consumers are enjoying the fun—and they get to feel even more part of the game. Kudos to our client Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for their work with the popular Dorito’s teaser: http://mashable.com/2012/01/23/most-shared-2012-super-bowl/#3usaGfn7r0w

This is also a chance to show how fun live TV can be, and not just at the Super Bowl. Clients of DGC’s such as BrightLine and Organic, Omnicom’s global digital agency, are talking about how social technologies and advanced TV help the audience participate with content in entirely new ways. It raises the creative bar. The increasingly social nature of the Super Bowl will be a precursor to trends we can expect to see at other highly-visible live events, such as the Oscars, Olympics, elections, etc.

Why is user-generated content tied to Super Bowl campaigns so successful?

User-generated ad campaigns are successful for a couple of reasons: Super Bowl is a national pastime, and there are millions of people in the US, and even around the world, who want to feel like they are a part of the game. Combine that with the fact that people have been producing and sharing their own content on the web for several years, and the Super Bowl, advertising and user-generated content make a perfect trifecta.

A large part of the Chevy ad campaign, created by our client Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, is built around user-generated content, and people can vote for the best ad. We believe Chevy will stand out by offering an app that viewers can use during the game to play games, interact with one another through Twitter and win prizes. The free Chevy Game Time app is available at the Game Time site http://www.chevrolet.com/gametime and at the Apple App Store and Android Market.

Crash the Super Bowl, Dorito’s user-generated Super Bowl campaign created by Goodby, is likewise inherently social, as people get to vote for and share their favorite ads. The most-viewed user-generated ad is about a guy who wants to share his Dorito’s recipe. Instead of making the chip, he makes gold!

Who are some of the newcomers and innovators in this year’s Super Bowl adscape?

Our client Red Tettemer is doing Century21 Real Estate’s work this year. This will be Century21’s first foray into the grand stage of Super Bowl advertising, and the work features Donald Trump; professional Football Hall of Famer and NFL Analyst, Deion Sanders; and eight-time Olympic medalist, Apolo Ohno.

With a rallying cry of “Smarter. Bolder. Faster.” the 30-second, third-quarter ad matches a formidable and unflappable Century21 Agent with these well-known business and athletic icons as they participate in the home-buying and selling process.

Behind-the-scenes footage, teaser premieres and the final Super Bowl spot will be released on facebook.com/century21 in advance of the game. Also, in the coming weeks leading up to the big game, via Twitter, the talent will announce key milestones, drive votes to the USA Today Ad Meter, release teasers of the spot, and use the hash-tag #C21SuperBowl.

In addition to the third quarter spot, Century 21 will have 11 pre-game spots and will be sponsoring the 3:30-4:00pm block of the pre-game show.

We are incredibly excited for our Red Tettemer client, as this is their first Super Bowl campaign.

On another front, David & Goliath is leading Kia’s third consecutive year of Super Bowl advertising.  Kia is the first brand to preview a Super Bowl ad in cinema. The spot goes live at midnight on February 2 on the Kia YouTube channel and officially launches during the game. There will be synergistic Facebook and Twitter branded experiences, leveraging the campaign look, tone and feel. On February 2, you will see flash banners driving people to YouTube, a Yahoo homepage take over; on February 7, Kia will take over the MSN home page, so you can see a multi-pronged campaign from Kia and David & Goliath.

What other trends should we be watching?

We are seeing several important trends emerge this year.

Companies are spending millions of dollars to reach more than 110 million people around the country during the game. And while national TV buys are a major component of the advertising strategy, recent viewing stats during the NFL playoffs from our client TVB, the not-for-profit trade association of America’s commercial broadcast television industry, show that there is a huge opportunity for smaller, local advertisers to reach 305% more eyeballs in key football cities during the Super Bowl.

We are also looking at advertising in a much more integrated fashion, and watching where new technologies and apps take us.  According to MediaCom, a WPP media-buying and planning company, TV remains the most important channel as it provides the spark to create conversations about brands. In fact, advertisers are stepping up and securing their Super Bowl TV buys much earlier than in years past.  That said, other channels are clearly driving the interest in ads: YouTube creates buzz; mobile apps and content give people snackable content they can share during the game; and paid search helps marketers increase their visibility when people search for them by name or for related products and services.

And of course, as advertising evolves in the digital space, so do we at DiGennaro Communications. The DGC team is actively blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, and posting Super Bowl coverage and content in real time.

What are the traits of successful Super Bowl ads?

Racy ads are not necessarily the ones that win hearts. Clever humor typically fares well. Yes, endearing spots with a strong knack for storytelling are often times the most crowd-pleasing. Last year, Volkswagen won big with “The Force” about a young boy trying to empower things to move while dressed up as Darth Vader. It has had nearly 50 million views on YouTube alone. And this year’s VW ad, “The Bark Side,” already has 7.8 million views on YouTube. So we are seeing the power of a big brand echoing the power of another big brand, but in a charming, human and in this year’s case—dog-loving way.

How do ad agencies brainstorm killer creative with clients for the Super Bowl?

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners is one of several companies that Business Insider talked to about the making and buying of Super Bowl ads and you can check it out here.

Any other lessons or tips that come out of this for advertisers and marketers?

Don’t wait for Super Bowl Sunday to air your ad—we are seeing incredible brand power and recall by going public beforehand.

Think viral. Think social.

Engage your PR department or PR agency to promote your work. There’s a method to the madness of Super Bowl PR. Better yet, it’s an art.

What are the biggest challenges around undertaking PR for these campaigns before and during Super Bowl season?

From a business and communications perspective, we love being part of the Super Bowl. Here at DGC, we have a robust team of PR pros pitching our clients’ expertise in Super Bowl advertising. Like I said, we have secured several news stories, with more than 50 outlets expressing interest in talking with our clients and their marketers/clients this Super Bowl season.

Outlets are asking for pre-game and post-game advertising analysis; some even welcome real-time blogging, ad critiques and judging. And of course some clients’ campaigns are getting major coverage in The New York Times, USA Today, and Ad Age, among other publications. It’s really gratifying to know that some of our clients are behind that work.

And while it’s not a challenge per se, we do need to be mindful of the fact that we cannot PR the work until the client blesses it. There are lots of moving parts—and people—involved, so timing needs to be impeccable. For each client, it’s a different set of rules—a different timeline. And we work carefully with our clients on that. We are all part of a team.

What will you and your team be doing on Super Bowl (hopefully, having some fun!)?

I am sure we will all be watching the game but the team at DiGennaro Communications will likely be very interested in the creativity and production value of the ads and the resulting real tine chatter in the social media space. In fact, we are proud to say that our clients and our DGC team will be fueling that conversation!

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