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Friday
Jan232015

Learning from Obama’s YouTube Engagement

President Obama followed up his State of the Union Address with a surprising decision. Rather than making the rounds on the usual press circuit, he conducted a series of interviews with some of YouTube’s biggest stars.  

The move may startle some, but the statistics prove the President knows exactly what he is doing. The broadcast version of the State of the Union Address had some of the lowest viewing statistics in recent history, but the online conversations told a different story. “1.2 million people watched the speech on the White House’s website; 2.6 million tweeted about it and another 5.7 million liked, shared or posted about it on Facebook.” 

This story shouldn’t be new to anyone who has been paying attention. For years, reports have shown media sources continue to be fragmented, while use of social media has only continued to grow. 

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Monday
Jan192015

Telling Your Brand Story in a Logo

In a noisy world, logos should do more than serve as a reminder of a brand identity. They should add definition to the brand.

Logos have become an avenue for visually explaining a brand. A British firm called Oomph produced an infographic with 40 examples of logos with subliminal or not-so-subtle messaging about their brands. 

A good example is the Baskin Robbins logo, which uses two colors to work 31 into its "BR," reflecting the ice cream company's value proposition of offering 31 different flavors. The symbolism in this logo is hard to miss, even if you are color-blind. It tells you the company's name and what it offers. A nice piece of work for a logo.

Zoos frequently have logos with subliminal or familiar features. The San Diego Zoo spells out "zoo" with animal paws. The Cologne Zoo combines an image and its negative space to create pictures of an elephant, giraffe, rhinoceros and the distinctive spires of the city's most recognizable landmark. The Pittsburgh Zoo accomplishes something similar with an illustration of a tree, with the negative space under the branches in the shape of a gorilla and a lion facing each other.

The Pinterest logo starts with a "P" fashioned like a "pin" to describe the social media site devoted to galleries of pictures that people pin and share.

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Wednesday
Jan142015

Advice for Aspiring PR Pros

The best advice for would-be PR professionals is to learn as much as you can about as many subjects as you can, starting with journalism.Dear PR Student:

Congratulations. You are embarking on a fascinating career ride in public relations. Here is some unsolicited advice that may come in handy.

​​1. Take journalism classes. You very likely will be asked to write press releases. You should know what it's like to receive one.

Understanding news media needs and demands puts you in a better position to help, not just send an email with a news release. The goal is to get your client's message into print, online or on air. Having first-hand knowledge of how news is identified, researched, prepared and delivered can guide when and how you approach reporters and editors, as well as what you serve up to them.

Volunteering to work for a student newspaper is a great way to get experience. It will ground you in basics such as Associated Press style and serve as a reminder of grammar. It also will force you to write with the reader, not a client, in mind.

2. Be a liberal arts student. PR clients come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Their needs will stretch your knowledge. There is no way to know in advance everything you will need to know. The best you can do is to learn how to learn — fast.

Luckily, that is what a liberal arts education is intended to provide. All those non-major requirements may seem like boxes to check en route to a degree. In fact, they are important way stations to widen your horizon, to open your mind to knowledge you may have had no idea how to acquire or assimilate.

Take a physics class. You will be surprised how valuable it can be in understanding new technology. Take an economics class so your client's business plan doesn't look like gibberish.

3. Learn the tools of the trade. One of the exciting dimensions of public relations is that it deals with an environment that changes at the speed of light. Ten years ago, designing and building a website was a rarity. Today it is an imperative. Five years ago, people thought social media was a fad. Now it is viewed as an important communication channel.

The PR world five years from now is likely to be very different. However, you won't be able to leverage what's new if you aren't rooted in what's worked for a long time. A great example is how to fashion an effective presentation. The software may change and the animation may be cooler, but the fundamentals of a presentation that does its job won't be all that different.

You may write on an iPad or dictate into your Google glasses, but solid writing transcends the tools. Knowing how to tell a story and basic principles of design, which are universal, are foundation skills you should develop.

4. Know your chosen profession's history. PR professionals in the future will face an increasingly complex set of challenges in choosing the best platforms and the most resonant channels. A knowledge of how PR professionals in the past innovated is invaluable.

The use of events, contests, third-party validation, outrageous stunts, clever ads, smart writing and guest columns were all new in their time. Study to see how these ideas evolved so you understand, with some helpful perspective, how you go from problem to solution with creativity and élan. You don't need to discover gravity or reinvent the wheel. You can learn from your peers how they did it, so you can do it, too.

Monday
Jan052015

Going Negative is Bad PR

North Korea, perhaps unwittingly, has proven once again the danger of poking the eye of your opponent. The results often boomerang, giving what you despise the publicity it needs to succeed.

The Interview, the satirical movie about two journalists recruited to assassinate North Korea's Kim Jong Un, drew sharp rebuke from the isolated, often angry North Koreans, which was followed by the hacking of Sony Pictures' computer network. North Korea denied any involvement, but the hackers threatened terrorist acts if The Interview was aired in American movie theaters.

The threats, compounded by movie theater owners refusing to show the movie, aroused First Amendment sympathies from President Obama to the people who buy movie tickets. Before you knew it, The Interview was a cause celebre and streaming on iPads. All the North Koreans and the hackers accomplished was to embarrass Sony Pictures with leaked emails and to promote a picture that may have been a flash in the pan.

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Tuesday
Dec232014

Erasable Internet

The hacking of Sony Pictures has sparked speculation about an erasable Internet. In a world where everything is public, you may want a communications platform where what you say suddenly disappears.

Sony CEO Amy Pascal undoubtedly wishes for a mulligan so she could put all her snarky comments about Hollywood counterparts on the equivalent of Snapchat, so they would vaporize soon after they were read.

High-profile figures, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have tried to scrub their online past without complete success. Stuff never fully melts away. There is always somebody who took a screenshot of an offending rant and shows no hesitation to spread it anew when the moment is right or, in the case of Gingrich, wrong.

Google’s ever-evolving algorithms have put the kibosh on trying to bury old bad news with happy feet good news. Whitewashing is pretty much kaput.

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