What does Shark Week have in common with PR? Surprisingly, a lot!

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Do you know what week it is? Yes, it’s Shark Week – one of the holiest weeks, according to Stephen Colbert!

I’ve always been fascinated with sharks and might have been a marine biologist in another life, if I didn’t fear the ocean. But in this life, I work in PR.

As I watched the kick-off of Shark Week on Sunday, it dawned on me that there are a lot of common traits between shark species and PR professionals.

The All Star (The Great White): There’s a reason why the white shark is called a “great white shark.” It’s because it kicks a$$ at what it does. As the world’s largest predatory fish, it can travel long distances in search of prey. A great white named Lydia, tagged off the coast of Florida, was tracked for 20,000 miles while she was meandering the Atlantic Ocean until she reached the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Similarly, a PR all star is willing to go the distance when it comes to making an impact for his or her client.

This PR person knows the importance of strategy and proactivity to make the kill. Just like a great white proactively hunts for his juicy next meal, an All Star is always on the hunt for pitching the next big story.

The Indiscriminate Pitcher (The Bull Shark): Bull sharks aren’t picky eaters. They’ll attack anything that moves, just like an “indiscriminate pitcher” will pitch any reporter, even if he or she is not relevant! While bull shark attacks are usually successful, the indiscriminate pitcher isn’t, with most (if not all) of his or her pitches ending up in the trash.

The Forgettable One (The Whale Shark): Is a whale shark a whale or a shark? No clue – everyone forgets. But one thing I do know, is that you don’t want to be forgettable in PR. Building strong relationships, whether they are with media, analysts, clients or prospects, is crucial to PR. If someone can’t remember you, then you probably haven’t made a big impact.

I could probably keep going – tiger, hammerhead, blue, reef, blacktip, shortfin mako, etc. – but I’ll leave you with those three. Can you think of any others?

Super Bowl: Did the Commercials Beat the Game?

Did you see that catch (or non-catch, apparently) by the Panthers’ Jericho Cotchery or Cam Netwon’s fumble, which resulted in a touchdown for the Broncos? Or how about after the game, when Broncos defensive back Aqib Talib was a bit too excited to join the NFL Network booth?

Well… if you are anything like me, then you didn’t. Also, if you’re anything like me, the only reason you watched the game was for the commercials…and the half time show.

As the most-watched live TV event, it’s no surprise that brands shell out millions of dollars to get less than a minute of airtime. This year was no different as the price of a 30-second spot was at a record high – $5 million.

So how did brands fare this year and what was different from last year? Here are some of my key takeaways from this year’s most anticipated commercials:

Comedic Relief

Everyone remembers last year’s controversial ‘Dead Kid’ commercial, which was a PSA on preventable accidents and childhood deaths. Nationwide got a beating on social media as many found the ad to be insensitive, especially for those who’ve lost a child.

This year, Budweiser took a much different approach with their anti-drunk driving PSA – humor instead of shock. In the commercial, Actress Helen Mirren delivers a very British, hilarious monologue on why drunk drivers are “utterly useless.” When a British lady tells you don’t drink and drive, you listen – especially when she says, “If your brain was donated to science, science would return it.”

For Business Users Too

From beer to car ads, the big game’s commercials have traditionally been aimed at the consumer. Not anymore! This year Adobe Marketing Cloud got in the mix with its humorous “The Gambler” commercial, proving that technology has crossed over into the American mainstream – even outside Silicon Valley.

Even Wearables Made the Cut

Wearables are everywhere and this year’s big game was no different. In Hyundai’s commercial, comedian Kevin Hart plays a dad who uses his Hyundai’s Car Finder Apple Watch app to keep a watchful eye on his daughter on her first date.

 In case you missed this year’s commercials, don’t worry you can still watch all of them when they rerun a million times across all the TV networks. You can also just watch them here.

*Special thanks to Chris Navalta and Neil Torres for providing their game time insight or I wouldn’t have been able to write the introduction to this post!!

The Butterfly Effect in the Digital Age

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

The butterfly effect. Yes, it’s a movie starring Ashton Kutcher but what I’m really talking about is how a single action, no matter how small, can have larger, more drastic (even detrimental) effects on a bigger event. One commonly used example: a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, dramatically altering the course of a tornado in Texas.

Today, a number of small events have generated larger-than-expected outcomes, primarily because of the Internet. The Internet is the ultimate catalyst for this phenomenon, which we’ve now seen play out in the media over and over again. Events that may have flown under the radar in the past are now center stage.

Why has this changed? Platforms like blogs and social media give people a stage to speak their voice and bring national attention to small, localized occurrences. What was once a single, forgettable event can now blow up in your face or become an instant hit overnight. Take these, for instance:

Alaska Airlines’ ‘No Note to Fly’ Fiasco

Alaska Airlines recently booted a woman off a plane traveling from Hawaii to California because she had cancer and appeared ill, but didn’t have a note from her doctor allowing her to fly. Seriously? In their defense, they were following a (probably flawed) protocol and probably didn’t realize how this small event would blow up and get national attention. But it did, and the brand paid the price for what happened on one of its many flights on a global scale. Alaska Airlines was quick to issue an apology and offer a full refund, but the damage was done. The woman missed a chemotherapy appointment and the airline’s reputation was tarnished.

In this case, the butterfly effect triggered a negative outcome, but that doesn’t always have to be the case.

The Blue Dress Incident, and it’s not Lewinsky’s

You may remember the hullabaloo last month over the questionable color of a dress. After the image hit Tumblr, the debate over the dress’ real color exploded all over the Internet. It was covered by numerous leading news sites, and even celebrities joined the online debate. Is it black and blue, or white and gold? Seriously, who cares? Apparently, everyone and their mothers.

This is a perfect example of how one small thing – in this case, an oversaturated photograph of a striped dress – can get national attention. Not your usual example of the butterfly effect, but nonetheless an example of a small event exploding into absurd proportions and becoming a bigger issue than expected.

Good or bad – we see the butterfly effect phenomenon play out in the media on a daily basis. One thing is certain though, hope that your brand doesn’t find itself in a situation like that of Alaska Airlines.

2014 Social Media #Fails That We Can All Learn From

2014 was a great year for social media as big brands started to take online conversations seriously. Just look at the Superbowl, where a record number of ads were accompanied by the now almost obligatory hashtag.

As with any relatively new area, mistakes will happen. And that was certainly the case in 2014 as social media continued its march to the mainstream. As a company that runs a lot of social media campaigns, we certainly don’t want to tempt fate, but we did think it would be good to look back at some of the biggest blunders and see what we can learn. Okay, maybe we did have a laugh or two as well, but if you read this blog regularly, you already knew that.

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Credit: DiGiorno Pizza Twitter

1. DiGiorno Pizza

Thousands of women took to Twitter to speak out about domestic violence using the #WhyIStayed hashtag after the suspension of NFL player Ray Rice for beating his wife. DiGiornio also joined the conversation – regrettably.

DiGiorno is a brand known for jumping on trending social media topics, but this is one it should have stayed away from. DiGiorno tweeted: “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” Minutes later DiGiorno took down the tweet and responded with, “A million apologies. Did not read what the hashtag was about before posting.”

Lesson Learned: Take a minute – even a few – to do your due diligence and research a hashtag before joining the conversation. This is a mistake that could have easily been avoided if they had taken the time to understand its context.

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Credit: New England Patriots Twitter

2. New England Patriots

To celebrate the NFL team’s one million followers, the New England Patriots asked people to retweet an image of the Patriots jersey with a chance to get their handle written on the back. Unfortunately, the process was automated and the lucky one-millionth follower featured a racial slur in their Twitter handle.

After realizing the mistake, the team deleted the tweet and responded with an apology, claiming their filtering system had failed.

Lesson Learned: Be wary of over-automating your processes. If you do have automated programs, make sure you have adequate checks and balances in place. It may take more time and resources, but you should always take a personalized and human approach to social media.

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Credit: NYPDTwitter

 3. New York Police Department

Earlier this year a New York Police Department social media campaign backfired when they asked followers to post pictures of themselves with police offers using the #MyNYPD hashtag. Instead of receiving police-friendly photos, they received a slew of photos that depicted officers abusing their power, like wrestling protestors and pointing weapons at civilians.

Lesson Learned: Brands should think through and analyze the possible outcomes of a social media campaign – the good, the bad and the ugly. If there’s a high chance of social media backfire, then you should probably pass on the campaign.

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Credit: US Airways Twitter

4. U.S. Airways 

U.S. Airways got red in the face when one of its employees accidentally responded to a tweet with a pornographic image attached. As you can imagine, this social media faux pas got a lot of laughs (but not from U.S. Airways). U.S. Airways quickly apologized for the tweet and said it was investigating the matter. Luckily, the U.S. Airways employee wasn’t fired for their mishap.

Lesson Learned: It’s always a good idea to get a second pair of eyes on your content. Someone else may notice a typo or mistake that you didn’t. By taking a few extra minutes to review your tweets, you can save yourself from a year’s worth of embarrassment.

Every company has made mistakes on social media – it’s inevitable. Some have just made bigger mistakes than others, resulting in PR fiascos and brand meltdowns with huge economic consequences. Hopefully, we can learn from each other’s mistakes and avoid social media fails like these in 2015. Let’s make it a New Year’s resolution?

PR Professionals SHOULD Break Social Media Taboos

Thinkstock Photos
Thinkstock Photos

I recently came across an article on Mashable and it got me thinking: a lot of the self-absorbed social media behavior we are guilty of is exactly what we do as PR professionals. Such as:

1. Stalking your ex’s new partner.

Let’s be real – we all do it. Thankfully, unlike LinkedIn, Facebook doesn’t tell you who has viewed your profile.

While it’s human nature to analyze the competition, it’s generally frowned upon when it comes to late-night stalking. In PR it’s different. It’s our job to know the competition and one of the best ways to analyze our clients’ competitors is through social media.

2. Checking to see how many people have liked or commented on your status updates.

We all like to feel special and know that people are interested in our lives – perhaps that’s why we incessantly check to see how many birthday posts we’ve received or how many likes we’ve gotten on a photo. If you manage the PR program for one of your clients, then you’ll find yourself doing this everyday.

Social media is a powerful PR channel and it’s important to make sure social posts are resonating with the key audience. A great way to know if a post is working or not is by looking at the post’s engagement. Similar to A/B testing, you can see what posts work best and model your future posts around what was successful in the past.

3. Bragging about yourself.

Everyone’s been guilty of excessive online gloating at some point. Social media bragging is often looked down upon, but less so for companies. PR professionals rely on social media to promote company news, accolades and momentum; it helps continue the lifecycle of content. Best-case scenario? The brags news goes viral.

4. Looking at photos of everyone hanging out without you.

Nobody likes to feel left out, and it’s never fun to see pictures from an awesome event that you missed out on. The same goes for PR. Let’s say you saw photos from a recent industry event featuring representatives from all your client’s competitors. That probably tells you one key thing: your client should have been there too.

So what have we learned here? Basically, we’ve all committed some kind of self-absorbed behavior on social media whether we like to admit it or not, but PR professionals actually get paid for it.