‘Tis the Season of Giving! Bay Area Brands Show Why Giving Back is the New Black

“West Coast philanthropy is marked by innovation, it’s about disruption, it’s about change.” – Emmett D. Carson, founding CEO, Silicon Valley Community Foundation

 The San Francisco Bay Area is home to some of the nation’s largest brands – Google, Oracle, Vir

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gin America, Facebook, Tesla, Visa, Netflix and Gap, to name just a few. With this year’s holiday season officially underway, Bay Area brands are bringing their philanthropic efforts to a new level. From educating underserved children to nurturing Hawaiian culture, check out how some of the Bay Area’s biggest brands are embracing this year’s “season of giving”:

Google Has Big Impact on Bay Area Nonprofits: As part of Google’s Impact Challenge: Bay Area, the tech giant recently awarded $5.5 million to a group of 10 Bay Area nonprofit organizations. Outside of the 10, Google also awarded $100,000 grants to an additional 15 Bay Area nonprofit organizations. Funded projects include 826 Valencia, a creative writing center for kids in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Other funded initiatives included mentoring elementary school students in East San Jose and providing legal assistance to low-income families in the Bay View and Hunter’s Point neighborhoods of San Francisco.

Mahalo, Virgin America: Earlier this month, the San Francisco-based airline celebrated the launch of its new daily nonstop flights from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Honolulu International Airport (HNL). To accompany the launch, Virgin America teamed up with San Francisco-based online hospitality company Airbnb, and as part of the partnership, pledged $100,000 to Make-A-Wish Hawaii to help fulfill the wishes of children battling life-threatening illnesses.

Additionally, as part of its efforts to plant new roots in the Hawaii community, Virgin America also partnered with Punana Leo, a nonprofit that provides for and nurtures various Hawaiian language environments. Established by a group of Hawaiian language educators in 1982, the organization’s advocacy has resulted in an education system in which students in Hawaii may study from pre-school all the way through doctoral-level studies in Hawaiian indigenous language. Virgin America is pledging $25,000 to support the organization’s education programs.

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan “Like” Education: The first-time expecting couple have their eyes set on two goals – unlocking human potential and promoting equality – which they hope to achieve through a series of philanthropic efforts centered around education. Executing on their goals, the couple recently announced plans to open a new K-12 school, called “The Primary School,” in August 2016 in East Palo Alto. The new school will be geared toward low-income students, where they will receive free attendance and healthcare services.

We love seeing our San Francisco Bay Area brands give back to the community, but we also want to encourage our readers to give back this holiday season too. What are some of your favorite ways to give back? Share with us!





Wait! What? 3/20: Meerkat dominates SXSW, brands go mad for March Madness and more

So inspiring. (Thinkstock)
So inspiring. (Thinkstock)

St. Patrick’s Day, SXSW and March Madness – oh my! While you were off drinking Guinness, fighting your tech hangover from Austin, and frantically filling out your NCAA March Madness bracket, we’ve compiled a list of this week’s top stories to keep you in the know:

  • From barbeque and brews to flying cars and Google Glass, here’s a look back at five standout moments from the interactive portion of this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.
  • Is Facebook suffering from a severe case of me-tooism? The social media network is gearing up to turn its Messenger app into something of a platform, similar to that of Asian chat giant Line. Hmm…
  • Wtf is Meerkat? The Internet’s shiny new toy, an app for live-video streaming, has gone from obscure to nearly viral in just two weeks. Brands such as Starbucks, JCPenny, NASDAQ and Red Bull are among the first to use it. C’mon, you know you want to try it…
  • The time has come, basketball fans – the three most unproductive weeks of the year: March Madness. While you were off gathering teams and filling out an excessive number of brackets, these brands took to social media to participate in all of the madness.
  • How did your office celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Ours was filled with team uniforms, green booze, a good ole St. Patrick’s Day feast and an…Irish jig-off? (See evidence here). All silliness aside, here are five PR takeaways from St. Patrick’s Day. Slainte!

See anything else of note in tech media this week? Tweet us @BlancandOtus and let us know! Our thirst for news is never quenched.

Your Brand Is Probably Not Bae


If you’re a social media-obsessed public relations professional like me, you may have noticed a certain “ep-bae-demic” spreading across brands’ social media conversations over the past several months.

In the midst of developing an identity on social media, several brands – many in the food and restaurant industry – have chosen to adopt a voice that resonates, or should I say “seeks to resonate,” with a much younger audience.

Introducing “bae”: A common term among millennials that often refers to one’s boyfriend or girlfriend. For example, “Can’t wait to come home and curl up with #bae (insert long list of lovey-dovey emojiis).” Interestingly, The Wall Street Journal also adds the following definition: “Bae can be aspirational – someone of romantic interest. The term has also inevitably evolved to apply to inanimate objects. On Instagram, a particularly mouthwatering plate of BBQ could be #bae, for example.” Among brands tweeting the #bae hashtag are Taco Bell, Burger King, Chili’s, Applebee’s, IHOP, Jimmy John’s, Mountain Dew, Walmart and Gain. (To see more brands that have been caught in the act, check out the “Brands Saying Bae” Twitter account.)

In an effort to sound “less corporate” and more like the 14-year-old kid next door, brands are aging down their social conversation to better connect with their younger audiences. The real question though, as discussed in a recent article in Digiday, is “whether it makes sense for brands to go down that road – and at what point they begin to risk looking ridiculous.”

The article suggests that brands that age down their language by adding in terms like “bae” and “on fleek” are struggling to connect with their audience in a meaningful way. This is because brands that don’t understand their audience enough to develop a natural connection find it easier to mask their message in more youthful terms. (“On fleek,” for the record, is defined as being “on point.”)

The key to creating an engaging and meaningful relationship is understanding the audience, and using the right language is one way for a brand to show it understands its audience. Brands such as Taco Bell and Mountain Dew might find it more beneficial to use this type of language because of their youthful following. However, brands such as Walmart and Gain, with an audience of predominately women and mothers, might want to think twice before tweeting their “bae.”

Wait! What? 8/29: GoPro’s Fetch lets you channel your inner dog and Hammacher Schlemmer introduces underwater thrusters

GoPro Fetch
GoPro Fetch

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right? Before you take off and enjoy the much-anticipated Labor Day weekend, here’s a little recap of this week’s hottest news:

  • Becoming the next Iron Man just became a little more realistic with Hammacher Schlemmer’s new underwater thrusters! Propel through the waters in this unique pair of pants – yours for one low payment of $31,000 (and government approval, of course).
  • Ever wonder what it’s like being a dog? With GoPro’s new Fetch harness, you can see the world from your dog’s perspective – drool, chewed bones, and all!
  • Want to win a lifetime of free Taco Bell (and heartburn)? Find one of their “everlasting” dollar bills and you may be in Doritos shell and waffle taco heaven. Good luck.
  • Actions speak louder than words…or do they? A senior brand manager from Bissell Canada (yes, the vacuum company) decided to showcase his brand loyalty by adding a little ‘flavor’ to the old-time phrase.
  • Here comes the end of the SMS text era. Introducing the ridiculous, yet entertaining Emoji-only messaging app…called Emoji (go figure). Enjoy!

Well, that’s all, folks! Want to share your favorite story from the week? Tweet us @BlancandOtus or leave a comment below.

Wait! What? 6/27: Yo app hires a hacker and big brands take a bite of Suarez’s social buzz

Hacking: sometimes, it pays. (Thinkstock)
Hacking: sometimes, it pays. (Thinkstock)

From a Yo app hacker-turned-employee to the explosive social buzz around Suarez’s (third) bite of fame, this week was full of what you could call “tasteful” news. For those of you who missed the excitement, here’s a little recap:

  • Yo! If you’re looking for a job, just hack the app. The simple but somewhat interesting messaging app (that doesn’t actually let you send messages) has enlisted one of its hackers to fix security vulnerabilities. Well that’s one way to land a job!
  • From a ChargerLeash to a Polaroid Cube, CE Week took over NYC this week to unveil a spectrum of new, innovative consumer products…or are they just plain weird? We’ll let you decide.

There you have it – our top tech stories from the week! Now it’s your turn. Tweet us @BlancandOtus or leave a comment below to share your favorite.