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speakeasy

Rebranding PR 3.0 – Introducing Speakeasy

We started a little informal gathering we dubbed “PR 3.0″ back in 2009 as a way to stay up to date on the latest social networking trends. PR and communications were changing rapidly so we assigned staff members specific areas of study so they could educate the rest of the team at the weekly get-together. In the beginning we religiously monitored Facebook, Twitter, social apps like Four Square, SEO and video. We held our meetings every Thursday at 4pm over drinks in our office or at a cool spot with wi-fi. We started inviting peers and clients and anyone who was interested, and the gatherings evolved.

Four years in social network time is like 40 human years. Changes in social networks are happening daily and the list of social networks worth paying attention to has grown substantially. Our jobs as communicators are increasingly more complicated with so many challenges to take stock in, while traditional media outlets shrink, and catching the attention of overburdened reporters becomes an Olympic-sized challenge.

We recently realized the name for the group was dated when a 17-year-old high school student came to our office for an informational interview to learn more about PR. She asked what 3.0 referred to.  She had never heard of Web 2.0. The name hadn’t been cool for years. We must have looked like dinosaurs.

We decided then to give our PR 3.0 meetings a makeover. With the addition of new team members, new interests, new strategy, and tactics and technology making waves in our industry, we began the search for a name that fully encapsulates this wild industry (and sounds professional enough so that our colleagues from other companies can talk their bosses into attending). After several failed attempts at witticisms, a visitor named Brie Shea suggested the name “Speakeasy.” Perfect.

So, there you have it. We’ll be hosting Speakeasy gatherings twice a month.

Click here to join the Facebook Group to receive and share the latest news.

We’ll try once a month to have a special honored guest we think is extra smart about a topic. Kelli Matthews, University of Oregon’s most popular PR instructor, has already agreed to make a special trip up for one to talk about what she’s teaching the next generation of PR pros. Our next Speakeasy gathering is planned for September 19, 2013 in our office. We’ll have some adult beverages on hand to get your big thoughts flowing. Who knows what could be happening in communications three weeks from now? If you can predict it, you’ll win.

social media

On branding and social media

 

Have you found yourself censoring images, ideas or other posts on social media platforms because you feel they might cause negative feedback from certain members of your online community? This is an example of managing your brand identity, whether you’re conscious of it or not, and many people and businesses have been struggling with the act of branding ever since the first adorable baby animal images started circulating on the Internet.

Make no mistake, managing brand identity on social networks is a difficult task. Additional considerations include when to post, what to post, how to post, where to post, how to respond to criticism or a communication crisis. With all this pressure, some folks are on a personal quest to determine a special formula or to instill a set of rules to follow that will ensure social media success. I don’t know that there really is a secret formula, but I suspect it comes down to one of the first social lessons that most of us learn at an early age: you’ll be far more successful being authentic and empathetic to others, versus a self-aggrandizing type-A loudmouth. In other words, just be real and be aware of your audience.

There have been some pretty atrocious examples of brands and business leaders failing to “be real” on social media and it’s had disastrous (if not amusing) effects on their brand identity. Curiously, many of these missteps have occurred after national or international tragedy, in some ill-advised effort to capitalize on a hot topic of media intrigue. Other missteps have occurred when brands have taken a stance on social issues, temporarily unaware of the people that inhabit their target audience that they’ve spent building over a period of years.

In recent days we’ve seen the following PR disasters:

*  Epicuroius advertising some scones and breakfast treats, tying the promotion into the Boston marathon bombing

*  Eden Foods opposing the contraceptive measure imposed in the new healthcare law (do they NOT know who their target consumer is?)

For a list of more social blunders, check out this article from Mashable. These examples offer a teachable moment for AM:PM PR friends and clients.

We’ve drummed up a list of five additional suggestions on branding and social media to ensure your brand doesn’t follow in these footsteps.

  1. Don’t try to attach your brand to a crisis. I would argue that you shouldn’t do it at all, but some folks have big hearts and feel the need to express their sympathy for a tragic event. If you must, let your audience know that the employees of your business have their hearts and minds in the right place. That is real human emotion and it’s fine to express. Once. But trying to tie a product promotion or sale into a disaster is just gross, and above all, not what a real person would do. Several brands including Kenneth Cole and The Gap have had their brand images tarnished by thoughtless Tweets.
  2. Share information that interests real people.  I like kitty posts as much as the next person, but for brand integrity I try to limit myself. As challenging as it is, I do so because sharing kitty images and related social media memes does nothing for my brand. If I do ten kitty-like posts and then one post related to something business-related, my target audience may have already tuned out (or worse, hidden ALL of my posts).
  3. Don’t oversell yourself. When I was a kid, this guy Jack Roberts was famous in Seattle-area TV commercials for his many, many commercials saying “I wont be undersold.” While his marketing message has stuck with me for 25 years, it’s not an effective strategy for social media. People will get annoyed and tune you out. However, if you get a windfall and want to buy a bunch of TV advertising, give it a shot. Also check out Chuck Curcio for inspiration.
  4. Don’t create alter egos to bash your critics or competitors. Falling under the “be real” requirement, the founder of Dilbert and CEO of Whole Foods have something in common. Both created fake alter egos to praise and defend themselves online, generating some negative publicity for their brand as a result. Here’s a feature in the NY Times for John Mackey, which is usually a good thing, but this time it wasn’t.
  5. Make sure you know your customers before sharing your beliefs. In the case of Eden Foods, CEO Michael Potter (no relation to Harry) obviously had temporary amnesia of his customers when he sued against having contraception covered for his employees. Then he kept digging that hole deeper, as shown in this piece from Salon. You have to be careful when taking political postures that represent your public brand or image.

This is a snapshot of some considerations to keep in mind when branding your online business or persona, based on our observations from recent events. While the platforms are always changing, the same general rules always remain. Be authentic, be real, and in the immortal words of George Carlin’s character Rufus, from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, “be excellent to each other.”

 

vine

Twitter puts it all out on the Vine

You may have heard of micro processors, micro blogging and micro machines – but have you heard of micro video? Well if Twitter has its way, their acquisition of a new company called Vine will help them branch out to the next big thing … an app that allows you to share 6-second video clips.

I can hear your eyes rolling from my office. In fact, you may be asking, “Cam, why should I pay attention to yet another app?”

Here’s why:

Debuting on January 24th, this product has already caused quite a stir in the social media world. In two weeks, online Vine users shared 113,897 videos on Twitter on over a single weekend. That’s over 2,000 videos every hour.

Major brands like Urban Outfitters, Lucky Magazine, GAP, Red Vines, Moose Tracks, Coke-a-Cola and Pepsi have already put up videos.

Brands are currently using this format to demonstrate how their products work, to hold contests and to share creative content that they hope will resonate and connect them with their target audience. Still skeptical? Check out three of my favorite videos, and perhaps I can change your mind.

1.


2.


3.

 

4. BONUS – If you want to be endlessly entertained follow James Urbaniak

 

For more information:

Wired Magazine – “Why Vine’s Going to Grow Into Something Huge”

Entrepreneur Magazine – “The Pros and Cons of Using Video App ‘Vine’ for Marketing”

 

marketing branding team

Branding, Communications and Public Relations: Questions to Answer Before Working With a PR Firm

At AM:PM PR we begin each new client relationship with the hope it will lead to a long-term partnership. We believe the more we know about a prospective client’s business, the better we can understand the qualities that differentiate them from their competition, thus allowing us to do a better job helping to communicate each client’s unique story to targeted audiences.

During our information gathering process, we like to ask a lot of questions – a process that is beneficial to both parties. Answering the following questions provides potential clients an opportunity to think about the way they communicate about their business, product or service. If you’re ready to ask us how we may help you, copy and paste the following questions into the body of an email with your answers and email them to: info@ampmpr.com.

As you ponder your answers, are you learning anything new about your business, your brand, or your current need for marketing and PR assistance? Here are some branding, communications and public relations questions to ask yourself before working with a PR firm.

Introductory Questions:

What short-term and long-term goals are you hoping to achieve with PR and marketing services?

Have you worked with a PR firm in the past? What was your experience?

What are you looking for from a PR firm?

What is your budget for PR/Marketing?

What is the PR assignment, as you see it? How will you define success?

Your Brand:

What is your positioning statement? What sets your brand apart from the competition?

What is your brand personality/culture?

What are some examples of your messaging?

Have you tested your messaging?

Communications Focus:

What is the background of your business (your history, your story)?

Who are your target audiences? What is the demographic and psychographic profile of your key customers? What are your key insights into these audiences?

What media does your target audience consume?

How do they currently learn about your business/product?

What is your consumer promise?

Who is your competition?

Do you advertise? If so, where?

Website:

When was the last time you made improvements to your website?

Do you have a budget for improvements to your website?

Do you use and monitor your web analytics? Are you making adjustments based on your analytics reports?

What are the search terms that lead visitors to your site?

Are you blogging?

Social Networking:

Please describe how you are engaged with social media? Which tools are you using and what do you share?

Are there any social media tools you refuse to use? If so, why?

Curious to learn more about our services? Please contact us to learn more by clicking here.

Spontaeous meeting

Doctorate-level marketing brilliance

Excel is creepy

Disney has topped itself. And everyone else.

Check out http://monstersuniversity.com/edu/ and allow yourself to enjoy this genius level marketing brilliance.

Monsters University won’t premier until next summer, but the Disney Pixar team already has released gems like this to get us all giddy with excitement for the movie – and it’s merchandise.

Somehow I have school pride for this university I’ve never attended. You can even buy school merchandise. Conveniently, they’ve already sold out of the four arm T-shirts. This brilliance allows Disney Pixar to start making money from merchandise eight months before you’ll be able to watch the movie.

My inner child has me going back to this site over and over and clicking on every link. They have thought of everything. They even have a way of humorously jabbing Microsoft on the site in the banner ad about “Excel in the art of Extreme Creepiness.”

Yes, I am going to see this movie. I can hardly wait, and I haven’t even seen the trailer yet.

 

Be cautious with outbursts on your Facebook Business Page

Promoted personal posts just might kill Facebook

 

I have long defended Facebook to friends and colleagues as a free service that allows us to connect with far-away family and long lost friends. I’ve also thought that nothing yet created had the potential to truly compete.

Now it seems Facebook can only think of ways to make itself more attractive to analysts rather than its loyal users.

I can accept promoted posts and ads from businesses because the service needs to pay for itself and the ads are really not that intrusive. What I cannot accept is the idea that my Facebook friends can now advertise their posts to me. How strange and useless. I see their posts anyway.

I have no interest in using Facebook anymore (except when I have to for my profession) if personal connections pay to have their posts highlighted. Maybe that’s a bit drastic, but that’s not the service I signed up for. I’m guessing I’m not alone.

For $7 any user can now promote her most recent post. How obnoxious. What will it even look like? Will friends know if a post is paid for? I don’t know, but I’m going to test it by promoting this article. Yes, I’m aware of the irony, but I’ll consider it research. I really hope this option goes the way of many tested features Facebook has gotten rid of.

I did actually read an article by Tech Crunch that shared one compelling use case for this feature. Judge for yourself.

Be cautious with outbursts on your Facebook Business Page

What not to do on your Facebook business page

 

Damaging your own reputation through social media – a cautionary tale

A restaurant owner in small town in Washington surely regrets sharing publicly that he pay his utility bill and blaming the local PUD on his woes. The reactions below demonstrate risks of outbursts for managers of a Facebook business page.

What can we we learn from this Facebook business page fail?

  • Don’t post when you’re angry. You’ll regret it later and it just might turn viral.
  • Don’t share your financial issues with customers. You’ll lose respect.
  • Don’t act maliciously. You’ll lose fans quickly.

Your Facebook business page publicly represents your company in a platform that allows all of your customers to engage or witness your engagements. Every comment you make can be shared with thousands in seconds. The impression you make can have a lasting effect. Be cautious and interact in a way that supports the reputation you want to have. If you think what you’re about to post has the potential to be misconstrued or hurt your reputation, run it by a second pair of eyes first.

For more cautionary tales (and some laughs at others’ expense) check out Failbook.

 

MeetUp - the social site that encourages you to meet in person.

MeetUp – The greatest social network you’ve never heard of

- by Cam Clark

One of the most prominent complaints I hear against social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter is that they actually make us less social. They suck you into interacting on a superficial, virtual basis rather than face-to-face.

There are arguments for and against this thought process, but for the past ten years one social network has been quietly and successfully nullifying these two assertions right under our noses by creating a network of people who meet virtually and congregate physically.
 

Meetup.com is one of the rare websites that actually encourages people to meet in real life. The website aims to help people create communities unified by a common interest, such as: politics, books, sports, movies, health, pets, jobs or other hobbies. Members just enter their ZIP code or their city and the topic they want to meet about, and the site helps them arrange a place and time to meet.

Meetup’s mission is “To revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.”

This under-recognized social networking site is the world’s largest network of local groups, with people getting together somewhere on the planet every 13 seconds. Meetup boasts an impressive 9 million visitors per month in 45,000 cities worldwide, and has 280,000 monthly Meetups on every topic imaginable. Sure, compared to Facebook numbers, 9 million is a drop in the bucket and the site could use a visual overhaul, but just because this site has been outshined by others does not mean you should ignore it.
 

 
I personally have made some great connections through this site, and in a very short time frame. I’ve pub-crawled with the “20 and 30 somethings in Portland,” happy-houred with the “Happy Hour Aficionados of Portland,” run with the “NoPo Run Club” and even sung my face off with the “Portland Karaoke Singles.” There is so much fun to be had.

If you don’t think you have time to check it out, do me a favor. Go to meetup.com, enter in a topic that interests you and your zip code, and just see what comes up. If you are unable to find anything interesting, come to one of our PR 3.0 meetings and I will buy you a beer. Or, maybe, just maybe, you will find a group of people that will forever change your life. Either way, what do you have to lose?

Mark Zuckerberg announces the new Facebook timeline layout

Let’s Do The Timeline Again

- by Jake Ten Pas

Alexis Dane loves cats. Cam Clark pumps out the party jams. Family is of utmost importance to Pat McCormick, and his daughter, Allison didn’t fall far from the tree.

These are the things the new Facebook Timeline profile format tells me, and perhaps in the bigger scheme of things, these are the most important things for me to know about each person. I sure hope so, because I’m not going to glean much else from the image-heavy, text-poor space “above the fold.”

If the phrase “above the fold” means nothing to you, then chances are you love the new profile format. You didn’t grow up reading newspapers, and it could be that your interest in words goes no further than the often unpunctuated, under (or OVER) capitalized, fact-check-free asides that pass for communication these days.

Just in case your curiosity runs deeper, “above the fold” refers to the space above the crease in a newspaper. It’s the real estate that peeps through the window in the newspaper box you might still occasionally see on the sidewalk downtown. It’s where the most important, or at least most eye-catching, stories and photos run. In my former life as a copy editor/page designer, I was often committed to getting as many stories as I could above the fold.

Facebook used to be committed to this idea, as well. If not stories, it at least prioritized interactivity and the sharing of information. At the top of my page were (are, depending on whether you read this before or after my transition to the new format) my vital stats: My name, birthday, where I live, where I went to school, marital status, etc. There were a number of photos, often a status update and some recent activity. In other words, there were numerous ways to engage.

Now, when I go to the page of one of my coworkers listed above, I’m slapped in the face with one gigantic photo. This slap is followed by quick jab in the eye with another smaller photo and, eventually, actual info about the person and ways to interact with her or him. Granted, I often work on a small laptop, and I can see twice as much information on Pat’s gigantic monitor, but the message remains the same. Image has superseded the written or typed word as the communicator of choice as far as Facebook is concerned.

Whether or not this is another step toward global illiteracy remains to be seen, but it is, at the very least, sad. Considering that more people now check Facebook on a daily basis than read a newspaper, I don’t think I’m being unreasonable in drawing these kinds of comparisons.

Photos are more universally accessible. I get that. Anybody can grab a camera or digital phone and snap a picture. It takes practice to put words together in an order that makes sense and transmits an idea, information or feelings to others. People can take just about anything away from an image. Maybe that means that images allow the consumer more freedom of interpretation, and words direct us to specific conclusions. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but there’s certainly an argument to be made.

Personally, I like to communicate more with words than images. I love words, and I feel as comfortable working with them as an artist might with paint or Photoshop. As a movie lover, I understand the power of the image, and I understand the skill it takes to produce an image that is truly powerful. A great photo can tell a story as well as any combination of words. Just not in my hands.

This isn’t about that. It’s about Facebook tipping the scales of word-image equality. From my perspective, the social media behemoth is simply holding the mirror up to society. Most people seem less concerned with speaking or writing in either a proper or effective manner than they once were. People would rather speak with images, and Facebook is only too happy to enable that inclination. Also enabled are the rest of us, who’ve convinced ourselves that we don’t have time to read, but only to glance at a photo, and preferably one unburdened by caption.

Facebook devoured MySpace for a number of reasons, but one that’s always struck me was its streamlined, easy-to-read format. By not allowing an overabundance of customization, they created a user experience that was clean and consistent. Whether folks wanted to share with words or images, their profile and, more recently, the news feed, maintained an uncluttered flow.

Now, not only has written communication been devalued, but by allowing increased customization of the profile space, Facebook has allowed user profiles to look almost as messy and impenetrable as MySpace pages once looked. Granted, there are no fit-inducing flashing widgets yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. In this online version of scrapbooking, some new visual corollary to the triple exclamation mark must re-emerge.

It’s not that I don’t get the Timeline metaphor. It’s that Facebook’s execution of this metaphor is shoddy at best. It looks less like a timeline than a dreamboard in a teenager’s bedroom.

Every time Facebook unleashes a new iteration on its users, there is backlash, and I’ve no doubt that some of you with the attention span to read this far are accusing me of simply contributing to the most recent wave. Could be. I simply ask that you consider that this new format represents a bigger change than most, and what that change says about how Facebook, and those of us who use it, view the shape of communication to come.

Meanwhile, I’ll be contemplating how to fit all these ideas into a single image that can be rapidly consumed by those who don’t have time or inclination to read below the fold.