What goes better with birthday cupcakes than oblivion? Seriously, we’re asking you. At AM:PM PR, oblivion is the ice cream to our cake. Rather than candles, we like to blow out each others’ birthday wishes. Just in case you’re wondering, that isn’t a laugh track. This “We’re Better At PR” video was filmed in front of a live studio audience.
Nobody does it better than our buzzmaker. Well, mostly nobody. OK, so there are quite a few people who do it better. Octavius Wrathchilde might not be the greatest spy in the world, but fortunately for him, he’s well matched to his adversaries. Oh, and he mixes up a mean Facebook status update. Sit back, buckle the seatbelt on your ejector seat, and prepare for the most hair-raising fake spy film trailer in the history of YouTube. Or at least the last 15 minutes.
As I look forward to 2012, here’s a short list of my PR, social media and technology expectations for the year.
1. Counsel will be king. PR firms wrestle with their responsibilities as new tools and technologies reshape how people communicate. PRSA, the largest association of PR professionals, recently launched a “Public Relations Defined” conversation to modernize the meaning of PR. The review is timely. PR professionals, at their core, are (or should be) strategic counselors. I expect 2012 will see more clients looking for strategic help from PR pros, rather than just tactical support for their media relations, social media and community outreach.
2. “Power to the people.” When John Lennon recorded that song in 1971, it became an anthem for a generation opposed to the war in Vietnam. This year’s Arab Spring and the Occupy movement pushed Time Magazine to declare The Protestor as its Person of the Year. The biggest difference in today’s protests is individual empowerment facilitated by ubiquitous, low-cost communications technologies – cell phones, smart phones, social media, texting, etc. I expect empowered and disgruntled protestors will shake up and redefine politics in 2012.
3. It’s a mobile world. Windows we opened a few years ago on our desktop PCs are now with us wherever we go. I expect 2012 will accelerate the obsolescence of desktop computers. I expect one item pushing that accelerator pedal will be Apple’s iPad 3. That’s the technology toy I want most in 2012, with its rumored high-res screen and Thunderbolt connectivity. (Apple, please release it in March, as rumored. It would be a great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.)
4. Apple still leads. Steve Jobs’ passing worried Apple fanboys like me, saddened by the loss of such a visionary leader. But I’m convinced part of his leadership is evident in the deep talent pool he built and the company’s commitment to the exceptionalism Jobs instilled. I’m expecting to be blown away by at least one Apple announcement next year, in addition to the iPad 3.
5. More video, more places. TV (video) is the emotional heavyweight in communications. It’s also the heavyweight in bandwidth consumption and cost. I expect we’ll continue to see technology improve delivery and simplify production. Websites, social networks and online demand for video programming will speed acceptance of second screens (computers, smartphones, tablets) as almost interchangeable video platforms.
6. More B2B social networking. Social networking dominates Americans’ online time. Employers that previously sought to limit or block workplace access to social networks will increasingly embrace social tools to support internal collaboration, customer relationship management and marketing. Most early adopters have been consumer-facing companies. I expect fast growth next year among business-to-business firms.
7. Authenticity vs. professional polish. There’s a dilemma in the digital world. On one hand, many businesses feel uncomfortable or unprepared to produce their own online content. They rely on professionals to help them communicate in blogs and social media. On the other hand, online content produced outside the company can lack the credibility of content produced by the credited author. I expect we’ll see more companies seek training and support for internal authors in order to make their digital communications more authentic.
8. The Oregonian on the iPad. There’s a lot of speculation about the demise of newspapers. Count me among those saddened by changes in the news business. It’s disturbing to see news staffs shrinking. As news media experiment with new delivery platforms, I expect The Oregonian will be among the newspapers developing an app to deliver content to tablet devices like the iPad. I can’t imagine NOT starting my day with a print copy of The Oregonian, but I’d still pay to get their newspaper content on my iPhone and iPad.
9. Romney vs. Obama. After all the Republican presidential candidate debates, the months of campaigning and the ups and downs in polls, I expect Republicans will nominate Mitt Romney to face off against President Obama next fall. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the right to revise and extend my remarks.
10. Basics continue to matter. With so many shiny new communications toys to explore, it’s easier than ever to get caught up tinkering with tactics. But I expect, as the experimentation with new platforms and tools is analyzed, we’ll see that communications basics still prevail. Success in public relations will always be rooted in research, targeting to connect with the right audiences, persuasive writing, effective execution and thoughtful evaluation to measure success in achieving goals.
11. More of our lives will be in the clouds. As huge data centers spring up across Oregon (and around the world), it’s evident that much of what we consider private is no longer locked up for safe keeping in our homes and offices – or even in our computers and hard drives. We’re willingly sharing more about ourselves on social networks, and depending on others to store our music and photo libraries, as well as much of the rest of what we consider personal or proprietary. I expect we’ll see even more such sharing in 2012, and we’ll hear just as much angst about the erosion of personal privacy.
12. Partisanship will keep Congress paralyzed. There’s no joy in this expectation. But watching the chaos in Congress is beyond disappointing. Something serious has poisoned our political process. If elected officials can’t resolve it, I expect this year’s Occupy protests will pale in comparison to civil unrest we’ll see.
Those are my expectations for 2012. On behalf my colleagues and my family, I wish you the best this Holiday season and in the year ahead.
By Jake Ten Pas
I don’t know who first coined the term spokesthing, but I initially heard it on a “Mr. Show With Bob And David” sketch about a decade ago. Being the irreverent sorts they are, Odenkirk and Cross used it to poke fun at marketing/advertising types, and they hit the nail on the head. I won’t link to the sketch in question here because it is full to bursting with foul language, but if you desire to seek it out, I certainly won’t try to stop you.Regardless, I just like the word spokesthing. It’s funny and gender-neutral and hints at the meta nature that marketing achieves at its most clever.
When I made the jump from journalism to public relations, one of my first tasks was managing the social media presence for Tillamook Cheese. One day, I thought it would be funny to tweet at people as if I WAS the Baby Loaf of Tillamook Cheese, and when a follower responded, “Is @Tillamook Cheese tweeting in first person? Brilliant!,” the character of Loafy was born.
Notice I didn’t say that the character was born when I thought of him. The character was born when one of Tillamook’s fans responded to him. That’s the way social media works. People don’t want to be marketed to anymore. They want you to have a conversation WITH them. When I realized this was a concept with resonance, I set about fleshing out the character of Loafy, and an entire mythology of my new spokesthing was born.
Recently, when AM:PM PR was hired by The Original WOW! Burger, a new gourmet burger joint soon to be debuting in the Portland market, I again started thinking about what makes for a great spokesthing. Creating a good character that will resonate with your fans is important, but as Pat likes to say, we were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason. You can be the cleverest boy in all the land, but if you don’t listen to what your customers are saying and respond to them genuinely, it’s all for naught.
One of my favorite spokesthings is Allstate’s Mayhem persona, who is played on TV by the killer character actor Dean Winters of “Oz,” “30 Rock,” “Rescue Me” and “Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles” fame. The commercials are short and humorous, and the Facebook posts carry that over well. Not sure why Allstate hasn’t brought this character to Twitter, where it would fit in well. My only complaint is the imbalance between the number of posts “likers” of Mayhem are leaving on the page and the number of responses Mayhem is offering. Clearly, the account is doing a great job of generating interest, but as a listening tool, it’s somewhat less effective.
Back when I was still managing the Tillamook account, I quite enjoyed posts by the Quiznos Toaster, more conceptually than consistently in practice. For some reason, I’m drawn to the notion of inanimate objects talking to me, which could explain part of my love for Tom Robbins’ “Skinny Legs and All.” Unfortunately, the Toaster got increasingly lewd as time went on, and it appears that Quiznos has now pulled the plug on him. I like to imagine a Hal 9000-esque scene playing out at the end there. The Kool-Aid Man had a funny Twitter account for a while, too, although whether it was ever connected to the brand remains a mystery to me. It no longer exists, which makes me doubtful.
Elsewhere, a slew of companies continue to try to convert their advertising spokesthings into social media spokesthings. From Bob’s Big Boy to Cheetos’ Chester Cheetah to M&M’s to the unholy insurance onslaught of Progressive, Aflac, Geico, etc., they achieve their objectives to varying degrees. The true measure of a spokesthing’s success in my eyes isn’t to transition the same old marketing messages over to social media. It’s to capture the imaginations of fans and inspire in them the desire to essentially create short bursts of fan fiction about you.
Even more, the goal of any spokesthing should be to disarm fans and followers and make them feel comfortable engaging in a conversation with you. If you can do that, and turn off your clever little marketer brain long enough to listen to what they have to say, then you’ve accomplished two invaluable goals at once – learning and creating. You’ve learned what your customers want and created a whole new legion of brand ambassadors in the process.
July 12, 2011
PORTLAND, OR – (July 12. 2011) Portland-based communications team AM:PM PR celebrates a year of doing things differently during the month of July. This time last year, public relations veterans Allison and Pat McCormick left a more traditional, established firm in a downtown high rise in favor of Portland’s Central Eastside.
Choosing a renovated historic firehouse in Buckman has given AM:PM PR the chance to be a real part of a neighborhood – a seeming impossibility downtown. Making friends in Distillery Row and with People’s Art of Portland has shaped the celebration of AM:PM PR’s first year in business.
That diversity of character also defines AM:PM PR’s work with clients including Motorola, Unified Grocers, Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, and 7 Apps.
“Rather than picking clients based on their size, we have looked for companies with stories worth telling,” says AM:PM PR’s Allison McCormick.
“Part of doing things differently involves being generous with our knowledge and experience,” Pat McCormick adds.
For every nationally recognized name AM:PM PR takes on, it’s central to its mission as a company to help out businesses from the neighborhood. As the term hyperlocal helps to redefine journalism, it’s also helped to chart AM:PM PR’s trajectory. Working with Alder Pastry & Dessert, Oregon Distillers Guild and Bremik Construction have strengthened the firm’s relationships in the neighborhood and helped the organizations maximize their reach outside the neighborhood.
In honor of the company’s first birthday, AM:PM PR launched a new website, which Allison and Pat hope will exemplify many of the characteristics they recommend to their clients. It’s social, visually engaging yet clean, and is constantly updated with new content – sharing industry insights with personality.
AM:PM PR’s Birthday Bash on July 14 will serve not just as a celebration of prospering during a time of economic uncertainty, but also as a celebration of the community it calls home. Local businesses ranging from its Distillery Row neighbors to Cascade Brewing, Eat Your Heart Out Catering, Flux Salon, Portlandia International Language School and more all have pledged their time and services to make it an affair to remember.
AM:PM PR is a Portland-based public relations firm established in July 2010, and specializing in marketing, integrating social networking into strategic communications, qualitative research and corporate communications. The firm represents the consumer product, healthcare, telecommunications, technology, construction, non-profit, business-to-business and waste industries. For more information about AM:PM PR, see its website, www.ampmpr.com, follow it on Twitter @AMPMPR, or like it on Facebook. Or, just stop by Fire House No. 7 and introduce yourself.
The top topic buzzing around our office lately is our upcoming first birthday bash . Like our launch party last year, we plan to highlight the wonderful wares of our neighborhood – distillers, caterers, brewers, bakers, artists, winemakers and more.
As much as I’m looking forward to the party, looking back over the past year makes me grateful just to be part of AM:PM PR.
I’m the old guy in our group – literally the father figure to my partner, Allison, and our Human Infrastructure Technician, Erin. (I had to use “literally” in my post because it irritates Jake when people use the word inappropriately. I, of course, used it appropriately.)
When we set out on this adventure last year, I had this quixotic hope that spending my days working with young professionals would be invigorating. Turns out, I was right.
Instead of working in the Class A office space I enjoyed for more than 20 years downtown, we looked to the evolving east side of Portland’s Willamette River, where industrial operations mix with hot new restaurants, artist studios and a vibrant creative community. We ended up in a historic firehouse (lovingly restored by Venerable Properties and Bremik Construction).
Our group wanted open space, not private offices. They wanted to sit together around a big table. For an old coot like me, it’s strange. But my colleagues are comfortable with it. Collaboration is natural and creating privacy simply requires putting in their ear buds, or taking a call in our toy room.
Clients have helped us better understand what business we’re in. We knew interest in social networks was escalating exponentially, but we were surprised so many clients in the business-to-business categories – law firms, construction companies, architects, engineers, trade associations, etc. – are eager to learn more about and use social media.
Of course, one reason to celebrate is that we’re still here. Starting a business in the midst of a dismal economy is anything but ideal. Surviving and succeeding is worth celebrating.
But my main reason for celebrating is the gift I get from working with young professionals who respect traditional principles of successful public relations and teach me new insights about how to use today’s constantly changing communications tools.
It’s been a great ride this year. And we plan to have even more fun in the year ahead. Hope you can join us for the party.
Dr. Seuss’s wise words for the young and old can be applied to every part of life – even in the PR business. Some of his best quotes have PR lessons within.
Top Five Dr. Seuss Quotes Translated Into PR Lessons:
1.) “Shorth is better than length.”
The most read blogs are 150 words or less. This blog is about three times that length, so I’ve chopped it into bite-sized nuggets for easy consumption. If you want to get your message across, whether by blog, email, video or media pitch, keep it short. Shorthness will increase the likelihood that your message is remembered.
2.) “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!”
We often get requests from prospective clients who need help with outreach, but have no plan in place. Developing a strategic plan that integrates all outreach enhances the effectiveness of your efforts. Creative brainstorming and planning will also provide social networking content ideas and pitch angles throughout the year.
3.) “I meant what I said and I said what I meant.”
Don’t create messages you think your audiences want to hear. People want to hear truth and will respond to it. For example, don’t say you’re green if you haven’t made real strides in the area. Your words won’t ring true.
4.) “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
So much fear still exists around embarking on social networking.
Complicated questions: “How can we control what our employees will do when given access? How will we respond if someone trashes our good name? We’re already so busy; how can we do it all? These are just a few of the questions we hear.
Simple answers: Trust your employees. Criticism is unlikely for most businesses. When it does happen, respond transparently and your fans will come to your defense. Social networks are where the conversations are happening. Transition is a must.
5.) “I’m sorry to say so but, sadly it’s true that bang-ups and hang-ups can happen to you.”
Be prepared. Create a crisis communications plan. It’s one of those things, like a will, that you know you should have, but it’s easy to keep putting off. Being prepared for anything will help ensure that you maintain a consistent message and increase the likelihood of preserving a positive reputation in the face of a crisis.
More great Dr. Seuss quotes worth remembering:
When our team decided to spin out and start our own thing, we wanted everything to be new and we wanted everything to be “us.”
Our most enjoyable and successful experiences had been through collaboration. From day one, we decided to collaborate on everything. We brainstormed our mission together. We decided on open office space where we would sit around one table, without offices that separated us from each other. We shopped for office furniture together and covered our walls in white boards for our many spontaneous brainstorms.
We planned our website together. We all participate in client development activities. We’ve realized putting our heads together makes us much more creative. As leadership guru Ken Blanchard teaches, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”
Our collaboration became so natural and organic that we extended this way of working to relationships with our clients, partners, neighbors, peers and friends. Our clients become part of us. We absorb them as members of our team. We hope they see us the same way.
We recently decided to partner strategically with 7 Apps, a smartphone app developer. We realized more of our clients are asking about apps as marketing tools. Our partnership gives 7 Apps access to market research and marketing expertise to support apps it’s developing for its own clients.
We hold weekly PR 3.0 meetings (Thursdays at 3:00pm) and invite our PR peers and clients to join us for roundtable discussions about the latest happening in social media, SEO and mobile.
We even crowd-sourced our logo, asking everyone we knew to help us choose the image that identifies our firm.
Now there’s another big opportunity for our friends to collaborate – in celebrating an open house for our new venture (save the date – 8/26/10 4-6:30pm).
We came from downtown, Class A office space and for AM:PM PR we were looking for an office location distinctly different. We found the perfect place in an iconic historic firehouse with available space in an eclectic area of SE Portland. A big bonus is that we can be part of a real neighborhood.
Rather than just show off what we’ve got (and the new space we’ll be moving into with 7 Apps), we decided to invite our neighbors to show off to our friends what an amazing neighborhood we’re in.
Bremik Construction (next door neighbors and the builders who did such a beautiful job restoring the firehouse and the adjacent buildings that are now Bremik’s home) even decided to open up their space and deck for our event.
We’re big fans of everyone we’ve invited. Expect to taste:
- Distilled spirits from six distilleries in Distillery Row
- Yumminess from the famous Meat Cheese Bread
- Hummus from King Harvest
- Wine from Zanzibar Cellars
- Beer from neighborhood’s newest, Buckman Brewing
- Legendary scones from Zell’s Café
We’ll even be showing off art from the wealth of local artists, hardware from our favorite little Ankeny Hardware across the street, and much more.
We like this way of working. We have found real value from the psychic income of collaboration, enjoying the work we do and the people we are surrounded by. Our new, bigger space should be completed by the end of the year. It will have the same open feel and include gathering areas for peers and clients to come and just hang out if they need a little collaboration time.
So come on over – August 26 for the open house, or anytime. Our place is yours.