Monday, July 28, 2014

Creativity & Cannes: Expression in the PR Industry

By Megan Quinn

Gorkana, a leading global media intelligence company, recently offered a webinar on the subject of creativity in the public relations industry. Some of the experts on the panel attended this year’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity and offered their reflections. Cannes is the world's largest celebration of creativity in communications. The Gold Lion awards recognize the best work from the past year, and the festival’s learning program hopes to inspire professionals for the future.

Are public relations professionals creative enough? How can we deliver a message so powerful that it stays with our target audience? Those were the questions the panelists debated.

The panelists:
  • Celina Maguire, Gorkana Group
  • Mark Fairbanks, Havas Worldwide, London 
  • Keri Perkins, Nando's, Manchester
  • Ann Maes, Ogilvy PR, Belgium
Is it better to hire “creative all-arounders” who, with the agency, come up with creative strategies? Or is it more efficient to hire creative specialists?

Two professionals had very different viewpoints on this issue. One panelist argued in favor of hiring specialists so the agency as a whole does not spend 25 percent of its time developing creative ideas. He believes that there should be a creative team in place to be the experts in that area, to free up other agency professionals to focus on other aspects of the business.

Maes said that her agency hires “creative all-arounders” with the ability to be inquisitive and curious while devising fresh ideas for clients. This presents an opportunity for the whole agency to be filled with creative individuals.

Is the PR Industry creative enough? What separates one campaign from the next?

The panelists agreed that campaigns must have an element of surprise along with a defining component that will stick with the target audience. The more a campaign stays with its audience, the more they will talk about it and share it with other people.

Integrated campaigns can have an emotional purpose built into them. Ads with a social purpose or that are tear-jerkers tend to be successful.

What are some barriers to creativity?

The big three: time, laziness and budget. All are vital in their own way. There is a short-term demand for ideas. One of the panelists mentioned that their agency started to charge for planning and creativity. The agency strongly believed that they should not give their ideas away for free. It takes time to develop really good ideas.

Laziness comes into play when professionals consistently pick ideas from the same hat, figuratively speaking. This can hinder us from truly reaching our creative potential. We have to bring those unique ideas to clients even if we are afraid they may not like them.

A budget can have pros and cons. Sometimes a smaller budget can produce more creative ideas.
A great example of working well with a small budget is a recent ad from Honey Maid.

This commercial met with backlash after featuring non-traditional families, including same-sex and mixed race families. However, on a low budget, the company put together a response campaign that has now been nominated for an award.

Honey Maid hired artists to come up with something clever, turning negative comments from their social media sites into a positive message. The artists printed out all the negative comments and rolled up those pieces of paper, then arranged them to spell the word ‘love.’

Each panelist chose three creative campaigns that stayed with them. This was by far the most creative campaign mentioned in the webinar:
Bentley organ campaign

This campaign was a case of creative misdirection.  An eccentric Brazilian billionaire, Chiquinho Scarpa, posted on his Facebook page that he would bury his Bentley in the yard of his mansion. People were quick to shame him on the Internet and the Brazilian media criticized his decision. If you don’t want your luxury car, you should donate it, not waste it, they told him.

Scarpa held an actual burial ceremony, which was broadcast live. After placing the car into the grave, however, he stopped. Instead, he led the journalists into his house, where he revealed the driving force behind the creative campaign.

“The vast majority of people bury much more valuable things than my car,” Scarpa told the assembled crowd. “The vast majority of people bury their organs. That’s the greatest waste in the world.”

The fake burial had been a campaign on behalf of The Brazilian Association of Organ Transplantation
Scarpa called to attention how everyone accused him of “wasting” his car while organs that could save people’s lives went to waste each year instead of being donated. After the stunt, the Brazilian association reported that organ donations increased by 31.5 percent in just one month.

The panelists left participants with tips for finding your inner creative:
  • Find specialists
  • Define the purpose of a campaign
  • Best source of creativity is other people so be interested and ask questions
  • Talk to the people who are making, selling, producing and using your product
  • Get out of the office; exercise can stimulate creativity
  • Read a magazine that you wouldn’t normally go for
  • Shut up and listen (to clients)
  • Venture out of your comfort zone
  • Reality check: you are not the only smart and creative person around
The Creativity and Cannes webinar was quite inspiring and full of thought-provoking questions. The public relations industry is full of creative individuals, but, harnessing this inventive energy can be challenging. As professionals, we need to be able to step outside of our usual creative realms in order to find fresh ideas for our clients.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Finding the Social Media Manager Who is Right for Your Company

By Rose Strong

We can call them errors, missteps, gaffes or outright screw-ups, but whatever you prefer to call a social media crisis, it can be a catastrophe of epic proportions for your company.

Ever wonder about the definition of a social media crisis? In a 2011 article from, writer Tia Fisher notes a report by a social media strategist, Jeremiah Owyang, that began with this definition: "A social media crisis is a crisis issue that arises in or is amplified by social media, and results in negative mainstream media coverage, a change in business process, or financial loss."

The most recent social media crisis that came across my computer screen was American Apparel’s Tumblr post over the Independence Day weekend. The company posted a photograph of the 1986 Challenger explosion with the tags #smoke and #clouds. A predictable, angry backlash ensued, and the company took the photograph down and apologized.

According to the apology from American Apparel, the photo had been posted by a millennial who was “born after the Challenger tragedy” and was, it implied, unaware of the event. Few people, including myself, found that to be an acceptable apology. I was born after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Holocaust, but still can instantly identify images from those world tragedies.

The incident – which was not the first social media blunder the company has made - prompts a few critical questions: What is a social media manager? Who are these social media managers and what do they do for a company’s brand and reputation? The answers to these questions can be a great help in avoiding a major social media calamity.

Let’s think about what a social media manager does. First, don’t assume they’re just playing on the Internet all day. A qualified social media manager should be able to design a strategic social media plan for your company or, at the very least, carry out the demands of one already in place. Following consumer sites or business-related web pages for your company’s reputation management is crucial, as is setting up your company’s and your employees’ public profiles. Tracking trends and compiling analytics to measure your social media’s return on investment (ROI) also is an essential function. For a well-rounded description of a social media manager’s job, this article by Lauren Mikov for is excellent.

A social media manager should have some credentials and not just be the VP’s tech-savvy nephew. He or she should be experienced enough to know they have to research the information and images that they’re posting on behalf of the company on the networks strategically chosen to reach your clients.

More and more, companies are seeking a social media manager with specific criteria, such as a background in marketing and public relations. This article by Jerry Low for gives some great tips for any hiring manager to review before offering a candidate a job. Kathi Kruse, an automotive social media marketing expert and owner of, has some scrutinizing questions to ask in an interview with a potential social media manager that delve into the appropriate answers you should receive. On the flip side, Hollis Thomases, President & CEO of Web Ad.vantage writes for giving a list of things not to do in your quest for that special someone to manage your company’s social media strategy.

There’s an old saying attributed to Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds, “You’re only as good as the people you hire.” That saying is as important for the marketing and PR industry as anywhere else. Mistakes will happen; but ensuring that the millennial you’ve tasked with the job of managing your social media is qualified, experienced, and knows your marketing goals will help any company keep the crises to a minimum.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Who Has Your Company’s Twitter Password?

By Kim Tarasiewicz

Small businesses today recognize that social media can enhance a marketing strategy. Too many, however, do not think to take simple steps to secure their company’s social media accounts. 

Here are factors to keep in mind when setting up a social media presence and policy for your company:
  • Protect your password – Use the same policy for access to your company’s social media accounts as you would for your company’s other sensitive information. Limit the number of employees with the password; the more people who know the passwords, the higher your risk of a leak that will allow someone else to access your account without your permission or perhaps even your knowledge.
  • Control account use – If several employees will have access to social media accounts such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, consider using software such as HootSuite. It allows approved employees access to the accounts without giving them the actual password, thereby adding another level of security to your accounts.
  • Alert employees about phishing – Employees can be the targets of phishing emails which leave the company open to security breaches. Phishing is when you receive an email that looks as if it is from a legitimate organization but contains a link to a fake website. If these links are opened, they may capture secure passwords that employees have recently used or saved. 
  • Set security policies – Don’t assume your employees know all the rules regarding online security; take time to make them aware. Clearly include social media rules in company handbooks and security-related policies. Social networks have privacy settings that need to be administered on all sites so that your social media platform is not left open to attack.
  • Provide training - Require employees to learn about security measures for their personal accounts and suggest they use maximum privacy settings. This will make them more aware of security settings and policies so if employees “share” company social media pages and links, they are doing so in a more secure manner.
  • Monitor your sites - All corporate accounts should be monitored regularly and kept up to date by an assigned person or committee. Often, organizations set up social accounts and then don’t update the password on a regular basis, which makes it easier for accounts to be hacked.
  • Create a crisis plan – If you find immoral, illegal or offensive content on your social media channels, you want to be able to stop it immediately, so determine ahead of time who will be assigned to deleting inappropriate postings and responding to or handling damage control. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Developing an App for Your Law Firm

By: Laura Powers
We have been studying the landscape of law firm apps closely this past year. Many firms are reluctant to invest the required time, resources and energy into app development - and with good cause. Most apps developed for law firms are simply an extension of the firm's website. This neither benefits the user, who can access the same information just as easily online, nor the law firm which inevitably will have invested heavily in the app's development and marketing.

The key to building successful apps for the legal industry is in the strategic development of the idea that makes the app useful to the firm's target audience. Firms that are interested in apps need to think critically about what makes an app valuable for users and different from existing apps.

This year, at the Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Conference, I attended a superb presentation by a team from Bracewell & Giuliani. The team described the planning, development, design, integration and marketing of their ShalePlay app, a resource for news and information related to shale gas and hydraulic fracturing. The process took two years of hard work, many hours of critical thinking and in-depth strategic planning, but it has been tremendously successful for the firm as a result.

As I typically do at the presentations I attend, I live-tweeted information from the session. Below, I've distilled some of the main points from these tweets.
  • There are two primary areas of concern in app development. The first is targeting the right market - knowing the audience for the tool. The second is "doing mobile right" - considering that, to app users, mobile means immediacy, simplicity & context.

  • The team from Bracewell & Giuliani recommends that if you're not going to enable push notifications, don't bother with an app at all. You need to ping users in order to keep the app top-of-mind. If you do plan on sending out push notifications through your firm's mobile app, it should be at a frequency of three to five times during the week.

  • The team from Bracewell & Giuliani also recommends that the firm take into serious consideration how the app will fit into the overall brand. In considering what direction to go in the planning phase, start with what the firm knows best. In Bracewell & Giuliani's case, it was their environmental strategies work.

  • When developing an app for a law firm, always start with a content plan. Ask yourselves, what content do we usually generate and what is lacking in the app marketplace?

  • A critical concern for law firm to consider is that apps need to be useful for potential users, fit into the context of each particular firm and provide a unique value.

  • Creating an RFP (request for proposal) for third-party app development is a process that will involve many teams within the firm: marketing, business development, knowledge management, IT and procurement.

  • Careful consideration must be given to content management platforms, graphic design and creating the name of the app.

  • The extra benefits of mobile apps for law firms include the opportunity to reach out to your audience with a useful tool through direct outreach, article writing or speaking publicly on the benefits of using the app.

  • Just like your website, your firm's mobile app is an evolving tool that serves the business – it works to promote the firm to various target audiences.

  • Don't overlook measurement and ROI. By measuring the app's performance, Bracewell & Giuliani can demonstrate how the mobile app has opened doors to new clients and generated beneficial conversations with current clients.

  • Paul Grabowski, from Bracewell & Giuliani, notes that firms must start looking at new ways to distribute information and ShalePlay is a primary example of this.

  • Three key elements of digital marketing to remember: target your market, generate relevant content and stay socially engaged. Launching a law firm app should support all three.
However, there is one caution to keep in mind when evaluating how an app would enhance your law firm's marketing plan. In order for the apps to be successful, people must already know the firms they belong to. In most cases, potential clients must know about a firm before downloading their app. This means that firms need to be reaching out to prospective clients through other marketing techniques first.