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Events

We’ll Be Live-Tweeting Tomorrow’s CPRF ‘Critical Issues Forum’

CIF-Color-Logo“Content” is the word we love to hate this year, and tomorrow’s 2013 Critical Issues Forum will let us know why everyone can’t stop talking about it. The event, sponsored by the Council of Public Relations Firms, will be moderated by global Oglivy CEO Christopher Graves and Aedhmar Hynes of Text100 Global Communications; speakers hail from organizations and publications as diverse as BuzzFeed, Funny or Die, Harvard Business Review, Bloomberg and Contently.

They’ll all be sharing their insights on content creation and the “sponsored content” phenomenon, and we’ll be tweeting with the hashtag #contentfrenzy—so stay tuned to see if these big names all happen to reach the same conclusions on content…or not. More likely not.

Inside The Wall Street Journal: A Newsroom Tour and Pitching Guide

WSJ News Hub Intro FinalSince landing a story or mention in The Wall Street Journal qualifies as the major leagues, it requires a pitching approach similar to that used by New York Yankees’ ace reliever Mariano (Mo) Rivera: a combination of tenacity, resourcefulness, integrity and precision. That was our takeaway from a recent panel discussion with a team of seasoned WSJ editors, organized by PRSA NY.

Gabriella Stern, the WSJ’s deputy digital editor, moderated and hosted a behind-the-scenes group tour of WSJ’s state-of-the-art midtown newsroom. She described The Hub as “the nerve center and the heart of the New York news operation”. That’s where print, online and wire editors coordinate their efforts. The Opinion Page functions separately from the news operation.

“We have a sprawling digital operation, and our digital strategy is increasingly mobile”, Stern added. She pointed out areas devoted to social media, mobile, Infographics, design, video, and an on-air digital control room. WSJ hosts about seven live video shows per day.

“As PR professionals, you’re often the keys to information and thought leaders we need to talk to for our stories”, Stern told the group. She offered a wealth of pitching tips, along with her editorial colleagues:

  • Jim Pensiero, deputy managing editor (focuses on talent, training, newsroom projects)
  • Noelle Knox, editor, CFO Journal (addresses CFO suite)
  • Geoff Rogow, editor, Real-Time Finance News (area includes markets and finance)
  • George Stahl, corporate news editor, Real-Time Corporate News (handles news put out by companies)
  • Kevin Noblet, editor, Wealth Management (covers financial advisors and how they manage their practices and help clients)

We’ve organized the range of pointers like a baseball pitcher, with an outline for pitch selection, windup, delivery and mechanics.

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Uptown Boy: Banksy’s Artwork Makes Cameo on Manhattan’s Upper West Side

Banksy UWS1Banksy’s art appeared on a wall outside retailer DSW at Broadway and 79th Street on Sunday, as the stealthy British artist whose painted stencils caused a media phenomenon headed uptown. Entitled Hammer Boy, the work drew a large crowd of spectators, eagerly snapping photos.

Our Banksy art sighting was purely by coincidence. We read about his New York escapades, but hadn’t actively followed his website where he posts daily entries. We were out for a stroll after seeing New York Historical Society’s exhibit, the Armory show, which also caused a stir–in 1913.

As we were taking photos of the boy with the sledgehammer, another onlooker placed a Time Magazine with a cover story of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg below him. That gave the impression that the boy was about to hammer the Mayor — for recent anti-Banksy comments.

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9 Pointers for Building Branded Blogs

Gear Patrol Super Gear Featured Image The theme “If you build it, they will come” worked magically in the baseball movie Field of Dreams, but in the crowded blogosphere, only a fraction break through to the big leagues of major media brands. While The Huffington Post, Bleacher Report and Vice are well-known examples, many other blogs succeed on a smaller scale.

A “super bloggers” panel convened at Advertising Week in New York on Thursday, sharing their perspectives on editorial content and sponsored posts with moderator Manoush Zomorodi , host of WNYC’s New Tech City radio show. They included Ben Bowers, founder of Gear Patrol, Julie Carlson, editor-in-chief of Remodelista, Emily Schuman, founder and editor of Cupcakes and Cashmere, and Joy Wilson, founder of Joy the Baker.

While their blogs cover consumer categories like home design, baking, fashion and gadgets, their approaches also apply on the corporate side. Some areas below serve as reminders, while other issues like sponsored content are more recent.

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The Changing Dynamics of Celebrity Branding

George Clooney Medium PostUsing celebrities to promote brands has been a “long and winding road”. While that Beatles song was about the band’s relationship, the title aptly describes the complex nature of stars’ endorsements. In recent years, the dynamics have evolved, according to entertainment industry insiders working in music, sports and modeling. At a Tuesday Advertising Week panel in New York, the discussion and takeaways also focused on the current state of celebrity marketing, deal-making, media exposure and social media.

Shifting perspectives: “Until recently superstars didn’t want to touch celebrity endorsements,” said Tommy Mottola, well-known music executive and talent manager. But now he said only a handful of A-listers, like Bruce Springsteen, steer clear of such promotions. As Ryan Schinman, CEO of Platinum Rye Entertainment added, “Meryl Streep is the only female Oscar winner who hasn’t appeared in ads.” Online videos are partly responsible, noted Jon Liebman, CEO of Brillstein Entertainment Partners. “Though stars often did endorsements overseas, now YouTube offers fans access to international ads.”

Reasons for “selling out” vary by category: In the music business it’s mainly about money, Mottola observed. “Now music revenues have been significantly reduced. So that’s helped promote the need to find other income sources”, he said. Meanwhile, “sports endorsements were catapulted by the example of Michael Jordan”, said Mike Levine, co-head of CAA Sports. “In modeling, there were fewer magazine covers available when actors and musicians began appearing on covers. So models had to figure out what else to do”, explained Faith Kates, founder of Next Model Management.

Close alignment between brands and talent: “I don’t want to let my clients in any way hurt their core business, which is acting”, said Liebman. “I make sure it’s a safe shot that’s interesting and fun.” Mottola considers deals “that enhance the artists’ image and broadens their horizons.” As for Kates, “I look for the right team, brand and package. I want long-term opportunities, not hit-and-runs,” she said.

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University of Maryland PR Students to Run Lecture Series Event

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Here’s a great one that we missed last week: as more industry organizations continue to partner with schools in the interest of teaching young people the hands-on, real-world applications of the public relations skill set, The University of Maryland‘s PR department has put event management responsibilities into its students’ hands.

This is no small get-together, either: it’s the Sixth Annual Grunig Lecture Series, set to take place on October 30th. Organized by the Institute for Public Relations and the Council of Public Relations Firms, it will feature Fleishman-Hilliard president/CEO and CPR chair Dave Senay leading a series of conversations on the theme “Ethics As Culture”—and it will all be managed by a group of 10 university PR majors who go by “the Grunig team.”

As one senior puts it:

“I’m receiving three credits for this, but we’re also setting the precedent for as long as the series continues. Everyone will be learning from our mistakes.”

Event organizer and UM communications chair Elizabeth Toth says “It is important to our students to learn how to apply what they learn in the classroom”, and we agree: could there be a better way to utilize the real-world skills you’ve accumulated while earning credit at the same time?

*Image via The University of Maryland

StubHub’s Goal is to Score with Fans, Says CMO Ray Elias

Whether you’re a “social fan” actively networking, a “fanatic” attending every game, or a “premium fan” perched in front-row seats, StubHub serves the preferences of all three segments, said CMO Ray Elias. He spoke at The Incite Summit in New York on Wednesday about the brand’s customer service, social media and mobile efforts.

“Tickets are scarce, perishable goods, and StubHub manages the secondary ticket marketplace. We focus on the buyer and seller experience and the intersection of supply and demand”, Elias said. The market has evolved, and he identified key elements behind StubHub’s success.

Customer Service: Fans of entertainment and sports events didn’t used to receive the red carpet treatment. “We recognized the frustrations consumers were experiencing with ticket purchases”, Elias explained. “Traditionally the process wasn’t fan-friendly, so we applied the customer service models you’d find with Nordstrom and Zappos.”

A core issue StubHub regularly deals with relates to the authenticity of tickets. Elias said they need to deliver on the proposition that “our tickets are real and the fans will be able to get in”. He acknowledged that’s not so easy to convey from a marketing perspective. (Although he didn’t discuss their “Ticket Oakad campaign, it offers a reassuring presence, and according to a Forbes article, the ads have improved key brand perceptions).

Customer service plays a critical role in delivering on the brand’s promise, and Elias described StubHub’s service as ‘heroic’. “We have local reps on the ground, and ‘Make it Right’ customer service” to resolve on-site issues. “We’ve empowered fans, and that has fueled our growth.”

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Project SUBWAY Contest Serves Fashionable Menu of Designer Dresses Created In-House

While many of the materials SUBWAY® uses are recycled, the dresses that four designers created for a Nolcha Fashion Week contest yesterday were anything but. The restaurant chain challenged them to create dresses made entirely from SUBWAY® items, and all the designers, Danilo Gabrielli (pictured in center below), Jennifer Henry, Mariana Valentina and Ainslee Bowers, deftly delivered.

The chic and unique collections were fashioned from sandwich wrappers, grocery bags, napkins, straws, plastic sandwich bags, gift cards and salad boxes. Fortunately given the heat wave, none were made of edible items, or as Jared “The SUBWAY® Guy” noted, “no sandwiches were harmed here.”

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The PR Police Power of Self-Awareness During a Pot Festival

Effective PR requires two critical elements: knowing your audience and the ability to accept reality. Too often brands, celebrities and companies misidentify customer sentiment and lose any opportunity to create good will by being tone deaf, arrogant, or dishonest. (Or, in the case of Lance Armstrong, all three.)

So kudos to the Seattle Police Department, which—as we reported last week—implemented a uniquely audience-specific, creative and realistic Twitter campaign in anticipation of last weekend’s very public Hempfest. The celebration came on the heels of a ruling that legalized marijuana in the state of Washington last fall.

Knowing the penchant stoners have for snack foods, the Seattle Police Department handed out 1,000 free bags of Doritos sporting stickers informing participants that they shouldn’t drive while high or give weed to minors and—oh yeah—don’t forget to have fun, either. This isn’t polished marketing Geico green lizard PR. This is true public relations outreach. Here is the message the Seattle PD conveyed: We get you. Read more

The Key Ingredients of Well-Crafted Speeches

“Before you ask me who wrote such shrewd prose, let me just say: Speeches are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made”. Those were comments by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as reported in a recent New York Times article. Years earlier, when a West Wing episode focused on drafting a State of the Union speech, in culinary terms it was like a ten-course gourmet meal. (Photo below: scene from West Wing episode at 2006 Democratic National Convention)

Speechwriting coach and author Joan Detz certainly agrees about the challenges of creating and delivering effective speeches. But instead of keeping her speechmaking sauce secret, she demystified the process and shared some pointers during the IABC World Conference in New York last month.

Worth the effort? “Remember, it’s an invite, not a subpoena,” Detz cautioned the audience. Before covering the specifics of speech content, she emphasized that prospective speakers should weigh whether the speech is even worth the substantial amount of time involved in preparation, revisions, rehearsal and travel. “It’s ok occasionally to decline an invitation to speak”, she said.

Clearly this may run counter to the goals of many corporate presenters and those seeking high-profile, lucrative speaking engagements. Though as Detz noted, “too much value is lost by giving mediocre speeches. Huge egos go out and speak too much when they could be doing other things.”

Deciding factors: What are key variables Detz recommends considering when figuring out which speeches are warranted? Find out about the host organization, target audience, subject matter, which other speakers are slated to appear, the proposed day and time slot. That way you won’t end up delivering a talk to a controversial group or be surprised when you show up and discover you’re scheduled for the dreaded late afternoon session. (And it’s best not to take the stage behind comedian John Oliver, unless you’re Stephen Colbert.)

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