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Firm Shares ‘Defining PR Moments of 2014′

As the year winds to a close, it’s time to review the stories that sparked the biggest communications conversations of 2014. First in line to do just that are our friends at The Pollack PR Marketing Group, a full-service agency based in LA and New York.

You’ll have to roll with the clip in terms of music choice(s) and production values, but the stories in this quick review were indeed some of the biggest of the year:

So, in summary…

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Viewers Who Tuned in to Eaten Alive Disappointed To Find No One Got Eaten Alive

rosolieThere was no truth in advertising on this one. We’ve been hearing about the Discovery Channel’s Eaten Alive special for months now. And Paul Rosolie, the daring environmental activist who had volunteered to be eaten alive by a giant snake to save the planet was fueling the fires for this one.

“People care about animals; they don’t make the jump to caring about the habitat the animals live in… So I wanted to do something that would force a dialogue about what’s going on here – and it’s working,” he said in an interview we wrote about barely two weeks ago.

In that interview, he said he was still recovering from the experience. So you’d be reasonable in thinking, “Dang. That man got eaten by a giant snake and it was unsurprisingly traumatic. I must see this amazing thing that has happened.”

Well, after nearly two hours of watching blah blah blah last night, Rosolie was not in fact eaten by a snake. The snake hurt his arm and then he called for help.

Also last night, my neighbor’s giant cat scratched me while clawing at my sock. It was just as thrilling as this hot eco-mess.

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Air Canada Sends Canucks Home for the Holidays

Here’s a nice, heart-warming holiday stunt discovered via our friends at AdFreak: Air Canada surprised a bunch of Canadians based in London by buying them all tickets home for the holidays.

As AdFreak notes, this stunt looks a lot more believable than most thanks to “amateurish” camera work and the impossibility of getting everyone in a crowded bar to agree on anything. Ad agency JWT gets credit for staging the event, and as usual there’s no real mention of public relations in the resulting coverage, but this feels like a PR creation — or at the very least an inspiring idea.

We’re not sure exactly who’s responsible for promoting the project, but we can personally vouch for JWT’s internal team — and Air Canada has worked with various firms like Siren Communications and Jesson in the past.

How Social Is ‘Social,’ Really?

Because it’s a fairly slow news day and we feel like everyone can relate, here’s a very short video from “spoof startup” Vooza, which is still looking to turn its skill for mocking tech culture into a business “creating a fresh kind of web-based advertisement for startups.

We get it; there’s a reason none of the ad agencies we cover on our other blog include any “startups” on their client rosters. Anyway, here’s Vooza’s newest one, created to promote itself:

Obvious joke, sure, but it’s totally true. If your editor hadn’t been fortunate enough to meet his wife before he began using any networks beyond Facebook, he would SO be that guy.

Remember this one the next time you break out your phone at dinner…unless you have double digit Twitter mentions.

Former CBS Reporter Claims Firms Sway Opinion with Fake Social Profiles

One’s personal opinion of former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson may depend on how seriously one takes her claim that the White House hacked her personal computer in order to prevent her from telling the truth about Benghazi. (For what it’s worth, she also recently attempted to resuscitate the long-disproven idea that vaccines cause autism.)

Still, we found this little clip from Attkisson’s recent Larry King interview interesting:

We know from personal experience that many media groups’ internal PR teams do indeed spend time trolling relevant comment threads. We know that certain companies create accounts strictly to gauge public sentiment via social media. We also know that many advocacy groups cast themselves as “grassroots” when they’re actually well-funded, well-oiled political machines.

Still, we’re skeptical of this claim: how many fake accounts could a single firm create for each client? And what’s the ROI on working with fake influencers, anyway?

Affect Launches ‘How to’ Series to Share Best Practices and Dispel PR Myths

The people at New York-based B2B firm Affect PR are friends of the site who are always looking for ways to help fellow PR pros in the Big Apple: in 2012 we covered efforts by owner and President Sandra Fathi to provide workspace to area PRs whose offices were knocked out of commission by Hurricane Katrina, and last year the firm’s “New York Intern Project” grew up to become the “New York Job Project.

We were very interested in Affect’s latest project: a series of weekly 90-second “How To” clips aimed at both fellow PRs and potential clients/applicants. Here’s one episode in which Fathi explains “story hijacking” or “newsjacking”:

Today we spoke to Fathi to learn more; Q&A after the jump.

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How Bad Was Uber’s ‘Apology?’

You all saw Uber CEO Travis Kalinick‘s version of an “apology” earlier this week. We gave the company’s official response to its SVP of business’s “we will DESTROY you and your family” threat to Pando’s Sarah Lacy a D+ for minimal effort, and Lacy herself agreed, telling CNN that the company needs “accountability.” We take that to mean actions rather than empty words, but today a Bloomberg report covered by Mashable strongly indicated that the guilty party, Emil Michael, won’t be going anywhere.

Today our friends at Fast Company gave us their hot take on the story, and it’s quite amusing. Take it away, Jason Feifer:

Have to agree with him here: an apology made via a series of tweets reads, “do I REALLY have to do this?”

We have no idea what additional steps the company will take since Kalanick has been silent over the past couple of days. In the meantime, we’ll make a point of NOT waiting for more expert commentary from one Ashton Kutcher.

YouTube Food and Lifestyle Personalities Share Branding Tips

YouTube Truvia Baking Contest Final“Mix, taste, frost, yum and done” – those were among the steps that a contestant used to bake brown sugar cupcakes. She was competing at an event this week to be a baking star sponsored by Truvia, a natural sweetener. Four YouTube food and lifestyle stars judged the desserts and offered insights on how they each rose to video fame.

While the baking techniques were straightforward, the path to becoming a YouTube sensation isn’t as clear cut. As moderator and YouTube beauty channel host Rachel Talbott noted, it takes time. As the judges concurred, it also takes resourcefulness and an ongoing, concerted effort to stand out from the crowd. The panelists included:

Byron Talbott: professionally trained chef, Byron Talbott channel
April Moore: online foodie, mom and lifestyle expert with 3 YouTube channels
Gaby Dalkin: cookbook author, food/lifestyle writer, What’s Gaby Cooking channel
Joanne Ozug: recipe developer behind Fifteen Spatulas channel

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White House Expands on Anti-Sexual Assault PSA Campaign

The mid-terms may have turned decisively against the Obama administration, but that doesn’t mean that any of its initiatives — the ones that don’t require congressional approval, at least — will slow down.

One of those initiatives is the “It’s On Us” PSA campaign that aims to encourage Americans to take action to prevent sexual assault. The first spot in the series appeared in April, and a second one, created by ad agency Mekanism and promoted by Sunshine Sachs, hit our inboxes back in September. The second chapter featured an all-star cast of celebrities calling upon the public to take a pledge and make a “personal commitment to help keep women and men safe.”

The newest video is less impressive in terms of its cast but more direct with the message:

We like the work, which keeps things simple and direct in aiming at a very specific audience.

But we do wonder whether — as in the case of the recent NFL-approved anti-domestic violence PSA — this important message will go unheard amidst the politics-as-usual noise.

The Only #AlexFromTarget Lesson Worth Learning

Here’s a super-quick clip from Fast Company in which Senior Editor Jason Feifer explains the only real lesson brands can learn from Alex and the brouhaha that followed his viral breakthrough. Stick with it for a minute:

Unlike Dorothy, most people on the Internet have no interest in seeing the man behind the curtain. We literally DO NOT CARE.* We also don’t appreciate brands claiming ownership of things they didn’t create, which is why Target’s hands-off approach works in this case.

*This statement might not apply to trade bloggers, but who pays attention to them anyway?