• The Pepper Shaker

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Wishing You a Very Digital Christmas

Stories are told different ways.

Here’s how the Internet would tell you the story of the Nativity.  We’re not talking about a web site (there would be thousands of those.) This is as if the Internet could tell you the story. This is how it would go:

Happy Christmas and a very digital New Year to you, too!


All Eyes on You for Halloween

Making publicity plans around holidays has got to be a staple for PR and marketing professionals. Everyone loves a holiday, so it would be best to associate your brand with themes and feelings that people already love. The more unique the tactic you present to the situation, the better. And because Halloween is all about having fun, it’s easy.

On the most candy-glorified day of the year, what would a dentist do? An example I’ve seen is from a dental practice in Santa Barbara, CA called Johnson Family Dental. They are holding an event where kids can trade in their Halloween candy for money. It was the first time I’ve heard of the idea – and the idea is brilliant. Why? Because the message all dentists would want to convey is dental hygiene.  If they hold this idea to the max, they might give you a toothbrush when you knock on their door. (Sad time for kids, I’m sure.)

Happy Halloween!

Events like these bring people through thier doors as kids, maybe with a push from parents, come inside to trade a pound of candy for a two dollars. Johnson Family Dental will then send the money to troops overseas through Operation Gratitude. Doesn’t get much better than that. This kind of event, one in which everyone benefits, results in a win-win-win situation. It might take more thought, but that’s what good PR requires.

Imitation: The Sincerest Form of Flattery

That’s how the saying goes. I have been thinking about this phrase and wonder: aren’t we all just copying what we’ve seen done before? For the most part, I think so. We see the qualities in others and evaluate what we like and don’t like, which then influences us to act in a similar manner. I mean, you like how that person listens, you like how that person does her hair, you don’t like a person’s laugh, you don’t like the example they set for children, etc. – so, you act likewise.

So when someone imitates you, how do you feel? Flattered? I say most people do (so long as it’s a good quality.) I would also say some people feel annoyed. (“Don’t be a copycat!”) When it comes to the communications world,  I would say communicators are the same way. Some companies won’t like that you are trying to copy them. For example, why does Burger King always “invent” and promote the same product that McDonald’s is advertising? I bet that gets annoying for McDonald’s.

But what about imitations that are like parodies? I don’t have statistical evidence, but I think when someone creates a parody of your product or advertisement, it usually boosts visibility of the original product. It creates the thought in mind that if they are doing a remake of that song/commercial/video/show/etc, that original product must be have been popular in the first place.

To get what I’m saying, I’ve included two videos below. The first is a parody of the recent instant-classic Old Spice commercial, created by students at Brigham Young University in promoting use of the university library. This ad wouldn’t make sense on it’s own – audiences must know the original work. The parody then strengthens the awareness of the original (and the product, too!) So, not only is it flattering for Old Spice, but it brings in more awareness and more $$$.

And this one: imitation at its most basic natural tendencies. But to get why this is so funny, people must be familiar with Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video, right? (OK, this one may be funny either way.) Copycats bring in the ratings not only for themselves, but for that which is being copied. Interesting, right?

Kanye and Taylor: Not a Love Story (Makes for a Good PR One, Though)

I am sure you remember the most talked about story from MTV’s Video Music Awards from last year, don’t you? It was quite a controversial episode. I mean, it is MTV after all. Kanye took down Taylor Swift’s big moment as she won “Best Female Video” by claiming that Beyonce actually had a better video, “the best video of all time.” Taylor, obviously, becomes upset and leaves the stage. Watch the video here, if you like:

Kanye later issued an apology and Taylor has accepted, but there seems to still be some tension there or at least some joking around. Kanye talked about it on “The Tonight Show”, Taylor sang about it on “Saturday Night Live”, and last night, at the 2010 VMAs, Taylor debuted a new song with these lyrics:

“I guess you really did it this time. Left yourself in your war path. Lost your balance on a tightrope. Lost your mind trying to get it back.” She later sings, “Everyone one of us has messed up too. It’s all right, just wait and see. Your string of lights is still bright to me. You’re still an innocent.”

So what is all this doing for their PR? Personally, for Taylor: it’s up. She is the innocent victim, her fans rally behind her, and she forgives him – creating a great image. For Kanye: neutral. Most people dissed him, which is bad. But admittedly, he may have gotten exactly what he wanted – the bad boy image. And for MTV publicity – up. They are always causing dramatic sensations that make them popular in the first place. With last night’s VMAs, this is becoming  one long story that is still getting attention for both the celebrities and the network. They must certainly enjoy being the host of it all.

Nearly Instant Fame for Mr. Antoine Dodson

It’s hard to say what makes someone famous. It’s a mysterious recipe. (I am sure it has some pepper in it. ;)) Every once in a while, you get very normal people who shoot to fame for the funniest reasons. But I am 100 percent certain this spontaneous fame is fueled by social media.

You may have heard of Antoine Dodson already. I first heard about him after seeing a few postings on Facebook. His story is actually serious: his sister was attacked by a man who snuck into her window. The man tried to rape Dodson’s sister, but got away when Antoine entered the room to find what was going on. The following report ran on a Huntsville, Alabama news station:

So here you have a great character acting out against the attacker. And really, that’s all it is. So what made him get so noticeable? As in all publicity, in order for something to really become popular, the product has ACTUALLY got to be good! In this case, it’s his character, his way of speech, and his excitement. People find it entertaining, and then they share with their friends. Then, before you know it, you get things like these:

Then BOOM! Antoine Dodson is famous. There are over 6 million views for both of those videos! I think the best way to become a hit is you have to really show something unique for yourself, present it in a legitimate forum or channel, and of course, make sure it’s on YouTube. Now you can run and tell that, run and tell that, run and tell that… 🙂

PR and Comic Strips

I learned something new this last week: an entirely new tactic for businesses to communicate with their audience. I’ve never thought of doing this, and see it as quite brilliant!

While some believe print newspapers are going out of fashion as media practices concentrate more on technology, the comics are still widely popular. On some days, “the funnies” may be all you read in the paper. But popular comic strips are catching on to the Internet wave and are now making their funnies available online.

Take the popular comic strip, “Dilbert.” According to some research, there are 150 million Dilbert readers in 49 countries! Dilbert.com receives more than 16 million page views and nearly 400,000 people subscribe to receive daily Dilbert comics in their inbox.

Think of the advantages, there. The company I work for has partnered with Dilbert this last week to produce a few comic strips that are relevant to one of our products. What a unique and fun way to get messages across to an audience. Which comic strip is your favorite?

Dilbert –  Published August 15, 2010


What’s in a Word?

If you like to write, chances are you have had some fun with your words. If you’re like me or like thousands of desperate college students in English classes, you’ve looked up in a thesaurus for more intriguing words or phrases for your article or paper.

While using all those tricky words might make you proud, it’s easy to go over the edge, especially for public relations professionals. I’ve helped my wife various times with some of her writing assignments back in college. After reading back to her what I came up with, it would often be followed with, “what?” or, “you sound like you know what you’re saying…but I know you don’t!”

As public relations professionals, we can’t afford to be caught! We must truthfully communicate- always. Too many journalists, editors and readers will go through what you have created, so keep in mind that clear and precise wording is always key.

You will also notice that all language used in social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is used is kept casual, straightforward, and fun. Never articulate, nor laced with elaborate wordsmithery. (That sentence is a negative reinforcement.  🙂  )

The following conversation actually took place between journalist Gene Weingarten and one of a few PR professionals. He sarcastically attempts to test their jargon-filled writing with an actual follow-up phone call:

“I started with Angelia Jackson, the PR person for Clarkston.

Me: Vis-a-vis the implementation of SAP technology, what is the source-related derivation of the acronymically based identifier of the service entity, and how does it operate so as to enhance production and profitability or, alternatively, improve the business model of the shelf-stable protein supplier of which Clarkston is now a client?

Angelia: So you’re asking me what SAP is an acronym for and how it helps Bumble Bee?


Angelia: Hello?

Me: You understood me?

Angelia: Sure, it was very clear.

I didn’t know what to say. I had no backup plan! So I thanked her for her time and next tried Meir Kahtan, representing MasterCard.”

Go to his article, “Read It and Lacrimate” to read his conversations with a couple other PR practitioners, and see how well they use their words. Remember, though, simplicity is best!

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