Posts filed under ‘Media Relations’

The Super Bowl, Its Audience, Its Ads and Its Lessons for Professional Services Companies

Another Super Bowl is in the books, which means another set of incredibly expensive commercials have aired. This year, CBS charged $5 million for 30 seconds. As a marketer, the last thing you want is to air an ad that falls flat or is panned. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the real winners from last night, besides the Denver Broncos, and also consider how this game and these ads hold lessons for professional services companies.

Macro Takeaways:

The “Big Game” is fast-becoming one of, if not the only, “must-see” TV event. The Super Bowl, like sports on TV in general, is best consumed live. I actually DVR’d the game, mainly to skip some of the opening introductions and create an escape valve from the Coldplay-headlined halftime show. (Little did I realize that Beyoncé had us all covered.) In the end, I skipped maybe a handful of “Blue Bloods” promos and local car ads, finishing right about on time with the rest of the country. Not only is the Super Bowl essential viewing, but the league and its broadcasters uncharacteristically tear down content walls to make sure that you can watch it on any device, anywhere.

The Super Bowl defies audience fragmentation. The most-watched TV finale ever is M*A*S*H, which drew 105.9 million viewers in 1983. 80.4 million tuned-in for one last Cheers in 1993. Last night’s game drew an estimated 114.4 million viewers. As a point of comparison, the widely celebrated and talked about Breaking Bad drew 10.3 million for its finale in 2013. Game 7 of the 2014 MLB World Series between the Giants and the Royals topped out at 52 million viewers. This enormous audience is why the game is so important to advertisers and such an anomaly compared to the 364 other days of the year when marketers – both consumer and professional services – compete for audience attention in an environment of limitless distractions.

“Embedded” marketing is a new trend. Minutes after the game ended, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning embraced “Papa” John Schnatter of Papa John’s pizza chain, of which Peyton is both a pitchman and a franchise owner. Then, speaking with a sideline reporter, Manning noted that he was going to “drink a lot of Budweiser tonight.” Sports economics reporter Darren Rovell tweeted that the two mentions were worth the equivalent of $3.2M in bought ad time:

And, the real kicker? While Manning owns 32 Papa John’s, he has no deal in place with Budweiser. Of course, the brewer was more than tickled:

The idea of embedded advertising isn’t new, it is just gaining in popularity as users DVR and stream content commercial free. Just ask the Burger “King.”

Here are my winners:

Papa John’s – Without buying an ad they were part of the game.

Budweiser – Not only did they get some free buzz marketing, they had a very on-point spot with Helen Mirren eviscerating, via British-laced condemnation, drunk driving.

T-Mobile – Two excellent spots. The first with Steve Harvey mocking his own error at the Miss Universe contest as the cell company rebuts rival Verizon’s network claims.

The best spot of the night was “Restricted Bling,” with a cheesy Drake gladly inserting a variety of terms and limitations into his phone-themed hit “Hotline Bling.”

Amazon/Jason Schwartzman – Off-beat humor from a company that has been running a series of “Prime”-themed ads that are hit-or-miss (e.g. ordering a baby carrier to walk around with a dog). The “Baldwin Bowl” was a great set-up. Dan Marino complaining about breading wings and actor Jason Schwartzman hurling food at him was an easy touchdown.

Coca-Cola – The Hulk/Ant-Man ad was well-done (featuring Paul Rudd for the second time in the evening). The company is focused on pushing sales of smaller portions and the small (Ant-Man), medium (Coke can) and large (Hulk) subjects provided excellent contrast.

Quick lessons:

  1. Push your content on all devices and platforms. If it’s good enough for the NFL, it’s good enough for you.
  2. When you have a large, high-value, captive audience (think well-attended client seminars/webinars), capitalize on the marketing opportunity.
  3. Create vehicles and content that attract large, high-value and engaged audiences. (Then, see #2.)
  4. Consider non-conventional advertising strategies. In addition to the Peyton Manning in-game marketing, companies such as GoDaddy highlighted their brand via a 30-second commercial during the live stream of the game on CBS’ website.
  5. Content is and always will be king. Aim to produce and market content that is best-in-class and for which there is no substitute.

Michael Bond

February 8, 2016 at 6:58 pm Leave a comment

The Evolution of Media at-a-Glance

In recent months, a few news items have stood out as noteworthy, as they are emblematic of the shifting media landscape:

So what does it all mean?

  • The cable “bundle” is under attack.
  • The traditional over-the-air broadcast model faces threats as well.
  • While audio programing, and even long-form storytelling, remains viable, traditional programmed broadcast radio remains under pressure.
  • Mobile and social are king and the new “editors” are tech programmers. The physical print product is quickly becoming the ever-changing “feed.”

OK, but what does it mean for professional services companies?

  • Traditional ecosystems and gatekeepers are no longer sacrosanct.
  • Traditional content consumed by new technologies is still content consumed.
  • Wield the tools of the Internet. The printing press and the radio tower are on your desktop and in your pocket.
  • Get social and get mobile. Happily, the two go together.

Here are some potential, forward-thinking resolutions:

  • Don’t get hung up on, “Did we make the print edition?” (or be disappointed when you didn’t.)
  • Stop qualifying online media mentions.
    • “John Smith on The Wall Street Journal website” – NO
    • “John Smith on The Wall Street Journal” – YES
  • Leverage social media. Focus on publishing content on well-trafficked outlets and use company-level accounts to amplify impact.

By being aware and forward-thinking about target audiences’ content consumption, one can evolve with the times and maximize exposure.

Michael Bond

November 14, 2014 at 9:14 pm Leave a comment

The Deliciousness of Social Media Engagement

Check out Adweek’s recent “Brand of the Day” – Cinnabon! I listened to Kat Cole, their chief operating officer, speak at the Legal Marketing Association’s (LMA) Annual Conference last April, initially wondering what a young woman who markets cinnamon rolls (come chicken wings) would have to offer a room full of legal marketers accustomed to supporting the “sale” of $500+ per hour professional services. Within minutes, all skepticism about the “fit” with this audience was gone, and I was actively engaged (and, no, it had nothing to do with the Cinnabon vodka samples on the table).

A key message from that presentation was “know your audience” – something Kat had clearly taken the time to do with the LMA crowd prior to walking on stage and something her brand does consistently in its marketing (and in its employee/franchisee relations). Much of the value of social media for professional services marketers and communicators is the insight it provides into human behavior, current events and issues. Listening to your target audiences has never been easier – their thoughts are often in the public domain and even searchable and sortable by hashtags. Similarly, we can see current media trends and interests – both in reporters’ Twitter musings and in the published and shared content created and consumed. Heck, on most social media interfaces you’ve even got a box on the side of the page telling you what’s “trending!”

But my own personal takeaway that day is even more directly tied to the reason Cinnabon has 63,000 tweets and an avid following. Personally, I’m not a terribly active tweeter. I’m episodic at best, and generally tweet when it’s professionally warranted. (See previous lurker listener comments about the nature of my usage.) At the LMA Annual Conference (and most other professional development gigs), I make every effort to share a nugget or two of tweetable wisdom with my colleagues back at the office and friends who couldn’t make it to the event. On the day Kat spoke, I tagged her in a tweet about halfway through her presentation – noting my new-found respect for Cinnabon and Hooters (Kat joined Cinnabon after serving as Vice President of Training and Development for Hooters of America Inc.) two brands with which I’d had only limited interaction until that moment. Within minutes of her standing ovation and while she was still out of breath from her energetic presentation, @KatColeATL replied – and so did Cinnabon:

tstuarttweet

To this day, I have never stepped into (or eaten) a Cinnabon, but I perceive that I have a “relationship” with the brand thanks to a 10-second interaction with one of their brand ambassadors via Twitter.

Social media is about connecting – plain and simple. The most effective connections involve both listening and interacting.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I did give the Cinnabon vodka a shot.)

— Traci Stuart

September 16, 2014 at 7:33 pm Leave a comment

Community Content is “King”

On July 11, NBA fans and sports enthusiasts alike were flooded with news reports announcing the return of LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers. James began his incredibly successful NBA career as a Cav in 2003. After James left for the Miami Heat in 2010, the perception was that James had betrayed the Cleveland fans and the community. When decision time came around again, James knew that the “news” of his comeback had to be about more than basketball – a lesson that professional services companies need to always consider when publicizing developments and crafting overall image strategies.

In stark contrast to his 2010 ESPN special, “The Decision,” when he announced that he was “taking [his] talents to South Beach,” James this time chose to publish a carefully crafted “homecoming” essay on Sports Illustrated. The piece emphasized his connection to the Cleveland community and his personal relationship with northeast Ohio:

But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.

James, no doubt with the help of a seasoned public relations team serving as assistant wordsmiths, reached fans on a personal level by emphasizing his commitment to the community (including mention of the LeBron James Family Foundation). The piece shows his awareness that his physical presence on the court remains vital to raise visibility for his volunteer efforts and helps to provide the community with a central figure to rally behind.

The lesson here is that professional services companies can significantly raise their profiles in the communities in which they are based, and where their employees reside, by taking the time to call attention to the many good deeds they perform on a regular basis. Charitable donations, “fun-runs,” Habitat for Humanity and many more civic and charitable endeavors all make great fodder for organizational websites and “Community Focus” sections of local newspapers and business journals. Snapping a few photos of volunteers, runners and company signage helps increase chances of exposure.

By increasing awareness of community efforts, professional services companies can also become eligible for philanthropy-based awards – a significant and frequent nomination category for business journals. Being active and engaged also helps shape a personable identity for clients, and shows a commitment to not only an industry, but to the community as a whole.

Emulating LeBron James on the court is next to impossible. (His extensive chalk-blowing routine is generally frowned upon in the workplace.) However, embracing his 2014 community relations-savviness is a worthwhile and relatively easy task. Look for ways to emphasize and publicize a commitment to the community. This kind of strategic thinking is always a slam-dunk.

— Natalie Cuadros and Chuck Brown

August 7, 2014 at 8:07 pm Leave a comment

Crowdsourcing – Lawyers Quickly Embracing the Idea

The statement “all the cool kids are doing it” is usually signals a fad. However, in the case of crowdsourcing, the idea is no longer a trend and quickly becoming a staple of the Internet. While most think of crowdsourcing as start-ups looking for capital, it is actually broader and, in the modern era, encompasses the established idea of asking for help or offering services with an online twist.

Wikipedia defines crowdsourcing as “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.”

The keys in the definition for professional service firms are “services” and “ideas.” PricewaterhouseCoopers identified these methods in a whitepaper published in 2011. Similar to blogs and even websites, law firms may have been weary at first, but once the value was identified, crowdsourcing has become entrenched in the legal arena.

Case in point, AttorneyFee, Jurify, LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, BriefMine and MyRight have all launched within the last couple of years.

Adam Ziegler, the founder of Mootus, an online platform for legal argument and insight, said the more he learned about crowdsourcing, the more it made sense as a potential tool for lawyers.

However, it is not just services and research that have embraced crowdsourcing. A divorce law firm in North Carolina turned to a “crowd for marketing help and ended up with more effective pay-per-click ads and a new logo that reflects its practice focus.

Legal marking professionals have even suggested that crowdsourcing can be used for publishing articles and optimizing websites and lawyer bios.

For further proof of crowdsourcing’s influence on the legal industry, consider that others may follow the example of an employee who raised money for an appeal through online donations. The White House even considered crowdsourcing the review of patents.

Needless to say, the population “cool kids doing it” is quickly expanding to lawyers.

Chuck Brown

June 9, 2014 at 1:17 pm Leave a comment

Why You Need a Picture for Your Recent News

Sharing your career news/moves in the “On the Move” sections of local business journals, industry trade publications and even your alumni magazines is a great way to keep the business community abreast and engage your professional network. However, too often news of this sort is sent out without a photo. Editors have a twin objective: deliver the news, and do so in a layout that is visually appealing. When given the choice between two similar news items, one with a photo and one without, the one with will win every time.

Let’s delve into some of the reasons why photos aren’t being sent or aren’t being used when they are sent:

1)     Photos are out-of-date. We have all seen the black-and-white ‘80s mugshots that some professionals so desperately hold onto, perhaps in light of an ever-dwindling hairline (something I know well) or intractable insistence that they not be photographed again. We have actually seen situations in which the “master” takes are physical, not digital. Your clients and potential clients deserve to see the you of today, not the you of the Reagan Era.

2)     High-res versions are nowhere to be found. The photos that appear on your website are vastly scaled-down versions of a high-resolution shot. The full-size photo (sometimes slightly scaled-down) is what publications need. If you search-and-search and can only find the tiny pictures, you need to take a new photo. A good photographer should provide you with full-scale and small-scale photos. The real issue is that you can always size a large photo down without losing quality, but you can never do the reverse.

3)     Senior leaders refuse to be photographed. A high-quality headshot needs to be a prerequisite for all public-facing, senior-level professionals. By not setting – and holding individuals – to this standard, you are sending a strange message to clients. Frankly, you want to avoid the, “I think he is a recluse,” comments. Photographs personalize relationships, ever-important in an increasingly remote world, and convey subtle messages such as confidence and trustworthiness.

4)     The only photos we have are from the old firm or personal collection. The former is a copyright issue and should be avoided. The latter is rife with issues ranging from poor resolution to cropping out other people in a photo.

So, what should you do if you have news ready-to-go and no photo to accompany it? Wait. Non-pressing news will simply be more impactful if paired with a pictorial component. One strategy to avoid these sorts of scenarios is to create an “On the Move”/new hire checklist and add an entry for securing a high-res photo. A picture may not be worth a thousand words, but it will help your item merit greater attention.

Michael Bond

March 11, 2014 at 1:37 pm Leave a comment

Are Press Releases Useful?

Every week, key company executives receive emails from their marketing and communications teams with press releases attached for review. No doubt these documents elicit groans at times. More than one managing partner or president has thought, “Do these things ever generate any business, or are we just spinning our wheels?” The question at prima facie is not unreasonable. After all, a lot of time goes into writing, editing and disseminating these documents.

While PR styles differ in many aspects, the press release itself tends to follow a fairly simple formula:

  • Headline – Factual introduction of release, needs to include firm name and (if applicable) name of individual involved.
  • Paragraph one – Who, what, where, when, how and why.
  • Paragraph two – Often a quote from senior company official offering commentary.
  • Body paragraph(s) – More explanation of the event/and or individual involved.
  • Issuer Description Who the issuing organization is and what they do.

In an ideal world, a press release clocks in at 300-500 words. Press releases have never been a vehicle designed for calling an organization “great” or “first-class.” They are fact-driven documents with a sliver of strategic commentary included via the quote. Every statement should be verifiable and direct.

The reason for this sort of rigidity is that different readers are looking for different things:

  • Media – They generally use only the information in paragraph one.
  • Alumni Organizations –They generally use paragraph one and school-specific information found in the body copy.
  • General Public – The entire release. This is why, while you shouldn’t expect the media to run the release’s quote, you should anticipate clients and potential clients will be reading it. Also, this is why both the body paragraph’s firm-specific portion and the release’s boilerplate content matter.

(It should be noted that releases for publicly traded companies that could materially affect a company are entirely different from those in discussion.)

But, who really reads this stuff?

Press releases, absent a compelling reason, are rarely read by the general public. However, when doing due diligence on an organization, they are essential vetting material. The value of a well-crafted, strategic press release may not manifest itself for months or years. Consider, however, the alternative wherein a firm de-values these sorts of communications. That firm’s website will provide a great deal less content, leading some to think that it either: a) is not being proactive in marketing the organization; or b) is a place where nothing seems to happen.

Top-of-mind

Press releases also serve a vital role in helping to keep an organization’s name in circulation, both with the public and the media. Being proactive about promoting partner elevations, office openings and expansions and awards garnered, keep a firm’s name in front of key editors and reporters. It is not uncommon for a press release to either: a) lead to a story about an organization; or b) see a new company member suddenly tapped by a reporter for commentary.

PR has changed a great deal since we first opened our doors 23 years ago. However, a core deliverable of the profession remains as valuable as ever. While certainly not as glamorous as being quoted in the New York Times, press releases are fundamental to an organization’s well-being and well worth the effort.

Michael Bond

November 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm Leave a comment

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