Aghast!

July 22, 2016

by Roger Pynn

Journalists, journalists-turned-public relations people and lifelong PR folks seemed aghast on social media yesterday when news broke that Florida Today announced plans to cease publication of the Central Florida Future, the newspaper targeting University of Central Florida students.

Serving the nation’s second-largest university with a population in excess of 61,000, many couldn’t get their arms around how this could happen.  After all, the Future started out as the on-campus, university-sponsored newspaper at my alma mater just two years short of half a century ago. The Central Florida news and PR community is heavily stacked with alumni from UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication … many of whom cut their journalistic teeth reporting and editing at the paper.

The Future became part of Florida Today in 2007 when its parent company Gannett purchased it after more than a decade of private ownership following a move off campus in 1992.

Oh my how times have changed … but it hardly seems surprising.  If this isn’t an omen for the future of printed newspapers, I don’t know what is.  As one of our UCF grad employees said, “The students don’t read that paper.  They only want the gossip they can get online.”

If that’s the case, the social and civic implications are just as concerning as the future it portends for newspapers in general.  Civic literacy scores have been plummeting for years with less than half of the tested population often failing tests that gauge their knowledge of how to participate in their communities.

Gannett didn’t get out of the business because it didn’t like young readers.  It got out because there weren’t any.  How we expect to rely on a generation that won’t read news (or can’t distinguish between news and gossip, commentary or online rants) is a scary proposition for those who have no choice but to place our faith in their ability to lead.


Playing the Trump Card

June 28, 2016

by Dan Ward

Donald Trump’s recent free-fall in the polls holds an important lesson for communicators (beyond the obvious “don’t base your entire messaging platform on insults”).

Trump appears to be falling into a common trap that ensnares many communicators:  believing tools are the same as strategies.  Earlier this month, Trump dismissed the need for extensive fundraising, stating “I just don’t think I need nearly as much money as other people need because I get so much publicity … I get so many interviews, if I want them.”

He did generate a tremendous amount of publicity during the primaries, relying heavily on provocative tweets.  That may work in a primary where candidates speak to “the base,” but a general election campaign requires a comprehensive strategy … relationship-building with key influencers, market segmentation and targeted communication, targeted (and expensive) advertising buys, nuanced position statements, direct outreach, and delegation of authority to teams who can spread a candidate’s message through a solid “ground game.”

The same is true in managing a strategic communication campaign for a client or corporation.  Twitter is not a strategy.  It’s a tool.  Publicity alone is not enough to move the needle and drive consumers, influencers, elected leaders and regulators to action.  We need a ground game, too.

It remains to be seen whether Trump’s decision to bring in new campaign leadership will lead to a more comprehensive, and more successful, campaign.  He has an opportunity given the political weaknesses of his opponent.  But if he continues to focus on those weaknesses in two-minute sound bites and 140-character tweets at the expense of a real strategy, his numbers will continue to fall.


Kicking the Bucket

June 27, 2016

by Roger Pynn

No.  This isn’t about that.

Sometimes you just run into a great piece of marketing savvy and it makes you smile.

I can usually be found most weekends visiting either a Home Depot or a Lowe’s store (or both) as I work on the old “Honey Do” list.  And, no … I’m not handy, but like everyone else, there’s always something to fix.

And, yes, like many of you I’ve bought one of those now ubiquitous orange buckets at Home Depot.  Until this weekend, I never even knew that there was a blue Lowe’s bucket.  As little research shows buckets are big business with the two home improvement giants aggressively pricing them a penny apart.

Bucket

Now, with this clever promotion, I’m betting many of us will question what color bucket suits us best.


Do Good. All the Time.

June 27, 2016

by Ashley Tinstman

In the days since the tragedy in Orlando, our city has experienced immense pain, sadness and shock.  But in spite of our grief, we’ve also experienced something positive—incredible strength and resiliency.  As we collectively come to terms with what took place in the city we call home, the outpouring of love and support has been absolutely inspiring.

While local citizens have come together to give blood, donate money and volunteer their time, the response from dozens—if not hundreds—of companies, both large and small, has been equally as impressive.  Just a quick Google search will yield countless stories highlighting various companies and how they’re supporting the community.

Take JetBlue, for example.  As has been widely reported, the airline is offering free seats to and from Orlando for the immediate family members and domestic partners of the victims.  The company also made a $100,000 donation to the OneOrlando fund.  Similarly, Comcast NBCUniversal, parent company of Universal Orlando Resort, generously donated $1 million to the OneOrlando fund.

In the hours following the tragedy, Publix quickly mobilized to hand out free food, water and ice to first responders and others affected by the shooting.  UnitedHealth Group also showed extraordinary support by opening its mental health counseling help lines to anyone in need—whether they had insurance or not.

I could go on and on with dozens more examples—and that doesn’t even include the many bars, restaurants and local businesses holding fundraisers.  But my point in sharing all that is this:  It’s good to see companies doing good.  But giving back and supporting a community shouldn’t be a temporary thing.  It should be a way of life in business.

After tragedies such as this, it’s easy to come together, donate your resources and then go back to business as usual.  But “doing good” should be part of your company culture—all year long.  And I’m not talking about writing a few checks to a worthy cause out of obligation.  This is about creating a culture where it’s a natural part of your business on a regular basis.  Not only will those you support benefit from it, but so will your employees, your reputation and, ultimately, your brand.


Cracker Jack: It’s All About the Prize

June 24, 2016

by Heather Keroes

When a mysterious benefactor left a basket of Cracker Jack boxes in our break room this morning, I was only too happy to help myself to a box.  I can’t recall the last time I enjoyed the ballpark favorite, but today I would end the Cracker Jack drought.  Tearing into the small cardboard box brought back memories.  It wasn’t necessarily the tasty treat I was longing for – I was in it for the PRIZE.  Aforementioned prize was typically a temporary tattoo, which is probably the only kind of tattoo I would ever dare consider.

Cracker Jack has been around for more than 120 years and I’d speculate that nostalgia has been responsible for its staying power.  There hasn’t been any significant change to Cracker Jack in recent years until owner Frito-Lay announced a few months ago that the infamous “prize in the box” was going bye-bye and would be replaced by a mobile experience.  The box in my hands this morning, however, was clearly labeled to denote that a prize awaited me inside.

Moment of truth.  I opened the box and found the prize – a sticker that would serve as a QR code of sorts so I could play “Blipp the ball game.”  Blippar is an augmented reality app (admittedly, I had never heard of it) and is not owned by Frito-Lay.  The instructions for the mobile experience were difficult to read and clearly not meant for those of us who are farsighted … or nearsighted … or any-sighted.  I managed to download the app and unlocked my prize – a “Step Up to the Plate” game to create my own baseball card.  While I wouldn’t call this experience a “game,” I did get a kick out of picking my name (Captain Cool), play style (hustler, of course) and jersey number (lucky 13).  Below is the result, which I am bravely sharing on this blog.

Cracker Jack, you crack me up.  Will this new prize experience help Frito-Lay sell more Cracker Jack?  That depends on the target.  If it’s children, I’m not sure this mobile experience is enough to move boxes, although it certainly made me laugh.  I still want my tattoo, though.

Cracker


Time for Good News

June 23, 2016

by Kacie Escobar

It’s been almost two weeks since the tragedy in Orlando and the volume of related coverage has been overwhelming.

We initially refocused our media relations strategy, postponing news release distributions and working with reporters to table several stories in the works.  Call it an approach to avoid appearing tone deaf.  But, frankly, any other “news” just didn’t seem newsworthy in light of recent headlines.

No one can escape the sadness of stories about such events – certainly not the journalists who write them.  That’s why an email I received yesterday stood out.  An editor inquired about one of our clients.  He said the paper is desperate for uplifting news.

Although we will never forget, the email made clear that our community is beginning to overcome this difficult time.  As the healing process continues, local headlines will become a more positive reflection of The City Beautiful and PR pros are vital to advancing that transition.

It may be counterintuitive to seek publicity during this dark time, but your good news could be just what the media needs.


The Early Bird Gets the Worm

June 22, 2016

by Kim Stangle

For years, my business partners and I have been participating in an annual cohort of agencies from non-competing markets to share best practices and learn from each other.  Sometimes value comes during the “formal” sessions and other times it’s just a nugget of wisdom passed on in a roundtable.

During last year’s session, the founder of a very successful Texas agency shared his ‘nugget of wisdom,’ which I’m paraphrasing as essentially, the early bird gets the worm.  He went on to tell the story of at least one client his firm had won because (among other reasons, I’m sure) they were first to respond to an inquiry for service.

We saw the same result unfold last December when we quickly answered an email inquiry through our website.  With little to no cost to “land” the business, we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a new brand launch.

I’m not at all undermining reputation and expertise, but sometimes, the early bird does get the worm.


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