From Papercuts to Smartphones and Back Again

February 14, 2017

by Heather Keroes

I’m an addict.  It’s a Saturday morning and I am glancing down at my iPhone while attending a child’s birthday party.  Although I try not to respond to emails over the weekend and after close-of-business, I like to keep an eye on things.  The world doesn’t stop because it’s a weekend and as a PR professional, it’s my job to always be listening.  And so, over the cheers of children hitting a piñata, I multitask, switching between my phone and another forkful of cake.

I am not alone.  Most of us check our emails on smartphones and tablets and this mobility has changed the way we work.  When I began my public relations journey more than 13 years ago, you couldn’t check email on-the-go (unless you were among the first lucky folks to own a BlackBerry). And even with access to my desktop computer, I stuffed envelopes, mailed press kits, faxed information and (shocker) regularly pitched media by phone.

These days, I have significantly fewer papercuts and I’m able to manage client requests and issues anywhere at any time.  But this doesn’t mean that the “old ways” are obsolete.  In fact, they can still be the most powerful ways to communicate (I’m a fan of phone calls, especially).  It’s important for all of us – those who have grown up with email and tablets, as well as those of us who remember the pre-Facebook days – to not lose sight of the tried-and-true communication methods that foster conversation and engagement.

Ask anyone at Curley & Pynn, and they will tell you that once we have determined our publics and our message, we take aim and fire through mediums that have the greatest impact with our target.  And while that may often mean email or other digital means, that doesn’t mean we don’t get papercuts from time to time.


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


Pearls of Wisdom for Moe’s

December 7, 2015

by Heather Keroes

“Welcome to Moe’s!” Just hearing that phrase makes my mouth water and my stomach grumble as it yearns for burritos, chips and queso.  I subscribe to Moe’s Southwest Grill’s text alerts, which keep me informed of important burrito deals.  On Black Friday, for example, I would fully expect to receive (and did) a text offering me amazing burrito savings to help fuel my shopping.  But today marks the 74th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  This isn’t a day when I would expect to receive the following text alert:  “Pearl Harbor Day got you HUNGRY? Swing by Moe’s for Moe Monday.”  Uh … yeah.  Pearl Harbor Day has me FAMISHED.

I could write much more than this about holiday exploitation and misinterpretation, but for some reason I thought Pearl Harbor Day escaped that fate.  This isn’t a day to vie for savings on a big screen TV, let alone a burrito.  As I write this, it is lunchtime, and I am indeed hungry, but I’m not craving Moe’s.


Creative Brainstorming

September 9, 2015

by Heather Keroes

Your job title doesn’t need the word “creative” in order for your role to be creative.  That’s one lesson that struck home for me when I attended the PRSA Sunshine District Conference this year.  Hundreds of PR professionals gathered from across Florida to experience an amazing line-up of speakers, including Duncan Wardle, vice president of Walt Disney Company’s Creative Inc., Disney’s team of “creative ideation and innovation catalysts.”

Wardle did not get up on a stage to give a presentation.  Instead, he took our large group through creative exercises designed to push past our own barriers.  Here are a couple of examples that may inspire you and serve as catalysts for your next brainstorm.

  • Start with a Smile – In groups of three, we took turns playing expert and reporters.  And boy, Wardle selected unique subject matter for the experts!  When it was my turn to play the expert, I became a relationship therapist for unicorns.  The result?  The most fun and fantastical “media” interview on the planet.  And bonus, it was a great way to get the juices flowing and incite laughter.  Smiles = relaxed way of thinking = creative thoughts.
  • Say, “Yes, And …” – Question:  Who are the most creative thinkers out there?  Answer:  Children.  But why?  As Wardle explained, when we become adults we think more efficiently and we seek to rationalize.  So when you bring up that next truly “out of the box” idea at your team brainstorm, the chances of it getting shot down are pretty high.  The problem isn’t that others don’t appreciate your idea; it’s that they have already weighed it against a predetermined set of criteria (resources, budget, time, etc.).  We’re naysayers by nature, so instead of saying, “no,” or “yes, but …” try saying “yes, and …” By doing so, you’ll make a good idea even better and encourage others to share their creative thoughts.

Other tips:

  • Give your employees dedicated time to work on “ideation” – the creation of ideas.
  • Hold your brainstorms in different places, not just conference rooms.  See the sun once in a while.
  • Keep the number of participants small for each brainstorm, so you have more time to explore ideas.  Wardle recommended four people as the ideal.
  • Invite “naïve experts” to join your brainstorm.  These experts come from outside your department or profession, so they aren’t constricted by the knowledge and preconceptions your team may possess.  For example, Wardle has invited chefs to join his team for brainstorm sessions that aren’t about food.

Our brainstorm sessions at Curley & Pynn have always resulted in fun ideas (especially when aided by my favorite brain fuel, ice cream), but I plan to start adding some of the above approaches into the mix.  Do you have any unique brainstorming tips?  Share them in the comments below.


Don’t Sweep Your Crisis Under the Rug

August 14, 2015

by Heather Keroes

One of my favorite makeup brands is Lime Crime.  Their products are cruelty free and highly pigmented in a rainbow of unique colors.  I’m also a sucker for unicorns on packaging.  But when a friend told me Lime Crime received a warning from the FDA, I immediately stopped using all of their products.  This was no Internet rumor set for debunking on Snopes.  She sent me a link to an FDA letter warning Lime Crime about unsafe ingredients in one of their most popular lipsticks.

Lime Crime claims that the ingredients in question were incorrectly printed on their boxes.  But in any case, until the issue is resolved with the FDA, how can their loyal customers feel comfortable?

Lime Crime has taken a reactive approach to the crisis.  A very active brand on social media, Lime Crime continued to post promos for their makeup for several weeks, as if nothing had happened.  But when you have a vocal fan community of 1.6 million followers on Instagram, nearly 700k on Facebook, and more elsewhere, your strategy can’t be to hide and hope it all blows over.

I’ll give Lime Crime credit.  Earlier this week, they started responding to some of the concerned customer comments on social.  Here’s just a small peek at one of those conversations.

 

Lime Crime

 

The brand’s response hasn’t been enough to quell concerns.  And now, Lime Crime has gone silent on social.  The company prepared a statement on the safety issue, but it can only be accessed through a direct link, which was only shared in reply to several comments on social.

I doubt Lime Crime had a crisis communications plan in place before the FDA incident.  Product safety is an issue that should definitely be on the list for any company in their industry.  Unfortunately, they haven’t addressed the issue in a way that makes consumers think they are taking it seriously instead of, as the brand said, sweeping it under the rug.  In the meantime, my lipsticks will be swept under the rug too.


Is it Gold? Is it Blue? Does it Matter?

February 27, 2015

by Heather Keroes

In non-news news, while perusing Facebook last night I watched a number of friends argue over a black and white  … no, a white and gold … no, a black and blue issue.  The Internet is debating the color of this dress.  And by Internet, I mean the majority of my friends on Facebook, their friends, most blogs, Taylor Swift and actual news websites – including our local paper, the Orlando Sentinel.

I have seen the dress.  I have researched the history of the dress.  I have no idea why I have spent time doing any of this, but does this dedication of valuable time mean that this dress is news?

CNN Money posted a story about the debate.  CNN Money.  Perhaps I’m a hypocrite by writing this blog post, further feeding the frenzy.  It’s hard to say what should be categorized as news these days and what truly matters.  Instead of writing a worthier post about net neutrality, I’m still stuck on this dress.  And now, I’m taking the time to reflect.

As a public relations professional, I have had the opportunity to work with media on a wide range of stories, from theme parks to technology.  But I have always felt strongly about the value of the news I was sharing.  Unfortunately, as the dress story proves, news isn’t always about sharing valuable information, but about what draws the most attention.  In this case, the dress is click bait, and you can count me among the hooked.


Is Media Trust at an All-Time Low?

October 15, 2014

by Heather Keroes

A Gallup poll reports that Americans’ confidence in the media’s ability to report “the news fully, accurately and fairly” has returned to an all-time low last seen in 2004.  Gallup states that it’s typical for trust in media to drop during an election year, but the level of trust has been on a steady decline over the last few years.

Gallup

Without delving too much into politics and its impact on sentiment, I’m more curious about news mediums and how Gallup and its polled parties categorize mass media.  Defined as “newspapers, TV and radio” for the poll, I wonder how the results may have been different if online and social sources were included in the mix.  Would they have been better, seeing that younger generations turn to the Internet for news?  Would they have been worse, given the reporting mishaps that are oh so common when media try to scoop one another in the beat of one tweet (also taking into account the questionable qualifications of some online sources)?

The poll has been conducted annually since 1997 and shows that the highest trust rating was 55 percent in 1999.  The level of confidence is now at 40 percent.  Compared to other Gallup polls, especially those of the political variety, a 40 percent confidence level isn’t too shabby.  The continued decline, however, may be a real issue, but I have a hard time saying that trust in media is deteriorating when the perceived definition of media has changed.  My question for Gallup is this:  What are you really measuring?

In its “Bottom Line” on the poll, Gallup infers that as “the media expand into new domains of news reporting via social media networks and new mobile technology, Americans may be growing disenchanted with what they consider mainstream news as they seek out their own personal veins of getting information.”  While on the right track, Gallup misses the mark in that “mainstream news” also makes use of social media and mobile technology.  When does “new” media simply become media?


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