Timing is Everything

February 9, 2017

by Kacie Escobar

Chili’s just lifted its permanent ban on Pam Beesly Halpert … and fans of NBC’s “The Office” are eating it up.

In a memorable episode, Pam (played by Jenna Fischer) is banned from the restaurant for causing a disturbance during a company party.  Asking fans whether she should go inside, the actress recently tweeted a selfie in front of a Chili’s, triggering nearly 500,000 combined retweets, likes and comments.

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Chili’s was quick to reply and “officially” lift the ban on Fischer’s character.

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Complete with a quote from the company president, the announcement extended the life of the social media event across two days.  It even prompted some of Fischer’s co-stars to join the fun, enabling the brand to reach thousands of additional followers:

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Because of its timely response, Chili’s is now on a growing list of brands that have successfully capitalized on popular culture to boost social media engagement.  These brands understand that the timing of your communication is just as important as the message.


Hello?

February 8, 2017

by Vianka McConville

If you’re looking for whistleblowers in the era of email hacking, why not list a phone number?

The New York Times has a system to receive confidential news tips which includes messaging apps, encrypted emails and snail mail, but omits a phone number.  Unless the line was bugged, I would think a phone call would be the safest way to share confidential information.

As someone who has tried to call reporters at the Times, I assume direct phone numbers are nowhere to be found due to the volume of calls the publication receives on a daily basis.  The phone system is a fortress.  But that can be a blessing and a curse; reporters may avoid the world’s worst story ideas, but also could miss out on the next big tip.

Is it an attempt to thwart a deluge of unrelated calls or have people become too comfortable behind screens and encrypted messages to actually talk to folks?


The Antidote to Hateful Speech is More Speech

February 3, 2017

by Dan Ward

When I first read about the violent protests at UC Berkeley over a planned speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, I was prepared to respond from the viewpoint of the middle-aged curmudgeon I’ve become.

I started a post about free speech coming full circle, with the birthplace of “the Free Speech Movement” now serving as a location for protests against speech.  Why is it, I was about to write, that young people today (“those darn kids”) seem less interested in protecting free speech than being protected from it?

But then my hope was restored by a Berkeley freshman, Shivam Patel, who was quoted at the end of this CNN story about the protest.

“It’s a sad irony in the fact that the Free Speech Movement was founded here and tonight, someone’s free speech got shut down.  It might have been hateful speech, but it’s still his right to speak.

Thank you, Shivam, for recognizing that the First Amendment protects even speech that makes us uncomfortable.


A Different Holiday Card

January 10, 2017

by Vianka McConville

The Chronicle of Higher Education received a different holiday greeting in the newsroom this year – baseball cards.

The Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sent reporters information on its researchers in the form of baseball cards, including a photo, stats and signature.  It was well received.

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Friday’s eNewsletter roundup to Chronicle subscribers included a quick story about the surprise, demonstrating the effectiveness of the cards. Even though the Whitehead Institute stated the cards weren’t meant to promote experts available to the media, but rather varied personalities and research, I’m sure Chronicle reporters will be reaching for the deck during an upcoming assignment.

When it comes to strategic thinking, the Whitehead Institute knocked this one out of the park.


The Proof About Proofing

December 27, 2016

by Roger Pynn

We all make mistakes.  My pastor reminded us of that in his sermon on Christmas Eve.  He also reminded us that forgiveness is important.

So is taking responsibility.

Just as you can’t rely on a spell-check utility in your word processor to proof your work, a priest in Sri Lanka learned that you can’t count on a “young boy” you ask to download lyrics to be sure he got the right song.

As CNN reported, the priest wanted the words to the traditional Christian prayer “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” for printing in the program for a Christmas carol service.  Instead, churchgoers found the lyrics to rapper Tupac Shakur’s trashy “Hail Mary.

I hope, Father Da Silva, whose apology included laying blame on the young boy, remembers that the buck stops here.  Proofing is an art almost lost for many – as I found out when I caught a typo in our family Christmas card after Shutterfly had already shipped it to us.  It was my fault.


Content vs. Stories

December 27, 2016

by Vianka McConville

I don’t like the word ‘content.’  To me, it’s in the same category as ‘moist’ for some or how others detest ‘networking.’

I don’t like categorizing writing as content because it demotes story.

My job is to tell stories – stories that are relevant and reach people in a positive manner.  I have learned that in order to be good at my job, everything I write needs a human element, whether it’s a media pitch, copy for a website, or a speech.  Content does not always make that connection.

To drive home the point, take a look at two versions of the same hypothetical lead:

Firefighter saves 46-year-old woman from burning house.  All of her belongings are gone except for the clothes on her back.

Sarah Carpenter is thankful to have the clothes on her back after her home was burned to the ground.

Telling a story is simply more powerful.


Doing My Homework

December 19, 2016

By Karen Kacir

I want to be able to have an informed conversation about anything.  While I know I’m never going to be fluent in all disciplines, I’ve always wanted to know at least a little about as many things as I could.

This made interning at Curley & Pynn this semester a real treat.  While no one in PR doubts the importance of research, I could tell this team took it to the next level.  Even before I applied to the internship program, I was impressed with the firm’s emphasis on using solid research to inform strategic direction.

Interning here, I made some progress toward my goal of knowing at least a little about a lot.  Over the past three months, I’ve researched and written about subjects I never thought I’d touch, from fuel cells to financial technology.

It was always gratifying to know that the hours I dedicated to each research project didn’t disappear into thin air.  Some of what I dug up was the basis for stories slated to appear in the next issue of florida.HIGH.TECH, the Florida High Tech Corridor’s annual magazine.  Some of it went into reports used to shape decisions made at executive levels.  Regardless of what the final product looked like or where it ended up, I’ve had a lot of fun being involved in the process.

And while I’m never going to develop super-cool, Back-to-the-Future-inspired solar energy filaments, it’s good to know that — if the subject ever comes up at the dinner table — I won’t be completely lost.

Editor’s note:

We’ve had the opportunity to work with many very talented college students over the years through our internship program, and several of those interns have gone on to work with us as full-time specialists.  We would have loved for our most recent intern, Karen Kacir, to be the latest to join our team, but she has other plans for her future … a Peace Corps teaching assignment in Colombia.  Before Karen left us to make her impact on the world, she drafted one last Taking Aim post to discuss the impact our internship had on her world.  Best of luck, Karen!


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