Brand Experiences: A New Way to Engage Your Audience

With the rise of social media and people’s increased desire for more likes and followers, it is no longer enough for a brand to promote its event in a stagnant way. People crave experience and want to share that via virtual real-time.

Social media gives consumers the power to amplify a brand or event and essentially become a brand storyteller. Through social, people are able to highlight their own personal experiences and create a more unique personalized narrative, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Events like Coachella and Austin City Limits amplify this paradigm even further by including things such as large art installations to encourage social media sharing.

Famous life-sized photo frame at ACL
Courtesy of: Collective Vision

According to an article from Adweek, there are five strategies that a brand can use to extract value from social media and brand experience:

  1. Develop a year-long social strategy: Once your event has ended, make sure to keep the conversation going. If your event is an annual thing, consider doing a countdown campaign by including teasers, perhaps a Q&A with talent, and revealing event details little by little (ie. event dates, lineup, ticket prices, etc.) You can even consider partnering with relevant influencers and have them hype up the event on their channels.
  2. Always keep content in mind: Because the social media realm is now more crowded than ever, it has become increasingly more difficult for brands to get their content seen. In order to see what kind of content engages your audience most, conduct different branded content campaigns. Through using A/B testing, you’ll be able to observe what worked best for your brand and then move from there. This can be something as simple as an image gallery from a previous year’s event, or maybe even a highlight reel.
  3. Mine data: In order to create more personalized experiences in the future, both offline and online, observe patterns through analytical tactics like data mining and machine learning. Learn from past events and see what worked and what didn’t.
  4. Take advantage of your internal assets: Make sure to prioritize internal communications to keep employees in the loop. Encourage them to share event content on their own channels pre-, during, and post-event, since chances are their networks may include members of your target audience. In order to simplify things, draft social content for them and suggest the best times to post that way they can just copy and paste.
  5. Design for sharing: When it comes to events, people want to share as much of their own experience as possible. This can be further defined by social currency, which now acts more as a social status symbol. Without deterring from your brand’s story, you need to find some awe-inspiring creative elements and move away from the norm. Whether it’s an art installation or some kind of immersive tech, just make sure that it serves a purpose for your brand.
Giant installations like this one at Coachella are what encourage attendees to share via social media
Courtesy of: San Diego Union Tribune

When it comes to planning your brand’s next big event, start campaigning and engaging your audience EARLY on in the game. Ask yourself, “What creative elements can I add to make this a social media user’s heaven?” Test out different ideas and see what engages your audience the most so that you can incorporate those elements in future events.

Always remember, do it for the ‘Gram.

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3 Lessons Brands Can Learn from K-pop

Korean popular culture, known as K-pop, has really taken off globally over the past two decades. Ever heard of “Gangnam Style”? K-pop as a whole spread globally purely through a massive PR and marketing effort supported by the South Korean government.

Style GIF

The real, organized promotion of K-culture, branded as “The Korean Wave,” began in the early 1990s. This wave spans music and TV dramas, dance, gaming, fashion, beauty, and food.

What’s most notable about the branding of the Korean Wave, across all industries, is its uniqueness, consistency, and structure. Like in any great branding campaign, Korean popular culture was strategized, rolled out, and repeated according to plan. That’s not to say there haven’t been roadblocks or changes along the way, but for the most part, The Korean Wave can serve as a textbook example of how to take over the world – at least in the sense of cultural branding.

happy jimmy fallon GIF by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Although many scholars believe the Korean Wave is not a replicable formula, brands can still learn some important lessons from the methods the pop culture masters that pushed the wave onto international shores. For simplification purposes, let’s just focus on the branding of the overall K-pop music industry.

1. Uniqueness

k-pop korean GIF

In keeping with the national pride that has encouraged Korean uniqueness for thousands of years, K-pop is recognized as its own musical genre separately from pop, hip hop, EDM, and others. The creators of the genre noticed a void in the music industry, had an idea to improve it, and created a whole new musical product that filled those gaps locally and globally. Though it has become increasingly mainstream, K-pop remains true to it’s roots even while adjusting to changing tastes and trends.

Similarly, PR and marketing people need to evaluate and continue re-evaluating the market. Finding the void their product or service fills and locking into that space for the long haul will help maintain and grow loyal fans and customers. Adjustments might need to be made along the way to stay relevant and on top of the competition, but at the core, what makes a brand different than others is crucial to defining brand identity and standing out.

2. Consistency

k-pop signal GIF

K-pop is not run by a monopoly – there are many production companies that sign k-pop groups and solo idols, release music, and put on shows, yet the product as a genre remains fairly consistent. That’s because an agency called the Korea Creative Content Agency (KoCCA) holds a loose leash on production. Money and a desire to maintain uniqueness drive producers to push out new, targeted content without limiting creativity. K-pop might have fizzled or blended into other genres had the KoCCA not supported and monitored the creation of K-pop to keep it unique.

In PR and marketing, brand and campaign consistency is crucial to success. Consistency is necessary for brand recognition. Within a company, it is important to find cohesion in messaging and design across all platforms from high-budget, public activations to the most barebones internal emails.

3. Structure

k-pop GIF

In the K-pop industry, there is a clearly defined method to crafting this constantly unique product. For most, that process includes raising future idols in boarding schools so they can focus on studying music, dance, and public speaking from a young age, working their way up. They must then be chosen to join a group or start a solo career. After plenty of practice, they may get to debut as rookies – a trial run before they can become full-blown K-pop idols. Even after the artists are officially released as idols, their performance and image is continually monitored and adjusted to produce the best possible content.

For a brand, a similar structure should be in place before launching a product. Starting with schooling, AKA, preliminary market research. Then, roll into primary research to test the brand power – just like rookies being tested before audiences on a smaller scale. Lastly, once the brand, product, or service debuts, keep monitoring the performance and continuing market research so adjustments can be made along the way.

Focusing on uniqueness, consistency, and structure will help develop and grow aa strong, resilient brand. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to jam out to some K-pop to get those creative juices flowing!

 

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Tips to Avoid Brand Fails on Social Media

As a public relations professional, it’s important to portray your client in a positive light. We are the communicators who work on their behalf – and we understand the value of connecting with users through social media. As the online world continues to grow, ensuring your company doesn’t end up in digital hot water or receive social media backlash is a must. Here are a few tips to avoid common mistakes on social media:

  • Be Cautious with Humor

When your brand wants to use humor in marketing, make sure you think it through before sharing with the public. Delta Air Lines and Coca Cola were recently caught in the middle of a marketing blunder when the companies released new soda napkins on Delta flights, which encouraged passengers to share phone numbers with their “plane crush.” Deemed creepy by customers, the photos quickly went viral on social media. USA Today reported the Delta Air Lines statement where the company apologized and admitted it “missed the mark” on this product.

Remedy: Test. Test. And TEST your products before launching. Even the smallest things – like a napkin – can rouse a negative response for your brand. When working in a partnership, make sure that both parties create brand messaging aligned with company standards. It might just save you from an online crisis.

Image: USA Today, via Twitter user @MJJoe
  • Review Content Before Publishing

Always double-check the social media handles you are tagging in online posts. With the growing popularity of the digital age, it’s a safe bet to take an extra moment and confirm you are using the correct tags for the influencers, brands, and companies you are working with. The same concept applies with emojis. In 2018, YouTube Creators tweeted out the wrong flag emoji when posting about America’s Fourth of July holiday. Twitter users caught on fast and called out the company on social media, as described in Social Media Today’s article here. Grammar mistakes can cause your brand to lose credibility with its consumer base, and often makes the company look unprofessional.

Image: Social Media Today

Remedy: It’s simple. ALWAYS take the time to review your content before publishing on social media. Though we are human and there is always room for error, these mistakes can easily be rectified with a fresh perspective. It’s small details like these which should encourage you to cherish the copywriter, social media specialist, or even the literature enthusiast in your life. Bonus points: take the opportunity to respond to your audience in an authentic way. Digital business consulting agency Kruse Control Inc. wrote on their blog about McDonald’s use of humor to recover from its social media fail, as shown below. Who doesn’t love a good caffeine joke?

Image: Kruse Control Inc.
  • Know Your Audience

It’s important to keep audience in mind when creating advertising messages, and to be aware of events which have deeply impacted them. Adidas, known for its popular athletic wear products, appeared to have completely disregarded a tragic event where Boston Marathon participants were attacked in 2013 when the race was bombed. A few years later, Adidas sent out a marketing email to customers with the title “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” The cringe-worthy advertisement clearly did not run this past their key audience – athletes – and were blind to the fact that there are real survivors out there who did endure a tragic event.

Image: pcmag.com

Remedy: Be sensitive to the needs of your audience. It’s fair to say that both athletes and non-athletes alike do not appreciate the unfortunate phrasing Adidas used in the email. Don’t undermine a tragic and unsettling event in U.S. history just for the sake of advertising your company’s products. Consumers will respond to brands who can connect authentically with their audience.

What other brand fails have you seen on social media lately? How would you as a PR professional have handled it instead?

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How Industry Events Benefit PR Pros

Attending industry events, such as conferences or panel discussions, allows a PR professional to network with peers, but also stay on top of trends in a rapidly evolving industry.

Regardless of the specific field, or whether you work in-house or at an agency, here’s how conferences can benefit all public relations professionals.

Build Relationships

Events allow you to meet new people, but industry events allow you to meet new people within your specific field. These are professionals from whom you can learn, connect and possibly even work with some day. Over It, a creative agency, shares on its blog how these relationships with new individuals “could potentially lead to a new client or a new business partner.” When making your first introduction, it’s likely the other person will leave with a lasting impression and will “be more likely to respond to your email after the conference.” It’s the first step – and an important one. As a PR professional, we’re in the business of building connections.

Expand Your Skills

Staying on top of frequent changes (looking at you, AP Stylebook!) is invaluable in our industry. But these concepts apply to more than grammar; these skills include thought leadership, influencer relations, Google analytics, strategic storytelling, brand reputation management, and so much more. These are a few of the many professional development topics covered in the Public Relations Society of America’s Western District Conference. Expanding your skills increases your value at your company but will ultimately lead you to share work that you’re proud to create.

Stay Informed

One of the most important benefits to attending industry events is to stay current with trends. For example, Entrepreneur shares how “the traditional practice of announcing news of a company through a press release has become outdated.” However, it’s during a panel discussion where you might learn from other professionals about how they and their agencies are handling these changes. Whether it’s working with influencers or creating a company blog for media, bouncing off ideas from one another can lead to success. When people with similar passions work towards the same goal of increasing everyone’s value in their field, that is an experience you can only find through attending a career-focused event.   

Advance Your Career

Speaking of career, there is ample opportunity at conferences to learn what you didn’t even know existed. Muck Rack, a software platform designed for PR professionals to find the right journalist for your pitch, shares on its blog how conferences can be beneficial to your career. For example, PRSA Western District Conference’s goal is to “provide a continuum of training, networking and advancing the public relations profession.” Typically, one wouldn’t necessarily stumble across an app such as Muck Rack. Attending conferences such as the Western District Conference exposes you to new apps and other methods to improve – and advance – your career. From computer software to data analysis tools, to leadership skills and even creative writing, you never know what you might learn at your next conference.

What are your favorite PR industry events? What persuades you to attend or not?

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Linking SEO with PR

The common link between SEO and PR it is easy to identify. Both share the same goal of sharing their content with the target audience at the right time. Stone Temple PR’s  blog post explains how SEO can affect your client’s or organization’s goals, for better or for worse. But first, let’s start with the basics.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization and is defined by Search Engine Land as the process of generating traffic from the free, organic or editorial search results from search engine platforms. These platforms include Google and Bing, which rank content based on the relevance to users.

SEO & PR

SEO and PR commonly cross paths when a client’s website is linked through earned media placements. Links are used by search engines to find new pages and identify the relevance of a web page to a particular search. When using Google, the more links to high ranking sites, the more Google will view your content as important. If an article is written that includes the link to a section of a client’s website, it can be a strong signal to the search engine that your client’s website might be a good resource. 

Inbound Links

Inbound links are a vital component to any SEO campaign. Good points of resource are natural editorial links from high-traffic, authoritative websites. In order to earn these editorial links, your organization or client must post creative, engaging content. The second component to this equation deals with outreach for your client or organization. Increased exposure results in even more links to connect with your client’s target audience.

What should you link?

Even though links are a good resource to make sure your content is seen, it is also important to only link relevant keywords. Search engines want links to genuinely reflect the accuracy of the information that it is presented. Throughout the years, search engines have gotten better at identifying links that may be inaccurate to the content posted.

When linking your content, remember to link to relevant outside links — and not content that you think will get you more clicks.

So, how do you get the conversation started around your company or organization’s brand?

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Secrecy a Good Way to Spark Interest?

The Met Gala is fashion’s biggest night. On the first Monday of May, since 1995, Vogue has organized fashion biggest fundraising night that takes place at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

This is a night that many refer to as the Oscars of fashion.

https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/met-gala-2019

But how much do you actually hear about the Gala? The theme may be revealed and the hosts as well, but is under-sharing what makes people buzz about the upcoming event?

Audiences know that Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, Rihanna and other high-profile celebrities will show up, dressed to the nines, and accompanied by the designers of their beautiful dresses

Maybe the fact that less information is known makes it more appealing and then leads audiences to interact with the content that is shared on social media and via Vogue themselves during and after the event.

So the question is: how bold can you be in your choice to engage audiences or the reverse, disengaging them to make them curious?

http://jmc417.personal.asu.edu/wordpress/2018/09/brands-be-bold-or-stay-safe/

However, not every company has the audience size and interest to keep things secret and still drive traffic. But maybe it’s something to consider in small parts and for fun reveals.

Enticing people with little hints of what is to come can create excitement and be something to give a try. PR practitioners and businesses have to assess audience sizes, audience interests and how their audience interacts with content.

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‘List of 10’ Can Inspire Storytelling Success

Storytelling isn’t just for journalists, it is essential to the practice of public relations. Every company and organization has a story to tell and that story is key to its brand, image, and reputation. But most importantly, a company’s story can create a personal connection with customers and clients.

There are many ways to tell a story and even more ways to form a story. There are endless tools for tapping into creativity. Different things work for different practitioners and different things work for different companies and organizations.

But what is known is that an emotional connection can forge a lasting connection.

Sarah Kay is a spoken word poet, whose Ted Talk has been viewed by more than five million people. Evidently, few clients, if any, expect a spoken word poem to tell the story of their business or organization. The important part of this talk is Kay’s route to creating a poem and the tools she uses for telling a new story all her own.

“Everyone can communicate in some way and everyone has stories that the rest of us can learn from,” Kay says during her 18-minute Ted Talk.

Kay shares her method of encouraging high schoolers to write poetry by making lists: 10 things they know to be true or 10 things I should have learned by now. The biggest takeaway is stepping outside of the box and outside of a comfort zone to truly understand what is already known and turn that into a story.

That’s what a PR practitioner has to take from every client: There is a story and there is something to be learned from it by publics about an organization or business.

Nothing comes from nothing, something had to come from something and it’s a practitioner’s job to help tell the story effectively — and in most cases — emotionally.

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Platforms Fall Flat in Crisis Response

Operating a client’s social media accounts is an immensely important role for public relations professionals. Whether it’s communicating to followers during a crisis, promoting an upcoming campaign or gaining brand loyalty, each social media platform is unique in the way it reaches audiences. All serve as efficient PR tools, however, how efficient are the PR teams behind these social media companies?

It’s extremely unlikely that you didn’t hear about the Facebook privacy scandal that broke in March 2018. The world bursting in uproar as it was learned that an estimated 87 million people had personal information from Facebook compromised due to unauthorized data-mining from a third-party app. The social media giant didn’t respond in a timely manner as head executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg fell silent for five days following the initial report.

This public became enraged even further after Zuckerberg didn’t apologize for the privacy breech once he broke his silence. The company is still trying to regain the public’s trust. It also started running the “Here Together” ad campaign in April that promises to keep people safe and protect their privacy.

YouTube is another company that has received a great deal of criticism from its users due to its lack of communication. In April 2017, major marketers for the site discovered that some advertisements were running videos that promoted hate speech and terrorism, causing them to pull their ads. Not wanting to lose business, YouTube began withdrawing creators’ ad revenue on videos that were deemed not advertiser friendly. What people took issue with is that YouTube did not clearly state what type of content is and isn’t advertiser friendly. Left confused, creators’ earnings began to drop, some even claiming to have lost 99% of their previous revenue. The company eventually created an advertiser-friendly content guideline but many creators still are struggling to create videos that fit these rules.

These two situations are examples of how social media companies can fail to respond to key stakeholders in the midst of a crisis. In hindsight, we learn that timeliness and openness are two factors where the companies fell short.

Do you think Facebook and YoTube will make repeat the mistakes in the future or will the platforms improve and rebound?

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Fact vs Fiction: Debunking PR Myths

PR practitioners have heard it all — the good, the bad and the ugly. Because public relations is a fairly new profession, there’s are myths that people outside the field, and even in the field, subscribe to. However, the reality is often far different. It’s our job as PR professionals to uncover the truth and educate those who may be skeptical of the profession. Here are some of the biggest PR myths and the truth behind them, via Dummies and Stephen Davies.

Myth: The media view PR professionals as “the enemy”

Truth: While there is a stereotype that media people dislike PR professionals, that is often not the case. The truth is that many journalists get their stories from PR pitches or press releases. Journalists appreciate PR professionals who send them relevant information within their beat and who are reliable sources. Earning a journalist’s trust by being reliable, ethical and truthful is crucial in forging good relationships with the media.

Myth: Press releases are dead

Truth: Although it seems like press releases are a thing of the past, they still work. When a press release is well-written and expertly delivered, it can result in great media coverage at minimal cost to your company or client. The key is to make sure the message is delivered with a great subject line that will catch the journalist’s attention since many are inundated with hundreds of emails a day.

Myth:  PR is just spin

Truth: “Spin” is a thing of the past — or never was. Most PR professionals pride themselves in being ethical and trustworthy, and they work hard to earn the trust of the public, the media, and their clients. Today, PR is building mutually beneficial relationships between the public and a company. This means that there must be trust and truth in PR, otherwise, the public fails to benefit from the relationship.

Myth: All publicity is good publicity

Truth: The whole point of public relations is to build a positive reputation for a company. When a company receives negative publicity, that is not doing anything positive for their PR. It actually tears into their reputation, which is exactly the opposite of what PR professionals work to do. Although it may seem like being in the media is good for business no matter if the coverage is positive or negative, that is far from the truth. Especially in today’s society, it is incredibly important for brands to maintain positive reputations in order for their customers to remain loyal.

Myth: PR is a glamorous career

Truth: There are many aspects of PR that are less than glamorous. Crisis communications is a great example. The truth is, PR is a demanding career that requires discipline and entails lots of late nights and early mornings in the office. While there may be times that involve galas or trips abroad, most of the time PR is just hard work. But for those of us who love it, it’s definitely worth it.

Any other myths we can explore?

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Office Friendships Aid Teamwork

There is an array of skills to master in order to be considered a true public relations professional including management, research, social media and communications. Still, one-on-one internal communications often takes a backseat. “I’m not here to make friends,” is a statement you might hear from colleagues said Laryssa Simpson, Zion & Zion marketing and advertising account executive, in her blog, “Are You Here To Make Friends?”

Simpson points out that there are personal and professional benefits to making friends in the workplace. Benefits include improvements in team creativity, synergy and loyalty. In short, workers who have developed friendly relationships with each other are less likely to hold back when sharing creative ideas. Friends in the workplace are also more likely to communicate when problems arise and have a deeper sense of responsibility toward a project.

Some difficulties people may have when making workplace friends is that it usually requires more face-to-face interaction rather than online interaction. However, this is not to say that online social interaction doesn’t count. “Three major game-changers have entered our world: portable computers, social communication, and smartphones,” said Dr. Larry Rosen, former chair of California State University Psychology Department in an article from The Wall Street Journal. “The total effect has been to allow us to connect more with the people in our virtual world — but communicate less with those who are in our real world.”

“I just don’t like people,” is the common excuse people make when opting out of social situations. For many, this cynical attitude toward society isn’t just recognizing a problem but perpetuating one. For example, imagine that you frequently ride the bus home. Every day that you ride the bus, you assume that someone unpleasant will sit next to you. So, instead of allowing others to sit near you, you occupy two seats. However, your actions aren’t irrational. You have had unpleasant people sit near you in the past. Yet when you adopt the attitude that all people are unpleasant, you become a part of that group.

“Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching and live like it’s heaven on earth.” -Mark Twain

So now that you’re a reformed people-hater, what’s the next step? Like many people, you may have trouble figuring out how to make friends. “This is a very, very common problem,” Thomas Frank, founder of College Info Geek, said. “A lot of people find it difficult to make friends. Especially as they get older or when they, say, move to a new city.”

In his YouTube Video, Frank suggests six tips for people trying to make friends:

  1. Go Out and Do Active Things: Frank says you should begin any friendship by asking potential friends to join you to do something active. In the office setting, this can be anything from grabbing a coffee to trying out a new lunch spot together.
  2. Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Activities: “You might be tempted to … only look at things you’re already into,” Frank said. Instead, leave your comfort zone and join an office group, like a Fantasy Football league. Pro tip — ask management to setup team building exercises or volunteer days.
  3. Don’t Ignore Proximity Friends: Frank says finding a proximity friend allows you to open your horizons. So instead of making friends based on common interests, try making friends with the person sitting right next to you.
  4. Live By the 3-Second Rule: Frank says that when you see someone, you should decide within three-seconds whether to speak to them. “If you wait any longer than that, your brain’s going to start concocting reasons why you shouldn’t,” Frank said. “You’re going to think you look silly or they look busy and then you’re going to talk yourself out of doing it.”
  5. Be OK with the Reality that Some Conversations Will Fizzle: Frank said a common reason people are afraid to initiate a conversation is the fear of an awkward exchange. “This is going to happen sometimes, it even happens to total extroverts.”
  6. Ask Questions and Take an Active Interest In the Other Person: To continue the conversation going longer Frank suggests asking the other person questions. Some questions suitable for the office may be favorite places to eat or plans for the upcoming weekend.

In conclusion, creating friendships at work should be one of your primary goals at work. Create friends. iI you’re not doing it for your emotional well-being, then do it for the overall job.

Have you used one or more of these tips to make an office friend? Suggest you own tips.

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