What’s Your Type-ography?

In public relations, messaging is everything. Whether that message is in-your-face through text or implied through design, how you say it matters.

One of the most basic, yet most neglected, aspects of messaging is typography. It’s on every communication platform in some capacity and conveys subliminal, if not obvious, meaning beyond the content.

For example, the rounded, bubble-like lettering of Lego branding appears to be youthful, sturdy and child-safe. Dove’s italicized lettering evokes feelings of softness, femininity, and elegance.  Beyond the logo, these same concepts can also be expressed through copy. For instance, The Walt Disney Company’s use of Avenir Next in its body copy offers modern and clean (after all, avenir does translate to “future” in French), yet friendly overtones.







As Brittany Leaning puts it in her marketing blog on Hubspot, “Typography is the art and technique of arranging…letters and characters,” not just the art of scrolling through the dropdown menu until landing on something that looks nice. From the selection of point size to line length to spacing, typography encompasses everything you find at the top of Microsoft Word’s “Home” toolbar, and then some.

Luckily for most PR pros, there are designers to do the heavy lifting in the realm of typography, so they shouldn’t be expected to create a custom font from scratch anytime soon. But, there are some basics that all communicators should understand, especially when working within the nuances of branding.

To start, typography is a font or set of characters of the design. Times New Roman, Curlz MT, and Comic Sans are all different fonts. Typeface, also called font family, is made up of one or more fonts sharing a common design but varying weights, slants, and ornamentation.

When it comes to creating a design with text, including the layout of copy on a newspaper or website, kerning, tracking, and leading are important. Kerning is the adjustment of space between character pairs used to adjust the design of a word. Tracking is the space between each character evenly used to create blocks of text. Leading is the space between individual lines of text used to either make text easier to read or provide a stylized look when done properly.

Keeping fonts consistent is important in maintaining a cohesive brand. Limit the number of fonts used for a brand to just two or three, but be sure to select fonts that have enough contrast they evoke the intended feelings. As Creative Market demonstrates, if parried carefully, serif and sans serif fonts can go well together, but they suggest not using more than one decorative font or script for branding.

In the same way adding a splash of color to a graphic can make a world of difference, so can utilizing the power of typography. It’s a change of tone. When done correctly, a font alone can take a message from nostalgic to motivating to whimsical with the click of a mouse.

Think about your favorite brands and their visual messaging. Which do you think use fonts most effectively?

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Unity A Common Thread in New Ads

Back in the ’50s and ’60s, commercials were simplistic. They showcased the product, maybe mentioned the slogan of the brand that made the product, and sometimes if we were lucky, they would show the product in use.

Modern day commercials are more than just a company showcasing its product. Successful commercials today not only show a range of products but deliver a specific message and feeling to those watching. These commercials reflect a company’s mission and beliefs while engaging the audience with entertainment.

GAP, Nike, Adidas and H&M have released new commercials this year that go above and beyond with their public relations efforts and their creative messaging.

  1. GAP – Gap Logo Remix features SZA and Metro BoominGAP showcases some of their past logos and clothes in the commercial but beyond the product, you see a mix of nine cultures coming together through the power of music and dance.
  2. Nike – Choose Go commercial features Kobe Bryant, Kevin Hart, Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe, Sadie Sink and Bill Nye. This humorous scenario wonders if the world stopped turning on its axis and the only way to get it moving again is by the power of the foot. In the commercial, Nike unites people from around the world to get out and run in order to reach the same goal: to get the world to move on its axis again. The message at large is to unify people around the world through the power of exercise. Nike products are also featured but not highlighted.
  3. Adidas – Original is Never Finished features Nick Young and 21 Savage. While this ad is a little more product focused, it still conveys a positive message. The setting gives this illusion that everyone is in the same building and on different levels trying to get to the top. Each level features a different culture, activity, gender, scene or idea. You can even see the controversial movement of “kneeling” that Colin Kaepernick began in the NFL. Ultimately, the spot offers a motivational message to keep climbing to reach the top.
  4. GAP – Meet Me In The Gap, Experiment. In. Color. GAP released this video in February and it just speaks for itself. It not only shows diversity through a color wheel but people from different cultures. All begin the same way, then break out in their own dance moves and then unite to finish. All while advertising GAPs color jeans. But one doesn’t focus on the jeans but rather the unity of the diverse people wearing them.
  5. H&M – Spring Collection stars Winona Rider and Elizabeth Olson. Like the GAP ad, this commercial needs no explanation. Females from all backgrounds unite to dance with one another and celebrate the power of women.

    While each commercial is unique, all of the companies share a message of unity and diversity. If you watched these videos, did you notice that you were not necessarily focused on the product but rather the story line and deeper meanings behind the commercials?

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Gun Debate Triggers Corporate Response

In the wake of the Feb. 14 Parkland school shooting in Florida, many companies are taking a stand against the National Rifle Association. Companies are taking it upon themselves to be proactive in the gun control movement in the absence of government intervention.

The public’s response to the gun control debate has been diverse and extreme on both sides of the debate. Many people are using social media, especially Twitter, to call for change and to express their opinions.


On Feb. 28, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that it would stop selling military-style rifles such as the AR-15.  Walmart and even Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain that owns Fred Meyer stores, followed suit and declared that they will no longer sell guns and ammunition to anyone under 21. This move to increase the purchasing age of guns and ammunition also sparked controversy among some pro-gun groups.

These companies decided to trigger change in the fierce gun control debate. Many consumers are praising their efforts to take action. But, many others are upset with corporations creating their own gun restrictions. Companies are even receiving backlash for cutting ties with the NRA. Delta experienced backlash from government officials and the community for distancing themselves from the NRA.

Apple and Amazon have already been threatened with a boycott over their relationship with the NRA. Both services offer the NRA TV channel available for streaming through their subscription  services. Some are also calling for the boycott of FedEx, a part of the NRA Business Alliance that offers discounts through the FedEx Advantage program.

What is the correct public relations stance for these companies? Especially, when it is hard to please both sides.

Many companies are either cutting ties with the NRA or haven’t taken any stance on the issue in what is believed as a move to remain neutral. But elebrities and social influencers are calling for company boycotts. Leading companies to debate their position on the topic.

What do you think the proper public relations response is for these corporate players?

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Thumbs Down on Snapchat Update?

In January 2018, Snapchat updated its platform in order to post previously captured content. It wanted posts to appear without the distinctive white border, signifying it is from a camera roll, and also combining messages, posts, stories and ads all together on the main interface.

The goal seemed to be to separate user content from brand content and advertising. But will putting such an emphasis on advertising and branded content hurt the app? This is the popular app’s new new layout:

According to an article on Techcrunch, when the app update was launched in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, 83 percent of the App Store reviews were negative and received only one or two stars. If the response was so negative, why did Snapchat decide to move forward with the update worldwide?

In a Variety article, Snapchat made it clear it plans on sticking with the app redesign and hopes people get used to the update. This begs the question, should a company or app listen to the people or follow the advertising dollars? With the new update, Snapchat will make more money with an abundance of paid content and advertising.

The new update is completely confusing to me and I stopped using Snapchat all together over the past few months. It will be interesting to see if Snapchat can survive on the advertising revenue they are now generating or if so many users abandon the app it must rethink the update. Looking at the tweet above, it seems there are no plans to shift strategy anytime soon.

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Waving Bye to Geoffrey, Toys R Us

It’s sad to hear that the store I grew up loving is closing all of its U.S. locations due to major bottom line issues. Toys R Us, in business for 70 years, accumulated billions of dollars of debt.

What caused this retailer’s demise?

Some have pointed fingers at the usual suspect, Amazon.

However, according to CNN Money, it’s not to blame. They noted that Toys R Us’ financial problems started long before Amazon became a major threat. In January 2005, the company’s debt was downgraded to junk bond status. This was long before Amazon became as successful as it is today.

Yes, online shopping via sites like Amazon did contribute to the decline of Toys R Us and other popular retailers. However, most of Toys R Us issues were that it could not compete with other retailers because the company was forced to focus all of its efforts on paying off its massive debt load.

So, what does this mean for Americans?

The closing of its 735 U.S. stores will mean a loss of as many as 33,000 jobs across the nation, according to NBC News.

Had Toys R Us avoided debt and been able to focus its efforts on PR strategies like social media campaigns and developing their competitive advantage, maybe America wouldn’t have to wave goodbye to Geoffrey the Giraffe.


Are you sad to see Toys R Us go? Comment below!

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Toys R Us: No More Fun and Games

Every kid longs for the day they get to wander down the aisles of endless toys, games and crafts at Toys R Us. Little do they know of the megastore’s lackluster performance which ultimately led to the closing of all of its U.S. stores.

What PR practice was Toys R Us lacking that may have triggered this downfall?

Toys R Us’ narrow focus made it a go-to spot for parents who needed to go toy shopping… and only toy shopping. But what about those who had to buy a toy, but also cleaning supplies, groceries and other everyday items? Busy shoppers can easily choose from a variety of toys at other retailers such as Target, Walmart, Amazon and more.

CNN Money explained that “it’s clear that big retailers that sell lots of different things are simply hoping toys are another draw to bring consumers in to the stores, as opposed to being the main focus.” 

While the store’s narrow focus helped it establish a strong brand, it did create a struggling relationship with its current and potential consumers. Although Toys R Us’ business practices may have sealed its fate long ago, how can other companies build and maintain a strong relationship with consumers? Entrepreneur explains that communicating, exceeding expectations, asking for feedback, connecting and showing appreciation is the recipe for relationship success. 

via patch.com

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Addicted to Your Smartphone?

It’s easy to find yourself accidentally spending an hour or two just scrolling through Instagram or Facebook on your cell. But, did you know you could have a Smartphone Addiction and it may be affecting your psychological and physical state.

According to Psych Guides, a trending mental and behavioral health guides websitesmartphone addiction can cause these psychological effects.

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Relationship problems
  • Anxiety

Psych Guides says that overusing your cell causes different physical issues, including:

  • Digital eye strain
  • Neck problems
  • Increased illnesses due to germs
  • Car accidents
  • Male infertility

Why are smartphones so addicting? In an article by Psychalive, a psychological advice, resources and information website, Dr. David Greenfield, a technology addiction expert, said that smartphones are like “the world’s smallest slot machine.” He says that each notification acts as a reward, “but you don’t know when you’re going to get it, what it’s going to be and how good it’s going to be.”

You know the signs and why smartphones are addicting, but how do you prevent it? Some beginner steps can be as easy as creating a digital schedule. Ironically, there are apps to help you cut down on your smartphone usage. Moment and Checky are two apps targeted at helping you control your phone use.

Questioning whether you could be a smartphone addict? Take this test and find out. The Smartphone Compulsion Test, developed by Dr. Greenfield of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, can now tell if you should be worried about your time spent on your smartphone.

Take the test here: http://virtual-addiction.com/smartphone-compulsion-test/

Curious for more? Check out another blog post:  http://jmc417.personal.asu.edu/wordpress/2018/02/social-media-users-tango-with-new-numbers/

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Finding Common Ground

Right now, the political climate in the United States is heated. As communication professionals that potentially will work in an agency setting with various accounts and clients, it’s important to know how to develop effective messaging that can speak to both sides in a time of upheaval.

A client may want to take a clear side, so we must do our best to see and understand diverse perspectives to make the content relatable and agreeable to the target audience. But, what if a company or client wants to develop messaging that speaks to both sides and aims to unite them in a time of such angst?

REI, the outdoor equipment retailer, did a fantastic job at excelling at that very task. The current U.S. administration wanted to remove designations for public lands under the National Park Service and re-purpose the land for other, private uses. The outdoors are not a left or right issue, they’re a public, human topic that speaks to all regardless of political affiliation.


“Left Side | Right Side | United Outside” left me speechless. The message is clear, concise and effective. It reminds us all that throughout this period where many are looking for ways to draw lines, there is always something that we all share.

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The Art of Apologizing

Public relations professionals should always be on their toes in case a crisis hits. Companies will make mistakes, but is how you handle the problem more telling than the problem itself?

In 2015, Apple Music announced its three-month free trial of the music streaming app. Artists were extremely upset because for each customer’s three-month free trial they would forego royalties (money paid when a song is played). Taylor Swift penned an open letter explaining that this was unfair. Within 24 hours, Apple Music apologized and reversed their decision, announcing it would pay artists royalties during the free trial.

Even though it seemed Apple Music maybe have been taking advantage of artists, it was quick to accept their faults and rectify the situation. Apple Music is now an extremely popular music streaming app that did not let its early PR crisis define it.

According to Forbes, there are seven tips to improve apologies during a PR crisis. Understand the sentiment, be sincere, address the issue quickly, remember who is affected, use common language, communicate with the public and apologize on video.

Apple Music understood the issue and sincerely apologized swiftly. I think it is a great example of a good PR apology. Taking responsibility and fixing the issue are more important than pointing fingers and blaming others.

A more recent example of a PR crisis is YouTuber Logan Paul’s falling out with the public. Logan Paul is an extremely popular YouTube personality with 15 million followers. During a trip to Japan, he filmed a video in what is called the “Suicide Forest” and captured footage of a man who had hanged himself. It appeared to many that he was poking fun at suicide and showing disrespect. Many celebrities and influentials expressed outrage for his behavior and he found himself in a PR crisis.

In his initial apology released on Twitter, he was slammed again for not understanding the severity of his actions. He did not apologize to the victim, he more or less spoke highly of himself and his popularity. According to Forbes, sincerity and humbleness is an important part of apologizing in a PR crisis. Paul failed to do so which created even more issues for him. Paul did finally apologize on video and create a mini-documentary about suicide prevention, but will that repair the damage that his apology came off as insincere and self-serving?

I believe apologies do wonders in a PR crisis. But the way you apologize says everything about your company or client. Sincerity, understanding and timing make the public realize that though you made a mistake, you can recover.

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What’s Your Brand Story?

You might find yourself in a pattern of thinking that your budget isn’t big enough to produce the same calibre of work of brands like Apple, Nike, AirBNB and more that have begun successfully implementing storytelling techniques in their campaigns. You might also think that you don’t have the same reach so what’s the point or that you just don’t have compelling stories to tell – which just isn’t true. It’s so easy to be inspired by the power of the titans within an industry and just as easy to be discouraged by them.

The truth is, you don’t have to be a huge brand with an incredible budget to tell a great story.

In fact, small businesses have the opportunity to produce content just as good as, if not better, than larger businesses. Follow the same basic principles and you’ll discover that you’ve got a wealth of material just waiting to be discovered. A little bit of digging and an open mind could be just the change your business needs to differentiate itself from the rest.

Take, for example, the creator of Humans of New York, Brandon Stanton. His operation only consists of one person– himself! By simply listening, asking the right questions and being open, he has been able to gain almost eight million followers and tell the unique stories of thousands of people. It’s also important to note that the people he interacts with are complete strangers that he hasn’t known for longer than a day. If he can do it, then surely you can too.

How does he do it? Check out this NPR interview with Brandon Stanton as he goes through his interview process.

As humans, we are hardwired for storytelling. We have been communicating our experiences with one another for thousands of years. The Chauvet Cave in France, featuring some of the earliest known cave drawings, dates back 30,000 years. From there, we gravitated toward written storytelling, with hieroglyphics as one of the earliest forms of written language reaching back more than 5,000 years ago. Fast forward to today and we are just as interested in each other’s experiences as ever before.

Why? What makes us so drawn to stories?

According to Harvard Business Review and a study conducted by Paul J. Zak, our brains release the chemical oxytocin when processing stories, a hormone linked to empathy and bonding.

What does that tell us? That people love to connect. It’s no surprise, we are social creatures. But if this is so obvious, then why aren’t as many brands taking advantage or taking it as seriously? Here’s your chance to stand out in the crowd.

  1. Listen and ask questions – The stories are there. Your customers all have different experiences and you could be communicating their unique stories to promote your own brand. You might even want to designate a specific person as the lookout and discover if customers or employees have anything interesting to share.
  2. People trust people – Let the story speak for itself. Research shows that 84 percent of Millennials don’t like or trust traditional advertising. So what can be done? Against instincts, take yourself out of the spotlight and instead, focus on the consumer or employee with the story. If you do it right, you won’t need to add too much. This is definitely a “less is more” situation.
  3. Be aware of your audience – Spend some time getting to know the people with whom you’re trying to connect. It might help to create an audience persona to better help you craft your content.
  4. Be consistent – Make sure that your communication is consistent across all channels. Brand awareness can be promoted through the use of the same fonts, logos and colors. It will pay off big time to organize your messaging so your audience can follow along.

So with these simple starter guidelines, go forth my public relations friends and conquer the storytelling landscape with pride. You’ve always had it in you.

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