Snapchat: It’s Not Just for Millennials (Anymore)

By Julia Lescarbeau
While it can’t be denied that the majority of Snapchat users are millennials, many businesses and organizations are using the trendy media platform to their advantage. Snapchat allows users to be live, be present and share experiences with friends, followers and brands. With that in mind, advertising with Snapchat has proven to be incredibly effective, particularly when directed toward users ages 13-34.
Continue reading “Snapchat: It’s Not Just for Millennials (Anymore)”

4 Ways to Prepare for Instagram’s Upcoming Algorithm

By Kat Pallotta
Instagram currently boasts more than 400 million active users. As of now, users view posts in chronological order. However, in the next few months Instagram plans to integrate an algorithm that predicts which photos users will “like” based on relationships with other users, timing, and interactions, including likes and comments. These photos will appear higher in feeds instead of chronologically.
Continue reading “4 Ways to Prepare for Instagram’s Upcoming Algorithm”

Major (key emoji) for Brands: Staying Relevant

By Kat Pallotta
Over the past few weeks, you may have seen people use “Major (key emoji) to success” in an Instagram caption, Snapchat, Facebook post or tweet. This phrase refers to the popular Snapchat account of hip-hop producer DJ Khaled. More than 2 million people a day watch Khaled’s Snapchat stories that feature what he believes are major keys to success.
Leading brands such as MasterCard and Uber have participated in the DJ Khaled phenomenon by tweeting his trademark phrase in relation to their services. “Major (key emoji) Alert: If you need ID Theft alerts, we’ve got you covered (credit card emoji) #blessup,” tweeted MasterCard. The White House, which recently joined Snapchat, also used the phrase in its “My Story” the day before the State of the Union address, stating: “Major (key emoji): Get some rest before the big day.”
Continue reading “Major (key emoji) for Brands: Staying Relevant”

How Snapchat Has Become a Force for Marketing

By Alice Lee

In September 2011, Evan Spiegel released Snapchat, a revolutionary new social media platform that allows users to take photos or videos to share with friends. One of the more unique functions of Snapchat, as compared with similar social media platforms, is that the “Snaps” as they are called, are only visible to recipients for a few seconds. The app also includes a doodle and text function where users can draw or add text on top of their Snapchat messages, adding a creative component to customize messages.
Continue reading “How Snapchat Has Become a Force for Marketing”

History in the Making: How Brands Showed That #lovewins

By Amanda Garrity
imagesThe world was exceptionally colorful on Friday, June 26. From Twitter feeds to the illuminated White House, everyone was buzzing about the historic Supreme Court ruling, which made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.
Responding to current events, especially ones with international news coverage and online engagement, is a great way for brands to showcase timeliness and relevance. It can also bring added attention to their brand and gets people talking, a win in the world of public relations.
The following four brands captured our interest (and hearts) by the way they uniquely and creatively showed their support of the Supreme Court’s decision.
Continue reading “History in the Making: How Brands Showed That #lovewins”

3 Valentine’s Day Campaigns Spread The Love This Season

By Marina Panagopulos

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, companies are finding unique ways to spread the love. Whether it’s through fun in-store challenges or more serious matchmaking efforts, brands are successfully (and sometimes not so successfully) getting in the Valentine’s Day spirit.
Here’s a review of three impressive campaigns that are bound to spark conversation this year:

World’s Largest #StarbucksDate

Starbucks and are pairing up on Feb. 13 to host what is expected to be the “world’s largest Starbucks date.” Single Match users will get access to a special “Meet at Starbucks” feature to send out invites and arrange first dates. Starbucks will offer $5 pairings of coffee and bakery treats for two.
Continue reading “3 Valentine’s Day Campaigns Spread The Love This Season”

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: A PR Success Story for Nonprofits

By Amanda Limoges

The idea is simple: Pour a bucket of ice water over your head, share a video of it on social media and challenge your friends to do the same. If you do not complete the challenge within 24 hours, you are asked to donate $100 to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research. The idea itself may be simple, but with more than 3.7 million ice bucket-related videos posted on Instagram in a matter of weeks without a single penny spent on advertising, I am utterly intrigued as a budding PR professional by this campaign’s unique ability to attract worldwide attention.
Not only did the campaign significantly increase awareness of the disease, it also generated a large amount of revenue for ALS foundations globally. Between July 29 to August 28, the ALS Association raised $98.2 million compared to just $2.7 million the year before. This campaign was free for ALS research organizations that normally spend significant dollar amounts on advertising and fundraising efforts that produce only a fraction of the results. The success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is leaving many nonprofit organizations inspired to alter their traditional publicity tactics to match the viral Internet age.
Here are three lessons nonprofits can take from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:

Be Original

Many nonprofits have got into a rut of utilizing the same tried-and-true techniques to meet their fundraising needs. Whether it is an expensive black tie cocktail affair or a 5-K run, everyone has participated in numerous fundraising events that begin to mimic one another. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge broke the mold, encouraging a diverse group of individuals to support the organization through a fun and unique challenge spurred by competition among friends, colleagues, celebrities and family members. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge showcases the need for nonprofits to think outside of the box to drive fundraising efforts, and demonstrates that “innovative” does not have to be synonymous with “more work.”

Embrace the Internet Age

The emergence of social media has revolutionized marketing and public relations for nonprofits, providing a platform for organizations to quickly and easily share their story and interact with key stakeholders. No longer do nonprofits have to spend large sums of money on big fundraising events and extensive advertising campaigns to share their message, although they may have to pay someone to monitor social media and come up with creative, engaging content and campaigns. While social media management does come at a cost, the platforms themselves are free and can generate a great ROI for nonprofits that are strapped for cash. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge shows that nonprofits should be taking advantage of social media and creating a strategic plan to use these platforms effectively.

Surprise with Positivity

So often we see nonprofits utilizing scare or empathy techniques to generate revenue. While these work, as noted by the SPCA’s continued use of commercials highlighting abused animals, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a refreshing, positive break from these types of campaigns. Think of the Dove Beauty Campaign, which utilized similar positive tactics and has generated more than 4.6 billion PR and blogger impressions simply by embracing “real women” in a world of Photoshopped models. Create a positive, unique campaign, and you’ll see the results.
Photo courtesy of tenz1225’s Flickr photostream.

No Dumping on the Internet: 6 Tips for Effective Social Media Management

By Alyssa Bedrosian
In just a few years, social media has become vital to our personal and professional lives. From wedding hashtags to Instagram advertising campaigns, the impact of social media is felt in all aspects of society, and so it’s no surprise that it has changed how companies approach public relations. As this new media gives organizations new platforms for storytelling, PR pros are adapting to this dynamic communications tool that gives everyone a voice.
At RLF, we manage social media for several of our clients. While tweeting and pinning may seem like second nature to the millennial generation and younger, successful social media management requires strategy and measurement.
Although we have several professionals with experience in social media management, it’s always helpful to exchange best practices and lessons learned with other industry professionals. Earlier this week Jenifer Daniels, APR, shared some of her experiences as social media manager for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Tar Heel Chapter monthly meeting. Daniels is the creative resources specialist for the library, and has nearly 15 years experience in nonprofit and education communications.
After the library’s budget was cut by 50 percent a few years ago, Daniels used social media to actively listen to the concerns of patrons and share the library’s story. Here are some key points from the discussion:

Follow the Pareto Principle, which states that 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of the causes.

The 80/20 rule pushes us to focus on the 20 percent of tasks that really matter and are key to success. You can see dramatic improvements in social media engagement by focusing your efforts strategically, rather than trying to do anything and everything on social media.

As social media managers, 80 percent of our time should be spent as active listeners.

Find out what customers are saying about you and listen to what they want from your organization. The remaining 20 percent of your time can be used to share information with your followers.

Don’t chase followers.

You want hearts, not eyeballs. Organizations should seek followers who will actually engage in discussion, regularly visit an organization’s social media pages and share content.

Don’t lose customers to negativity.

Try to solve their problems as soon as possible, and take their recommendations into consideration.

No dumping on the Internet.

Don’t overindulge on social media just because you have the capacity and resources. Before you post, ask yourself these questions: What do my followers want to hear? Am I posting something of value, or am I just posting junk?

80 percent of posts should be helpful, interesting, funny or irreverent.

20 percent of posts should be original or self-promotional. Share messages that will resonate with your followers, but feel free to weave key messaging and positioning into these posts.
In a world that has been saturated by online content and social media overload, Daniels’ advice is short and sweet: Simplify your social media strategy through focusing your efforts, listening to followers and posting interesting content.
Daniels ended the conversation with one last social media tip: If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t matter.

The Power of Pinterest

By Kara Frasca
The power of Pinterest for companies is in its ability to connect with current and potential customers, and ultimately drive those customers to make purchases. Not only is the site the third-largest source of referral traffic online, but Pinterest traffic converted into a sale 22 percent more times than Facebook traffic. To top it off, a whopping 70 percent of Pinterest users utilize the social media site for inspiration on what to buy. That’s 17.5 million of its 25 million members.

So Pinterest is an extremely powerful marketing tool, but is it right for your brand? Unless you’re targeting women between the ages of 25 and 54, the answer is “no.” Eighty percent of Pinterest users are women, and 50 percent of all users have children. Lifestyle brands typically have the best luck on Pinterest, but that doesn’t mean that a company selling dental insurance has no chance at Pinterest success. It’s all about creating good content and appealing to your target audience.
In order for companies to reap the benefits of Pinterest, it is vital that they follow these steps:

Pin often to win

By remaining fresh in a user’s newsfeed, a company has a better chance of capturing attention, and ideally, connecting users to its website. To save time and improve results, use a scheduling tool. Pingraphy and Curalate are two scheduling tools that also offer analytics.  Saturday morning is the best time to reach pinners, so schedule more pins on that day to reach more people.

Crop your images

Because a user sees many different images from different sources in her feed, your pins will be competing with many others’ for attention. Statistics show that pins with taller images get pinned more, so it is vital to crop your images vertically. This cropped format matches Pinterest’s vertical scroll layout and your images will be more likely to catch the attention of users.

Optimize, welcome and convert

Fifty percent of users access Pinterest through a mobile app. In order to reach this demographic, companies must optimize their pin-linked websites for mobile devices. The website must load fast, be easy to read and navigate, and require minimal scrolling.
Since its inception in 2008, Pinterest has grown to become a leading social media platform for both businesses and consumers. That popularity is only increasing. By harnessing its attributes and incorporating these tips into your Pinterest strategy, you can further brand awareness in an effective way.
Have you achieved Pinterest success with your brand? What tips can you share?

Media Madness: Six Public Relations Lessons to Learn From March Madness

By Caroline Nobles
Now that the battle to make it to the Final Four is over, it’s hard to escape the office talk of whose brackets have been busted or whose team is still in the running to be crowned the 2013 NCAA tournament champion. Whether you are an avid basketball fan or you merely watch to see which team has the best uniforms or most unusual mascot, there are six lessons for public relations professionals to take away from the Big Dance.


1.    Have a Game Plan

Having a game plan is just as important for public relations professionals as it is for college basketball players. Whether you a developing a new client proposal, pitching reporters or monitoring social media, mapping out the steps to accomplish a project is key to maintain efficiency and productivity. At RLF, we use Basecamp, a project management system that allows us to keep track of individual projects, corresponding documents and communications in one manageable location. (It also helps to cut down on extraneous emails internally!) With Basecamp, we create to-do lists and set deadlines, which allow us to easily track the tasks that have to be accomplished for each project every day.

2.    Scope Out Your (Client’s) Competition

In advance of every game, no matter if it’s No. 1 seed Louisville playing No. 16 seed North Carolina A&T or it’s No. 8 seed University of North Carolina playing No. 9 seed Villanova, players and coaches review scouting reports of their competition. To be the very best players they can be during the NCAA tournament, players have to understand their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.
The same goes for public relations professionals. To best serve your clients, you have to understand not just your client’s business, but also their competitors. Research how your client’s competitors are being discussed in the media, how the competition is talking about themselves and how your target audience views the competition. By being aware of the competition, you gain a better understanding of how to best position your client, serve their key audience and make them stand out from the crowd.

3.    Expect the Unexpected

March Madness wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable if all four of the No. 1 seed teams wound up in the Final Four each year. We all love the unexpected thrill of seeing Florida Gulf Coast make history as a No. 15 seed heading into the Sweet Sixteen or having the No. 1 seed Gonzaga out of play after the second round. It’s the excitement of the unknown that allows teams to adjust their game plans and delivers some of the best basketball games we watch all year!
In public relations, you have to expect the unexpected each day. Clients call with emergencies or a reporter requests an interview with a client…to be held in an hour! Public relations pros have to be able to adjust as new projects come up or crises occur. It’s important to be flexible and able to quickly change paths to generate the best outcome for a client, even if you have to deviate from your original game plan.

4.    Take a Timeout

Timeouts during the NCAA tournament games are crucial for helping players and coaches regroup, catch their breath and plan the next step to secure the win. Timeouts allow teams to analyze what they are doing well and what areas of play need some improvement. Timeouts also give players time to prepare themselves for their next minutes of play.
For public relations professionals, it’s important to take a timeout during the workday. Step outside for some fresh air or grab lunch with friends and colleagues. Take a few minutes to catch up on your favorite blog or Twitter feed. It’s crucial for your health and sanity to remain refreshed and revitalized so you can be at the top of your game for clients. A recent post on PR Daily makes the case for eating lunch away from the office and provides several alternatives, including yoga, playing an instrument or just reading your favorite book. Changes of scenery are a great way to give your mind a break, and stepping away from your desk may provide just the inspiration you need to break your writer’s block.

5.    Play as a Team

There are natural leaders on every team – sometimes it’s the steadfast senior who builds the team up with constant encouragement and leads by example while other times it’s a younger player, full of verve and enthusiasm, ready to assist the team to a win. Leadership is important during games, to boost morale, set a positive example and encourage team members, but ultimately, games are won and lost as a team.
In the fast-paced world of public relations, don’t be afraid to pass the ball and ask your teammates for help. Ask the senior partner for advice on your new project or bounce ideas for a pitch off your officemate. Working as a team keeps ideas fresh, and allows for thoughtful, deliberate ideas to garner client success. Working as a team also prevents you from burning out too quickly. As important as timeouts are for PR pros, working as a team is also just as important. Teammates share the workload, resulting in better ideas, boosted efficiency and more success for clients.

6.     Celebrate the Win

At the time this blog post was written, the winner of the 2013 NCAA tournament was still to be decided. No matter who is crowned the champion this year, prepare for some true March Madness in celebration once a winner emerges! Teams push forward all season toward the goal of becoming tournament champs, and the winning team should revel in the feeling of success and accomplishment once it’s all over!
The same can be said for public relations professionals. Share your success stories with your co-workers and clients. If you arranged for a client to be the keynote speaker at their top industry conference, celebrate that moment! Or if you pitch a well-known reporter and your client’s story gets picked up, pause to share the good news with someone. You work diligently each day to provide your clients with the very best service and ideas, and it’s important to celebrate the wins, all the while looking forward to next year’s tournament or new project!
What other public relations lessons have you learned from March Madness this year? Share your thoughts below.
Photo from QuincyRoberts’ Flickr photostream