Big Game. Big Ads.

February in Boston. The Celtics are off to a great start. The Bruins are holding down third in the Eastern Conference. Sox pitchers and catchers report to Ft. Meyers in 10 days. But, this weekend, it’s all about football. For the seventh time since the 2001 season, the New England Patriots are in the championship game.

Of course we’ve all been wearing our Pats gear* for the past two weeks in preparation for the Big Game. But we’re communication professionals as well, so we’d be lying if we said we weren’t excited for the ads as well. In honor of the unique art form that is the Super Game ad, we thought we’d take a look back and recall our favorites from past years…

Reebok “Office Linebacker with Terry Tate” (2003)
Matt: I loved this – physical comedy, great dialogue and they never tried to sell me something–it was just fun and memorable.

terrytate

Doritos “Tea Party” (2013)
Amanda: It’s light hearted, makes you smile, and who doesn’t love one of the most delicious, dirtiest snack foods!

teaparty

Snickers “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” (2010)
Stephanie: Snickers has done a great job with these spots because viewers EXPECT these “You’re Not You…” commercials and always look forward to who will be featured next. Betty White is seriously the best.

bettywhite

Monster.com “When I Grow Up” (1999)
Kevin: It was epic at the time. Nothing but copy cats since. Solid and simple concept, executed masterfully.

monster.com-grow-up

Ameriquest Mortgage “Surprise Dinner” (2005)
Keith: I love the contrast of visuals in this one. The white color palette and the sweetness of the situation until it all turns in an unexpected way. 

cat

Volkswagen “The Force” (2011)
Christine: Just brilliant. I love the fact that it’s in the eyes of a child. Simple yet memorable!

force

Always “Like a Girl” (2014)
Katherine: This one is my favorite. The spot has stuck with me because of its authenticity, empowering message and courage to take on serious social issues.

likeagirl

E-Trade.com “Wasted $2 Million” (2000)
Jonathon: 17 years later and this is still the first ad that comes to mind for me. The cost of ad buys had been big news in the months leading up to The Game; E-Trade capitalized on the news stories and put out this bizarre yet perfectly on-message spot.

monkey

We’re all looking forward to the new crop of ads this year. And, of course, GO PATS!

 

*Full disclosure: I’ve been a lifelong 49ers fan. Joe Montana > Tom Brady

Seeing the Unseen: A guide to understanding media

The Muppets only show us what's in the frame, but understanding their genius is seeing what otherwise goes unseen.

The Muppets only show us what’s in the frame, but understanding their genius means seeing what otherwise goes unseen.

When it comes to media, what we don’t see matters as much as what appears. Of course, how do you know what you don’t see?

Every journalist leaves some great quotes and details behind in order to create a good story. It doesn’t mean they leave out relevant facts, it just means they need to cut in order to clarify. Plus, they rarely tell you the origin of a story. Did it come from their own experience? Did a PR person pitch it? Was this an editor’s suggestion? Did they start reporting on something else and stumble across this gem?

This matters because it better helps us in PR learn how to bring journalists stories that matter to them. Just because someone writes a story about coffee doesn’t mean they’re interested in other coffee-related stories. How they came to write that article and what engaged them about that particular story is often more important than the subject. PR people often forget this and will begin emailing reporters with pitches that don’t match their area of expertise or passion.

The easiest place to understand this is in the world of photography. Today, people take pictures as a quick process in which we snap almost without thought. But true photography is something entirely different. During a recent interview, Photographer Tom Zimberoff brought that differentiation to light by pointing out “photographs, which are 2 dimensional objects which you can hold in your hand and admire with completely different aesthetic qualities than you see on a computer screen.” He also said that Instragram is to photography as texting is to prose.

For many photographers, however, the work has a huge editing component. They take an idea, snap the shutter, select only the images worth using, modify them in some way to better tell the story, then only show their best work. This is true whether you’re talking about carefully staged art photography or more journalistic “decisive moment” photography.

Ansel Adams wrote three seminal works that break the photographic process into distinct areas: The Camera, The Negative, and The Print. While the idea of a “negative” has been replaced with a digital file, the three-step execution remains. What you do with the camera is distinct from the images you capture that are distinct from the product finally produced. Of course, the modification can go too far, as it has recently in some journalistic circles.

One of the most amazing moments in my own photography education was viewing the contact sheets produced by Diane Arbus. I had been experimenting with a camera similar to hers and would have the occasional misfire or an out-of-focus shot. These frustrated me as I wanted every image to turn into gold. That is, until I saw her contact sheets and found the same errors. I learned that she would often spend a day or more shooting but only deemed a few images as worthy of printing.

One if Diane Arbus' most famous photographs.

One of Diane Arbus’ most famous photographs.

Among her more famous works is one of a set of twins, an image that inspired such iconic film moments as the twins in The Shining. The father of those twins once commented that he felt it was a lousy picture of his daughters. But that wasn’t Arbus’ point. She liked capturing something off in her images, which is why she loved photographing nudist colonies and what subjects who she termed “freaks.” To her, the twins were part of that narrative: the odd ends of society.

cutsheet

But if you look at her contact sheets you can almost see the “notes” she’s taking as she’s creating the narrative. She has a series of photographs with twins, all standing next to one another dressed alike (she came to a gathering of twins specifically to get two kids who looked alike). Each set of twins was photographed a number of times in different locations and focal lengths.

Then she took all these images, found the one that came closest to the story she wanted to tell, and that image went on to become famous. We have a better sense of what she was trying to say by looking at what she didn’t say.

The same goes for reporters. As PR people, we can learn a lot about a reporter by looking at their other stories, following their social presence, and even reading other quotes or articles written by the people who are interviewed. All that data begins to tell us what’s missing and can help us as we pitch reporters new stories.

By knowing what’s missing, we can know how to fill in blanks and better understand what’s valuable to different journalists.

Jill Abramson Is Launching A Media Startup

image via The Boston Globe

image via The Boston Globe

Jill Abramson and David Carr kicked off WBUR’s new series Fast Forward at Boston University this week. While the pair rarely stayed on-topic, the night was full of candid moments, debate, and Abramson’s latest breaking news — she’s launching a media startup with Steve Brill.

Want to know what else you missed from Carr’s chat with Abramson? Check out our BuzzFeed story.

H2H PR – Haven’t We Always Been Doing It?

shutterstock_142034836Recently, B2B and B2C public relations have had some human company. Human-to-human (H2H), lately one of the industry’s favorite phrases, is now everywhere and it’s gotten there fast. But how people are using it and what it really means don’t seem to be in line.

The two main public relations categories, B2B and B2C, serve to create specificity and clarity when PR professionals describe their tasks and responsibilities. Each segment has its own audience, goals and messaging; differentiating between them allows for more efficient communication between professionals, their potential clients, and their client’s potential clients. In other words, B2B and B2C have their own distinct significations, and this is where H2H differs.

H2H is intended to help focus communicators on the people behind the companies, not on the companies themselves. The idea holds that all interactions are personal, even when executed in a business setting. In this context, for instance, a PR professional for a software security company needs to think about the IT manager as a person in its B2B communications plans, not the general role of the IT manager.

I’ve read and heard many communicators claim that they partake in authentic, feeling, H2H communications. A B2B agency can say they deal in human-to-human communications, just as a B2C agency can – the phrase itself does not speak to the kind of PR or branding being done, but rather to how it’s done. It’s a philosophy behind a practice, rather than the practice itself.

As a philosophy, H2H has become a diluted buzz-phrase, and, on some level, this is understandable. H2H has no alternative. There is nothing to distinguish it by. What would the opposite of H2H communication be? Has there ever been a situation in which we’re not trying to market to other people? The answer is most likely no. In the end, communicators have always been focused on people.

So if PR and creative communications are innately a human exchange, then why is this aspect such a popular topic right now?

shutterstock_113242627

Well, public relations used to be a very linear process, but today it’s not linear at all. PR is merging different outlets and means of accessing information into a single, tailored and aligned communications plan. It reaches beyond creating content or pushing out press releases to creating your own content outlets and nurturing lasting engagement.

Additionally, audiences are more nuanced than ever before. People have more options and outlets to find and express their opinions. While it has always been important for businesses to engage in these conversations, the explosion of communication platforms and communicators has made audience engagement a more challenging task that can’t be ignored.

But we all know this already. It’s this very challenge that invigorates us to strive for success every day. Each era before ours has faced their version of the almighty communications hurdle, and each one after our own will do the same. What we may not be so aware of are the secondary ways in which the hurdles we face influence our communications strategies. Terms like human-to-human and integrated marketing communications are phrases we drew up and then popularized as a way to try to define and somehow harness the hurdles we’re facing. In other words, they’re direct products of our challenges and not necessarily terms for our solutions.

Human-to-human is to business practices as integrated marketing communications is to just plain communications – it’s a method, it’s intuitive, and nobody knows precisely what it means. When you say you’re communicating to humans, what you’re really saying is that you’re doing what you should be doing. When you say you’re deploying an “integrated marketing communications campaign,” what you’re really saying is that you’re doing what you should be doing. These terms aren’t special anymore – they simply identify part of the very fabric of how we exchange news and information for action and reaction.

So, let’s let B2B and B2C delineate the spaces in which communications professionals play and let’s give H2H a break.

 

This post originally appeared on the PRSA Boston blog on July 10, 2014: https://prsaboston.org/blog.php?id=58&reset=1

Environmental concern – Not for everyone… yet.

I recently read an article in the Seattle Times about arctic sea ice melting at unprecedented rates and Russia’s comment about the resulting new shipping lanes. The good news: this apparently can cut the the journey for some shipping between Europe, Asia and America by 50%. The bad news: rapidly melting arctic ice already affects global climate and coastal communities.

Courtesy of National Snow and Ice Data Center, nsidc.org

I looked for other commentary in the Seattle Times, searching for an “environment” or “green” section of the paper. But there was none. Many of the media sources I use have dedicated sections for environmental/green news. These include The New York Times (usually under Science), The Washington Post (under Energy & Environment), The Los Angeles Times (under Science & Environment), The San Jose Mercury News (under Science & Environment) UK’s The Guardian (under Environment), France’s Le Monde (under Planete) and The Times of India (under Environment).

I follow news from other worldwide outlets that seem to have no section dedicated to the environment, and rarely to science. These include Russian news outlets Pravda, Moscow Times and St. Petersburg Times, Sweden’s The Local, Germany’s The Local, Brazil’s Rio Times, Argentina’s Buenos Aires Herald, China’s China Daily, Shanghai DailyPeople’s Daily and , Hong Kong’s The Standard, Singapore’s The Straits Times and The New Paper, AsiaOne, and of course Al Jazeera.

Does this evidence suggest only the richest audiences care about the environment? Not really. Plenty of outlets here in the US haven’t considered the “environment” worthy of its own section – for instance The Houston Chronicle and Chicago Tribune. And those regions certainly don’t lack wealth.

My conclusion regards the assumptions we often make. As we participate in the US efforts to catch up to Germany and other progressive nations in developing clean technology and preserving our environment, we should not assume that all people in all places share our concerns or ambitions. Such assumptions are tantamount to zealotry – comparable to people of faith who assume that their faith is the only valid one, and think less of those who don’t share it (or even worse, assume some horrible fate awaits non-believers, such as going to Hell).

Instead we should acknowledge that even as ice-cap melting sends chills of fear up our spines, it can be interpreted as good news by others. Even as environmental degradation and dependence on foreign oil keeps us up at night, our fellow Americans (and global citizens) have many other concerns that take precedence.

Bridging the gap remains our mission, not by talking ever more loudly to dominate the conversation, but by respectfully and repeatedly stating the case, and encouraging change where we can. To start, I suggest a call and a note to any news outlet you enjoy, saying that you would be more likely to return for news if the outlet offered pages or sections dedicated to the environment or clean technology.

By the way, if you currently have a favorite mainstream media outlet that covers environmental or clean-technology news, please let me know.

Christina Warren on Geek Chic: Fresh Ground #12

Christina Warren has never had to interview for a job, yet serves as a full-time writer for Mashable, one of the largest blogs on the web, as well as a contributor to AMC Entertainment’s Script-to-Screen blog, where she cover the latest movie news.

Fresh Ground Principal Chuck Tanowitz caught up with Christina at DEMO Spring 2010, where they talked about how she got to where she is today at the age of 27, and what’s next for her and for journalism and blogging in general.

Some of the more interesting excerpts:

“I wanted to write for as long as I can remember … but it’s funny how I got into [blogging]. I was a frequent contributor on USA TODAY’s music blog, and the music editor … liked my comments and reached out to me….”

“I want to make sure that … when people are Google stalking me … that I’m worthy of stalkage….”

“I’m geek chic…. I’m into technology, I’m into film, I’m into fashion. I can talk the talk, genuinely, but I can also go and be excited about pretty shoes.”

“The place that I’m working … is less important than [my] doing valuable work….”

“[The] old style journalism that existed even 10 years ago doesn’t exist anymore.”

About the Fresh Ground Podcast: Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today’s competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

Photo credit: Grant_Robertson

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Our opening music is “D.I.Y.” by A Band Called Quinn from the album “Sun Moon Stars” and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.

Paul Gillin on Social Media Marketing: Fresh Ground #4

Fresh Ground Podcast #4In episode 4 of the Fresh Ground Podcast, Todd Van Hoosear talks with Paul Gillin, veteran technology journalist, author, blogger, researcher and consultant. Paul is a popular speaker who is known for his ability to simply complex concepts using plain talk, anecdotes and humor.

Todd and Paul talk about how to start in social media, measure ROI, give up control (and why giving up control can be so valuable) and “ditch the pitch.”

This interview was originally recorded a little more than a year ago.

Some of the more interesting excerpts:

“Starting small is fine. There’s no reason that you have to make a big enterprise-wide commitment to social media in order to start some spot blogging, launch a podcast or do some video … training.”

“[A] lot of what goes on in social media is in fact what we have been doing on television, and radio and in print communications and in newsletters… We’re simply using a different means to do that, and we are creating a two-way channel around it.”

“When you can take a company … as big and as conservative as Procter & Gamble and say this company is making a huge corporate-wide commitment to a new way of communicating with its customers, that is … a pretty compelling case that this idea has gone mainstream.”

“There are paradoxes in social media… The more control you give up, the more control you get… The more you give away, the more you get in return… The more transparent you are, the more control you have over information.”

“The trend is very clear that people who influence important constituents are important to institutions, regardless of the media they use. As mainstream media continues to decline, and crumble in many cases, this may be all we have left in some markets.”

“The traditional [PR] pitch is almost a scripted engagement, and I know that if I ever want to play games with a PR person’s mind, what I’ll do is start asking intelligent questions… When you’re talking with someone who has a high level of knowledge, as most bloggers do, you can’t deliver a pitch. They’re not going to listen to it. They don’t play the game. They’re not trained in the game like journalists are. They are going to challenge you right off the bat. So you can’t go in unprepared. You can’t go in with a scripted plan. You have to go in with a plan for a conversation, and that requires a fundamentally different approach to PR.”

About the Fresh Ground Podcast: Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today’s competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

Listen Now:

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Our opening music is “D.I.Y.” by A Band Called Quinn from the album “Sun Moon Stars” and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.