In this ever-changing world that is social media, one of the latest buzzwords is “influencer.” While it may look like anyone who has a smartphone, an Instagram account and a blog ticks all of the boxes to become an influencer, there is so much more that goes into this industry.
Consumers trust the judgment of influencers because they are real people producing authentic content. They are a quick, personable source that offers product reviews and opinions. But, the biggest takeaway here is that consumers are looking to these influencers when making purchase decisions.
These thought leaders, bloggers and social media mavens come from all corners of the world, promoting all different sorts of products and services. They hold the ability to leverage their followers to sell thousands of dollars’ worth of products—all through their social feeds.
In a way, influencer marketing is really just a modern-day version of word-of-mouth marketing. Talk about re-inventing the wheel!
In 2018, the phrase “influencer marketing,” rose to 61,000 searches compared to its 21,000 searches in 2017. In the past three years, the term has seen an astounding 1,500% increase in searches. Today, it is predicted that social media advertising will account for 20% of all internet advertising in 2019 (according to Media Marketing)—and this trend is only likely to continue in the future. By 2020, influencer marketing is on pace to become a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Advertising your products and services through influencers allows your brand to promote itself to a niche community that watches, engages and trusts on a daily basis. So, if you’re afraid of coming off as too “salesy,” with an influx of paid digital advertisements, consider the benefits of influencer marketing.
Racism is unacceptable, period. But, before we collectively judge the character of the college students involved in recently resurrected racially offensive 70s and 80s college yearbook photos, let’s pause and ask ourselves an important question: Did I ever do anything stupid in college and if so, does that define who I am today?
I know what you’re thinking. “Yes, but I never posed for a racially offensive photo smiling in blackface or wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood, holding a noose.” If you thought that, you’re in the majority.
A February 20 USA Today article, “Blackface, KKK Hoods, Mock Lynchings: Blatant Racism in 900 College Yearbooks,” features results of a recent nationwide survey of college yearbooks during the 70s and 80s. A front-page story in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle leads with a provocative headline that reads more like a blanket statement, “Racism Common in Old Yearbooks.” Let’s do the math: 200 examples of racially inappropriate photos found among 900 college yearbooks, each about 150 pages in length—or the equivalent of 1/1000th—hardly constitutes something “common.”
Are the yearbook photos acceptable? Not at all. The question is: Where was the oversight? How did the faculty yearbook advisors allow the photos to be published in the first place? The students involved are certainly accountable, but what about the adults? Where were they in the process?
The deeper issue offers an opportunity for dialogue about race and cultural norms across generations. What may have been perceived as “acceptable” forty years ago is considered morally reprehensible today. If we know that to be true, why is this still happening in popular culture? Late-night hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon, and comic Sarah Silverman, are among several celebrities being called out for their use of blackface, and rightly so. It was unacceptable then, and it still is today.
If we’ve learned anything from this latest controversy, it’s that people and brands should consider a thorough audit of their documented pasts, understanding that what happened decades ago may become a crisis today. That includes public-facing organizations and media outlets. If they shine a spotlight on others, they should prepare to face the same scrutiny.
What was originally designed for Twitter, hashtags have exploded across multiple social media platforms, completely changing the landscape for reaching new audiences and sparking new conversations.
Social users search for specific hashtags to see what other people are saying about a topic that they’re interested in. Hashtags have created millions of niche little “communities,” if you will, for people to insert themselves into a conversation.
But, before you go crazy using hashtags all across your social pages—you should keep these three tips in mind...
Stay True to Your Brand
Creating new hashtags—and even using existing ones—leaves a lot of room for creativity. But, it is important to make sure you’re not steering off-brand. Before using a certain hashtag, do your research.
Type your hashtag into the search bar to see what people are saying, what topics are trending, and what the existing conversation already looks like. This will give you a better idea as to whether or not using this hashtag makes sense for your brand.
You’ll want to avoid hashtags that may have double meaning. Or, maybe another brand is already using the hashtag you had in mind to promote an entirely different campaign.
There are websites that can help make monitoring hashtags much easier, like ritetag.com, for example. They offer a “hashtag dictionary," which allows you to check the meaning of hashtags before you use them, which will save you from attracting the wrong audiences.
Know Your Audience
Think about your audience for a moment. Who are they? How old are they? What are their interests?
This will help when deciding the overall message you’re trying to convey. The more targeted your message is, the more engagement your posts will receive.
Don’t Go Overboard
The rule for the number of hashtags varies from platform to platform. On Facebook and Twitter, it's most effective to use only one to two relevant hashtags at most, according to Social Media Today. Whenever you use more than the recommended one or two hashtags on these platforms, you run the risk of making your posts look "spammy." Research shows that posts with one or two will see more engagement than posts that don't use any at all.
On the flip side, Instagram is a platform that encourages (borderline excessive) hashtag use—up to at least 30 per post! But, for optimal engagement, studies reveal that between 5 and 10 hashtags is best practice for this particular platform.
With all of this in mind, however, we recognize that the use of hashtags is constantly changing as the world of social media continues to evolve. This is a prime example of why it is important to stay on top of the latest tips and trends in social media—especially within your industry.
Over 100 million people watched Super Bowl LIII. But what did they see? A boring game or an epic defensive battle. Their favorite band or an uninspiring halftime show. Eye catching ads or ones that made you say huh.
What MillerCoors – brewer of Miller Lite and Coors Light – saw, was opportunity.
If you were up getting a snack and missed Anheuser-Bush’s Bud Light commercial , let me bring you up to speed. The brewing giant called out rivals Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup to brew their beers. As you can imagine, that didn’t sit well with MillerCoors nor with corn farmers.
Corn growers voiced their “disappointment.” MillerCoors wasted no time pushing out content voicing their pride in the ingredients they source from corn growers and reminded consumers that Miller Lite has fewer calories and less carbs than Bud Light. MillerCoors Chairman Pete Coors delivered Coors Light and Miller Lite to corn growers. Even a hashtag – #corntroversy – sprung up.
I’m not here to tell you which is better – Bud Light, Coors Light, or Miller Lite (although we at McDougall Communications do encourage people to sample products from your local craft breweries, wineries and distilleries). What I am here to tell you is to be prepared to take advantage of the happenings of the day to promote your brand.
MillerCoors hasn’t run a Super Bowl ad in more than 20 years. Instead of becoming defensive, they powered up the offense. At a substantially lower cost, they were able to capitalize on Anheuser-Bush’s multi-million-dollar ad buy to promote its products. Now that’s what we call earned media.
Spend more than two decades in crisis communications, and it’s easy to understand why friends ask what a public figure should do about the dumpster fire of the moment. Welcome to a world where logic and good choices battle emotion and absurdity with increasing frequency.
Every crisis has its peculiarities, and it can be tough to discern what’s happening behind the scenes. But for the curious, there are a few ways you can gain a better sense of the machinations at work, and what may be around the corner:
1. Be cautious of anyone misrepresenting conjecture as fact...and even fact as fact. There are typically many unknowns when a crisis breaks. Trying to analyze why a certain decision was made, words were spoken, or actions taken in the absence of direct discussion with the involved people typically leads to error.
2. Look beyond the noise for the truth. Too many self-proclaimed pundits and community representatives want to be part of the discussion more than they want to be part of the solution — it’s FOMO to the extreme, and they have no shame in trying to hijack a crisis for their own exposure. Tune them out (and keep them tuned out in the future).
3. Watch for key players who suddenly go silent. That can signal that they’ve made a misstep and hope to disappear, or that legal or crisis counsel have been retained and have clamped down.
4. In the same vein, be on the lookout for those who double-down on a position without introducing any additional facts or insights to back their statement. In some cases, this is a sign of bluster, with the hopes of sending the inquisitive hoards scurrying away.
5. When listening to those directly involved, note their voice pitch and rate of speech. Are those higher and faster than normal, and does that happen when confronted with a more challenging question or position? It’s not a foolproof sign of deceit, but indicates an elevation of stress and the fight-or-flight response.
Employ these tips with caution – you’ll find yourself reading, listening and watching news and commentary with a different perspective, much like a coach watches a sporting event. Yet what you’re seeing isn’t a game nor entertainment – it’s real people with real consequences.
Year after year, I find myself trapped in the same argument. It always unfolds the same way, too: I present my case, the opposition presents theirs, we spar and dance in our annual routine, but regular as clockwork, the fighting peters out—and no clear victor emerges.
But now, after 30 years of arguing and debating all around the world, mankind can sleep easy knowing that Die Hard is, in fact, a Christmas movie.
Ever since its release in 1988, the Bruce Willis action classic has been the center of a contentious cinematic debate over its credentials as a Christmas film. To mark the film’s 30th anniversary, 20th Century Fox released a recut trailer, labeling it as “the greatest Christmas story ever told.” And putting the matter to rest for good.
There’s a lot that marketers can learn from this (aside from how to climb on top of an elevator car). For starters, knowing your brand identity is essential. It’s a representation of everything it embodies, including your teammates. By embracing that culture and morphing it in with what your brand delivers, you’re well on your way to having a solid brand identity in place.
Another important lesson: Brand identity shouldn’t be dictated for you. Consumers may form opinions about your brand that don’t align with your message, and if that’s the case, it’s time to rethink your strategy and make it abundantly clear what your identity entails. 20th Century Fox made it clear and so should you with your brand.
I’m sure there are some people in this world that, with this new information, are experiencing a form of cognitive dissonance. So be it. Thanks to the definitive stance taken by the studio, there can never be anymore doubt as to Die Hard’s Christmas credentials. Can you say the same for your brand?
Reflecting on the life and legacy of the late President George HW Bush, there are valuable lessons to be learned from his understated communication style. A man of high integrity and quiet resolve, Bush famously advocated during his presidency for a “kinder, gentler nation.” While some perceived his kindness as weakness, his actions revealed a daring, courageous person who led by example. Here are five PR lessons from President George HW Bush.
Service over self. After the bombing at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Bush tried to enlist in the Navy but had to wait until his 18th birthday. He postponed college to serve as likely the Navy’s youngest fighter pilot, nearly losing his life after being shot down while on a bombing run off the island of Chi Chi Jima. A distinguished World War II veteran earning the highest honors, he devoted his entire life to service. During his presidency, he encouraged each and every American to be “Points of Light” by volunteering to help others.
It’s not about you! “Don’t use the word ‘I’ in my speeches,” President Bush told his then speechwriter Curt Smith. True to his upbringing and his mother’s admonition not to brag, Bush favored speaking plainly using simple words that everyone could understand. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Bush famously declined to visit Germany to celebrate. Though he helped end the Cold War and achieve German reunification, he refused to take a victory lap.
The art of the handwritten letter. President Bush knew the power of the pen, sending hundreds of handwritten letters to people over the years. Now treasured keepsakes, he would often send a note of gratitude or congratulations, even a note of encouragement to his successor, Bill Clinton. In the letter, Bush said, “…. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you. Good luck, George.”
Make friends with your adversaries. Speaking of Clinton, Bush didn’t stop with that letter. The pair developed a close friendship, with Bush often referring to Clinton as his “brother from another mother.” Together, they traveled the world to raise funds to aid victims of natural disasters. “In George Bush’s America, there are no political enemies, merely adversaries who may disagree with you on one day and yet be with you on the next roll call,” the late President Gerald Ford once said.
Keep your sense of humor. President Bush appreciated, and often told, a good joke, though his son, George W. Bush said during his father’s eulogy that he could never remember the punchline. Bush appeared on Saturday Night Live with his impersonator Dana Carvey and Bush invited Carvey to the White House to perform for the staff. The two developed an unlikely friendship. “What I remember about those years is how hard we laughed,” Carvey said. Bush also had a penchant for wearing bold, colorful socks, his way of making the best of his limited mobility after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Bush gave one of his most emotional speeches on December 7, 1991, the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Curt Smith, who wrote the speech, said Bush kept his composure until the last line: “God bless America,” he said, to which he added in tears “…the most wondrous land on earth.”
With the new year looming around the corner, tis the season to start setting goals and resolutions—and that goes for your organization, too!
What once was as simple as getting your name in print has substantially evolved over the years. As with any field in this day and age, the expanding world of digital has made a strong impact on public relations.
With the ever-changing landscape of communication channels, there are new ways to reach your audience every day. So this year, you should add "improve PR strategy" to your wish list and consider all of the benefits that these fresh, new methods can bring when it comes to your PR efforts.
The Beauty of Real-Time
Before the convenience of instantaneously sharing content via social media, drafting and distributing news releases could take as long as a few weeks before the news got out. Today, as long as your release is ready to go, it can be live within minutes.
This real-time communication has also helped to streamline crisis management. Now, issues can be addressed quickly, directly and efficiently.
Reaching Far and Wide
With more and more people taking to social media to sound off on brands and research information, getting the attention of your target audience has never been easier—not to mention, the attention of others, as well.
Today, videos, photos, infographics and even the new fad that is "stories," are all new methods of raising brand awareness and conveying a company's message. Also, in this world of digital, there are now bloggers to contend with, which has created a whole new opportunity to get messages out there to a broader audience.
With these new digital tools at our disposal, we can now find out the exact number of people who have clicked on certain links, what they did with it, and even information about their demographics, age, location and more.
Now when you distribute press releases and share content, you can see results and get a much better idea of what's working, what isn't working, and how you can address it.
Although trying to stay on top of all of the change that comes with an evolving PR environment is a challenge, the amount of opportunity that has opened up for brands is tremendous. Today, businesses are in a better position than they've ever been when it comes to sharing messages and connecting with the public all because of this constantly changing PR world.
This past September, I began a new chapter in my career with McDougall Communications. One week earlier, my youngest daughter began her freshman year of high school, now mixed in with more than 1,900 other teenagers. We just held elections across the United States and with them came new legislators, new governors, new majorities and new (well, maybe not “new”) promises. Next year, my oldest daughter will join countless other high school graduates as she heads off to college to experience new and interesting things as she leaves the confines of home.
It’s no surprise that I’m often reminded of what the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once said: “Change is the only constant in life.”
In a dynamic profession like public relations, we expect and embrace change—and so should your company, not-for-profit, school, association, or whatever your organization is. With change comes opportunity and with opportunity comes the ability to showcase what sets your organization apart and differentiates it from the masses in a cluttered environment.
Not all that long ago, it was common practice that the only way to get your word out was through earned media channels with a press release. However—you guessed it—things changed! Today, the public consumes their information in different ways as more and more entities maximize their exposure through owned media (websites and blogs), shared media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest) and paid media (branded content and paid integrations).
USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations' 2018 Global Communications report shows organizations will continue to shift their spending from earned media into owned, shared and paid over the next five years. This doesn’t mean that earned media isn’t valued but suggests the recognition for balance across each channel.
This shift in spending across media channels comes with it a change in content. While developments occurring within your organization are still newsworthy, audiences are demanding more. In addition to what’s happening, they want to know what you know and, yes, they want to know what you think. It’s that mix of information, opinion and news that keep brands relevant in an ever-changing life.
Organizations that prepare for change are better positioned to succeed in the tong-term. And if you aren’t prepared it’s not too late to start, because as that other great philosopher Bob Dylan once wrote: “the times they are a changin’.”
A large meeting room at the recent Public Relations Society of America International Conference in Austin, Texas was recently filled to near capacity, as communications professionals were drawn to an unusual topic.
In a time when crisis seems to be the order of the day in many organizations, with time and energy being placed against containing and controlling any number of wayward issues, I was standing before them to offer a counterpoint: crisis can be good.
Let me frame this, however. Unlike the plot of the not-so-classic Our Brand is Crisis dramedy staring Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton, I wasn’t advocating initiating a crisis for gain. Yet when problems are at the doorstep, we’re often too eager to chase them away without looking to how we can benefit in parallel. How? First, you need to understand what to look for. Second, you need the infrastructure and mindset in place to turn the concept into reality.
In advance of the discussion, PRSA Strategies & Tactics asked Aimee Lewis and me to author a piece on this way of thinking for its all-crisis issue. While it’s no substitute for having been in the room in Texas, the feature should prompt you to question if your latest challenge – or next one (because there will be a next one) – could create deeper employee belonging, correct process deficiencies or set up your company for a comeback.
Take a read, and let me know what you think.