Between You and Me, There's PR

Exploring, learning and using social media, public relations and marketing.

Following Your Passion June 15, 2014

photo1 (1)When I accepted a new job in Indianapolis two years ago, I was confident that it was what I was meant to do because I was passionate about social media and had trucking in my blood. I was so proud to do what I did best, marketing; mixed with what my grandpa did best, diesel mechanics and trucking. I felt like he was with me cheering me on along the way.

I would have loved to have been able to talk about diesel with him; trucking is probably not something he ever imagined his youngest granddaughter would build her career on. I am so thankful to of had the opportunity to learn about what made him who he was and what he did to provide for his family- my dad.

Now, I have the opportunity to follow my dad’s footsteps in my career. While still using my marketing skills, I will be doing what he does best: giving back to the community. I look forward to being able to talk to him about what we are doing with our separate organizations and how we are changing the world (well, changing parts of it, at least).

Having the ability to see my grandpa and dad’s passion shine through in my own career means a lot to me. I am lucky to have their influence, and I desire to make them both proud. I suppose it’s fitting that I start my new career the day after Father’s Day. If they hadn’t followed their passion, I wouldn’t have found mine.


Monopoly’s Lucky Roll April 5, 2014

My family is not allowed to play Monopoly together. With a blended family comes blended family Monopoly rules. A few of my immediate family’s rules include:

  • All money from taxes and fees goes in the middle. If you land on Free Parking, you take it all for yourself.
  • $500 goes in the middle at all times for free parking.
  • You can buy houses instantly; no need to collect all same colored properties before purchasing houses.
  • If you land on go, you collect $250 instead of $200.

If you’ve ever played Monopoly, you know that these rules are totally made up and designed to make the game go more quickly. On March 25, 2014, Monopoly launched a really engaging campaign on Facebook asking fans to post their house rules. According to Monopoly, 68% of Americans do not read the instructions.

The campaign that utilized video and graphic images lasted March 25-April 3. There was no third-party application used and no prize; people simply wanted to tell their story. The engagement for the house rule campaign posts were insanely high in comparison to their previous posts; including those posted as mix-ins during the campaign, like this one that had five shares:

monopoly baseball
Alternatively, when Monopoly posted the new official house rules, it was shared 1,287 times:


This is a great example of a well executed campaign and the brain behind it deserves big kudos for the brand engagement it drove. The most amazing part to me is that there was no prize offered. It proves how iconic this game is and how a simple board game can unite or divide a house hold. They sold nothing to consumers, yet the board game rose to the top of consumers’ mind awareness.

In comparison to their stunt last year, in which consumers were asked to vote on what Monopoly piece to retire and add, this most recent campaign allowed more engagement and brand awareness; or, maybe I’m just bitter because I’m not a cat fan.

Overall, I think this was a great campaign for this iconic brand.


Meijer’s Magic January 5, 2014

Filed under: marketing — thisgirlsarah @ 7:35 PM
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Before the buzz about snowmagedden and before the Colts beat the Chiefs in the wildcard game of the playoffs, there was another buzzword in Indianapolis: Meijer.

WTHR showcases empty shelves at Meijer.

WTHR showcases empty shelves at Meijer.

You should know that Meijer is a Walmart-like store based out of Michigan. More important background to their PR story is the fact that on Thursday, Colts fans were facing the threat of a blackout game. The NFL elected to extend the deadline to sell-out the game until 4:30 on Friday, at which time Meijer swooped in to save the day by buying 1200 tickets and the blackout was avoided.

Obviously, their name was in every news story instantly. Not only did they prevent a blackout, they also donated the tickets to military families (which melts my heart). Naturally, when the time came to stock up for the winter storm, many Indianapolis residents turned to Meijer over other grocers to support the company that saved the playoffs.

Surely, the bread would have flown off of the shelves despite them buying the remaining Colts tickets, but this move had good timing. People needed to go to the store and the Meijer brand was at the top of consumers minds. It was good timing. I anticipate that Meijer will continue to be at the top of Indiana consumers minds in the future for their respectable donation.

Did more people choose Meijer over any other store this winter storm? Maybe, or maybe not, but I know their name definitely means more to this Indianapolis resident than ever before. My vote? Brilliant move. Expensive, but brilliant. What do you think?



Starbucks Does Not React to Controversy September 22, 2013

Filed under: marketing,social media — thisgirlsarah @ 2:01 PM
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Mmm Pumkin Spice Latte season has arrived, unless you carry a gun. I’m not here to write another “Thank you, Starbucks” or “I hate you now, Starbucks” story, but rather looking at the PR implications of the company’s statement and reaction. (Quick catch up if you missed it, here is the letter from Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, asking customers not to bring their guns into Starbucks.)

One of the first rules in a PR crisis is to respond rather than ignoring the situation. How did Starbucks measure up with their recent gun request? I think they did everything with a careful strategy, despite the fact that it looks like they were ignoring customers.

The letter was posted on their blog at about the same time it was shared on Facebook and Twitter. Instantly, the public insisted on sharing their opinions with the company. What I find interesting, is the fact that it looks like the company shared the statement then just let it ride out, only responding to a select few of their customers’ critiques.

starbucks fb2 starbucks fb1

They didn’t even post any new corporate messages for 48 hours on both Twitter and Facebook.

starbucks twitter

Every bit of Starbucks’ strategy was intentional and planned out. Aside from correcting a few misunderstandings about the request, there was no need to defend themselves against haters; therefore, no response was necessary.

Had they responded in a defensive way, they’d have just created more controversy. Instead, they allowed everyone to share their opinion and two days later, came back with a photo of a warm cup of coffee as though nothing happened.

The general rules for a PR crisis may, in fact be to respond, but there are rules to that rule. The important takeaway for marketers to learn from Starbucks are to

  • Have a plan.
  • Decide what is right for your company as a response. Every situation is different.
  • Be united as a team and convey the same message across all media outlets.
  • Never lose control of the situation.
  • Respond, but not too much and not too loud.
  • Never ever, ever do what Amy’s Baking Company did in response to a crisis. (I can’t get enough of this story. It’s a train wreck.)

What do you think of how Starbucks handled the backlash from their announcement?


Are QR Codes Dead? August 21, 2013

Filed under: marketing,QR Code — thisgirlsarah @ 8:49 PM
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tombstoneThe two most popular posts I have written on this blog have been about QR codes. I wrote the first post around the time they first came out in 2010. Three years later, the general consensus is that they are useless. Of course, that has not stopped them from appearing everywhere.

As a 24-year-old young adult living life, I always feel disappointed when scanning a QR code. If I am sitting a restaurant and see a QR code, I scan it expecting a discount, not a link to their boring website. I always anticipate a QR code helping me in whatever I am doing at the time and am let down time and time again with general content.

However, as a marketer, I have seen their success. The demographic I currently market to is truck drivers, therefore, my challenge is the fact that they either a) are never home or b) their home is the truck. As more and more drivers use smartphones, I’ve started testing QR codes with success.

The key is placement and content. Our most successful QR codes have been on ¼ size flyers people can pick up and take with them. They also have a promise at the other end, such as a chance to win something or to download our app. The app is especially successful because a smartphone is necessary to scan a QR code as well as download and use the app. It’s a perfect combination. Just like using a mobile marketing tool to market to a mobile demographic.

QR codes will die if not used appropriately. Haven’t we been taught as marketers that every successful campaign should have a call to action? Just sticking a QR code on a magazine ad is worthless unless there is an explanation, a chance to win a prize, or something beyond just a link to their website. Reward customers for doing the work to scan your QR code and you will also see a reward. They key is placement, content and the right demographic.

What has been you experience with QR codes either as a consumer or marketer?


Adapt or Die: Marketing Trends That Said Goodbye March 11, 2013

90s Hunk

Leonardo is definitely a 90s hunk.

I’m a 90s kid and, like all 90s kids, love the lists on Buzz Feed of things from my childhood. For example: “35 Things You Will Never See Again” featuring the VHS tape and “90s Hunks Shirtless: Then and Now”  even the word “hunk” is a 90s flashback!. Today, I saw a list like those that was  written by Hubspot called, “25 Things You’ll Have to Explain to Your Kids About Marketing One Day”. This list offers a lot of perspective as to where marketing was and is going in the future. (I’ll wait while you read.)

The craziest “whoaa” moment for me while reading this was the fact that I had been taught about most of these things in my high school marketing class and even college classes just a few years ago and now the list claims they are going extinct. My job in social media didn’t even exist a few years ago, will it exist 10 years from now? What’s both really scary and really funny is to go back to my first blog post (which was for my social media class senior year- also the FIRST time it was offered as a topic) titled “Times Change“. To further embarrass myself, I’ll pull a direct quote: “This Youtube clip from Erik Qualman, author of “Socialnomics,” shows statistics regarding social media and really opened my eyes to the success of these trends.”

“The success of these trends.” I called social media, my job, a trend. Is it? Will it go away like the Yellow Pages, newspapers and catalogs?  I think they will only grow and improve. Newspapers aren’t really dead (yet). They have adapted to the changing culture. Cassette tapes have died and CDs  are dying, but they were replaced with an even better tool that makes it easier to listen to music. Direct mail has been replaced by e-newsletters. Newspapers and magazines are still printed, but their online versions were created to adapt to the changing times. I don’t like change, so my vote is we keep them, but make them fit our fast-paced lifestyles better.

Today’s marketing focuses on the online world and takes a special interest in what consumers want. We no longer live in the world where the advertiser tells us what to think or do. Now, marketers use crowd-sourcing and target ads based on our search history or Facebook profiles. Add that to the list of things to explain to your kids: “Kids, back in the day, marketers couldn’t see what you searched for online enabling them to cater their advertisements to your specific likes or dislikes. Life wasn’t creepy like it is now.”

Who am I kidding, Don can handle anything except our smoke free society.

Who am I kidding? Don can handle anything- except our smoke free society.

Wouldn’t you love to see Don Draper take on the marketing world today? He nearly had a heart attack when Peggy Olson staged a ham fight as a PR stunt, I can’t imagine how he’d handle the dynamic world of online marketing. Then again, even he had to adapt as cigarettes, their biggest client, became a health concern.

I don’t think social media will be something we’ll tell our kids about because it doesn’t exist, but I do think it will change dramatically. I leave you with 20 Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2013 and Beyond.

What do you think we’ll see?


My Social Media Toolbox February 10, 2013

social-toolboxI’ve always been stingy with my money. If I go shopping with friends, you can count on me to head straight to the back where the sales are. I’m the same with a budget at work. As a former nonprofit employee, I am very conscious of spending money and always look for ways to avoid it.

When I first started at a corporation, I remember  being nervous to tell my boss that a platform I wanted to use was going to cost a little bit of money. Their response to my request was laughing at how small it was and sarcastically replied, “I think we can spare that.”

With a little extra freedom to spend money when needed, I still find myself choosing applications and tools that don’t cost money. It’s my personality. I’ve found success using these free or low-cost tools and I think most brand can. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Polldaddy– Polldaddy can do anything. We originally purchased it for surveys because it allowed us to download an application for our iPads, but it’s proved to be a endless resource. Our website didn’t have the ability for people to upload photos. Using Polldaddy’s photo upload feature on a survey, I grabbed the code they provide and embed it on my website. I’ve yet to come up with a task that requires gathering customer information that PollDaddy cannot accomplish. There is a free version, but as much as I use it, the paid version is way worth the money.
  2. ShortStack– As you know, Facebook has strict rules for companies that want to run any contest on their Facebook page. Basically, you aren’t allowed to do anything unless you use a third party application/platform and disassociate Facebook with any connection to the contest. Shortstack is the best free application I’ve used. It has minimal branding, templates and lots of features to choose from. This also has a free and paid version, but by combing Polldaddy and ShortStack, I’ve managed to survive with the free version.
  3. HootSuite/TweetDeck– You know about these. I think HootSuite is the easiest to use on my phone and during the day at work, but TweetDeck I like that TweetDeck is a desktop feature so it has a small popup anytime someone mentions my brand. Tweet Deck also catches some interactions, such as who retweeted your post, that Hootsuite does not. I always have them both open!
  4. Facebook Pages– this is an application for smart phones and iPads. Until recently, it was only developed for iPhone users, but as soon as they released the Android app I downloaded it. I love it because it sends a push notification to your phone every time someone comments on your page. This makes monitoring on the weekends and after work so much easier. If there is an emergency, I will find out about it much faster than just randomly checking in every once and a while. I also like that it is separate from Facebook application so I don’t risk posting personal stuff on my company page. Additionally, it lets you look at insights which the Facebook application does not let you do.
  5. Facebook Post Analysis Spreadsheet– I just discovered this last week. Tim Wilson has created an awesome (free) downloadable spreadsheet that will analyze your Facebook post history. It uses a color coded system show you when posts received the most engagement and another table tells you when your post reached the most people. I have discovered that when the data is exported from Facebook it uses the time you schedule the post, not the scheduled time which skews my data a little, but I still think this is a very valuable tool. Too much other research out there does not speak specifically to my demographic so I appreciate being able to analyze my own data with this spreadsheet.

These are my top five social media tools. What’s in your toolbox?’


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