Best Holiday Advertisements of All Time

The holidays are all about spreading good cheer to the masses. They are about delighting, entertaining, and moving others. The holidays present an invaluable opportunity for brands and marketers, not just for selling, but storytelling. The holiday season is a fitting time for companies to show people their culture, values, and principles.

Here are some brands that did it right, delivering the best holiday advertisements of all time:

This John Lewis ad just might make you tear a little. It tells the story of friendship between a boy, Sam, and his penguin friend, Monty. They play together all year, but as the weather turns cold, Monty begins to feel sad, and only Sam knows the problem. Monty the penguin is looking for love.

Hershey’s uses no words in this 1989 holiday commercial. The ad is short, sweet, and so effective. It’s also Hershey’s longest running product advertisement to date. Ogilvy & Mather succeeds with this charming, whimsical and simplistic advertisement, setting it apart from the rest.

Apple’s Emmy award-winning “Misunderstood” ad spot is about a kid who is seemingly too preoccupied with his iPhone 5S to engage with his family for the holiday. Later, however, it is revealed that he is, indeed, just misunderstood. Really nicely done, Apple.

This 1996 “Faint” advertisement by M&M has endured through the years and become a beloved holiday classic. The commercial features the meeting of two iconic “mythical” creatures. It’s cute, effective, and still elicits a chuckle after all these years.

What are your favorite holiday ads of all time? Share them here!

How Using GIFs Can Enhance Your Content Marketing

GIF Family Guy

Animated images, also known as GIFs, have dominated the online world. Just take a look at Buzzfeed and its brilliant use of GIFs. The team over there has truly mastered the art of viral sharing, largely through list posts of images and GIFs.

“GIFs are a mini-vehicle for storytelling, capturing emotions, and communicating them in a concise way that words and pictures alone cannot,” said Joe Puglisi, Senior Creative Strategist at Buzzfeed.

The importance of visual content cannot be understated. We live in a time of increasing competition and decreasing attention spans. Studies show that captivating images lead to better engagement. According to a research survey by Software Advice and Adobe, images are the most important factor in optimal social media content.

optimizing content on social media

GIFs offer the potential for marketers to increase brand awareness, show off products and services, and showcase company culture in a unique, compelling way.

Here are some brands that are taking full advantage:

GIF American Apparel

Ben and Jerrys GIF

Diesel GIF ad campaign

Kraft Foods GIF advertisement

GIF Google

Here are some best practices for using GIFs:

  • Use them in moderation—don’t go GIF crazy. Overdoing it will have the opposite effect and overwhelm your audience.
  • Keep it useful. GIFs that function as how-to guides, product demos, and instructional guides are great for conveying a lot of information efficiently.
  • When sending out a GIF, determine the purpose. Do you want to promote a product, drive traffic to your website, or increase brand awareness?
  • GIFs should reflect your marketing goals and promote your call to action.
  • Include unique, trackable URLs that will help you track clicks.
  • Use high-resolution and high-quality GIFs, just like you would with images.
  • Work GIFs into your social media schedules.

When you’re ready to use GIFs in your content marketing, you can find many tools to make it easy to create your own, such as ImgFlip, Picasion, GIFmaker and GIMP. And if you’d rather use a premade GIF, check out Giphy.com for endless options.

Related articles

I’m a Blogger, and That’s OK.

Great post about the difference between press and blogger. Love the look and feel of this blog. He really tells it like it is.

Snark Attack

When I went up to pick up my press pass at HR Technology this year, I was told, instead, that I had been issued a blogger badge. This makes sense, since, well, I run a blog, but thought that the distinction between press and blogger was interesting. This argument, of course, has been going on since newsrooms started shutting down a few years ago and more and more publications turned to online content for revenue creation. But the fact that it’s still going on fascinates me.

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Crisis Communications: Steps to Prepare for and Respond to Crises

crisis-communications

Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” It is certainly true—take Bill Cosby, for example. For decades he was “America’s Dad.” Today, he is a trending meme, his reputation in tatters due to numerous sexual assault allegations.

As President of a student-run public relations firm, I have encountered a few crises with clients in the food, law enforcement, and governmental sectors. It can be chaotic, overwhelming, and very stressful. While there is no foolproof strategy to preventing a crisis, there are some steps you can take to best prepare for and respond to crises when they arise.

Preparing for Crises:

crisis team

Anticipate Crises List out all potential situations that occur at your organization. This should be a joint effort within the company—you don’t want to miss a thing. Once you’ve identified all potential situations, have a plan for how to react should any crises arise, and be specific. Think about possible responses, best and worst case scenarios, etc.

Identify Crisis Communications Team This should be a small team made up of senior executives in the organization that are the heads of major organizational departments. The company CEO should lead the team, which should include the company’s top PR person. You might even want to retain a public relations agency that is specialized in crisis communications. It’s good to also have subject-specific experts to handle unique crises.

Designate and Train Spokespersons Spokespersons should be comfortable speaking to large groups of people, to the media, and in front of a camera. They should not be afraid to correct the media when they misreport facts. They should also understand and interact on social media. Depending on the crisis, you are likely to have different spokespersons.

Establish Notification and Monitoring Systems Know how to best reach your audiences when dealing with a crisis. How do they prefer to get their updates? Where do they communicate? Social media is often the best and fastest way, but don’t wait until a crisis to create these channels. Always be listening and monitoring what people are saying about your company—or your employees, products, or services. While the task may seem overwhelming, it’s necessary. And luckily there are tools to help, like Google Alerts. By monitoring, you have the chance to respond quickly and prevent minor situations from becoming full-blown crises. Monitoring will also help you adapt your messages and strategy during an ongoing crisis.

Identify Key Stakeholders Identify, in order of importance, your stakeholders, both internal and external, and assure they receive your messages. Johnson & Johnson decided its customers were most important to the company long before the 1982 crisis due to cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules. The company made the swift decision to pull all Tylenol bottles from shelves, despite it costing millions of dollars. The customers were more important than the investors.

Develop Holding Statements Although full messaging isn’t developed until the outbreak of the crisis, you can create statements for immediate use in advance of a crisis, such as, “Our hearts and prayers are with all of those affected, and we hope that they are well.” The team should regularly review and update these statements.

Source: Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.


Responding to Crises:

managing crisis

So you have your crisis plan and team in place, you are regularly listening and monitoring, but you begin to notice a negative trend developing. What’s next?

Set Expectations Let the public know when it can expect a response. It takes time to gather all of the facts and make sense of everything. If your organization is small, it can take even longer. Be exact, but be sure to stick to the expectation you set.

Get the Full Story What are the facts? Identify what happened, as well as what people think happened. How has the public reacted? What about the media? Which channels need immediate attention?

Be Honest and Open Don’t lie, and don’t say, “no comment.” If you are transparent and authentic, rumors will eventually go away and the situation might even blow over. Be transparent through all communication channels.

Communicate Early and Often Adapt your key messaging that you developed in your crisis plan to fit the situation. As you learn more, be the first to tell your audiences—all of them. As soon as you know, they should know, too. Otherwise, rumors will fill the silence.

Feedback Make sure your customers and other audiences know they are being heard. Reply to them directly and answer their questions in a timely manner. Although tempting, do not delete negative comments—people will think you have something to hide.

Learn From It Learn what worked and what didn’t. How could the situation have been prevented? What will you do differently next time? Go back to that crisis plan and update accordingly. It will help you majorly in the future! Related Articles:

Media Relations: How to pitch better

Too many PR professionals still don’t understand media relations. They are still spamming journalists with pitches that are irrelevant, inauthentic, and non-targeted. Too many public relations professionals are fixated on the short-term coverage opportunity rather than building long-term relationships. They see a journalist as a tool rather than a person. All of this worsens the negative feelings journalists have already developed toward public relations professionals. So let’s change it.

It starts with a better understanding. Think of how annoying it is to get a sales pitch that has nothing to do with you or what you want. It’s irritating, right? This is how a journalist feels when s/he receives an unrelated, non-targeted pitch from a PR person.

Don’t be that person. Be the person who offers something useful—something that will make a journalist’s job easier. Remember that they too have a job to do. Your broadcast pitches are a waste of their time.

An infographic from Nowsourcing offers tips on how to pitch better.

media relations infographic writing pitches

What’s the best and worst pitch you’ve ever seen?

Why Google Plus Matters for Marketers

google plus logo

I’ll admit when I first heard about Google+, I wasn’t thrilled. I thought: no, please, not another social networking site. It began to feel like every other day something new came out, and they pushed and pushed, and they were all going to be the next big thing.

Plus (no pun intended), I already had Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest accounts, which took loads of effort, time, and commitment to stay active. I didn’t need another social media site—or so I thought.

I will tell you: Google+ is necessary for brands and marketers. Here are a few reasons to get on Google Plus:

  • 359 million monthly active users are on Google Plus. This is huge audience your company could be reaching, but isn’t because it’s not on Google+.
  • 70% of business brands have a presence on Google Plus. Who are these brands? Oh, they’re just your competition.
  • Google favors Google+ Pages in search engines results. This could mean a higher ranking for your company on Google search results.
  • +1 is clicked more than 5 billion times a day. Consider a +1 a “vote” for your company, like a favorite on Twitter or Like on Facebook.

P.S. Take a look at the ranking factors for Google search

ranking factors on Google search

  • Google+ is growing at 33% per annum. This is an incredible statistic for a platform just three years old. It’s also beating Facebook.
  • Google+, Twitter, and Facebook are the top three social media sites used by marketers. You should be on all three.
  • Brands’ Google Plus posts generate nearly as much engagement per follower as their Facebook posts and almost twice as much engagement per follower as their Twitter posts.googleplus interactions
  • 20 million unique mobile monthly users are on Google+. If you haven’t heard, mobile is everything.
  • Authorship (your picture + link next to search result) helps improve click-through rates. This helps you build influence.
  • Circles make it easy to group different people into categories and share the right content with the right audience.
  • Google Hangouts. These integrated video chats allow multiple users to “hang out,” or connect, in real-time. Think of all the opportunities to interact and engage.

And in case you’re not convinced, here is an awesome video about Google Plus that should do it for you:

So, next time you tell someone about Google+ and get a reaction like this….

G+ Mean Girls

…you’ll know exactly what to say.

Join me on Google+ and let me know how you like it!

The Difference Between Marketing and PR

The distinction between marketing and public relations can be frustrating when you’re starting out in the communications field. When I was declaring my major at the end of freshman year, I realized I was confused about the difference between the two. I shyly asked my professors and peers, but none seemed confident in their explanation.

Well, thank God—err, Al Gore?—for the Internet. It was around this time that Google became my favorite teacher and most trusted source of information.

And I knew others shared my need for distinction, too, when I saw the magnitude of findings on the search engine results page (about 14 million today). Luckily, it only took a few high-quality articles and blog posts to gain a sufficient understanding. Here is a summary of my findings:

  • Marketing focuses on products and services. Public relations focuses on relationships.
  • Marketing is a line function. PR is a staff function.
  • Marketing is paid media. Public relations is earned media. (Owned media can be either function.)
  • Marketing is telling people how great you are. PR is when others do the telling for you.
  • Public relations requires persuasion. Marketing requires $$.
  • Marketing is trading and sales oriented. PR is public oriented.
  • Marketing is about the 4 P’s: product, price, place and promotion. Public relations is about enhancing a company’s reputation.
  • PR creates the population around the product. Marketing sells the product.
  • Marketing you pay for, public relations you pray for.
  • An analogy: Marketing is the ingredients, PR is the cake displayed in the window.

marketing ingredientsCake Public Relations

But recently, the lines between marketing and PR are blurring more than ever. What’s the cause? The move to digital media brought by the Internet! Notice the irony here?

In the latest edition of his book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott explains, “Prior to the web, organizations had only two choices: to get advertising or get third-party ink from the media.”

However, in a digital world, there is so much more: blogs, e-books, video, e-news releases, and other forms of online content that let companies communicate directly with audiences. Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn allow people all over the world to share content and information and connect with people and companies they do business with, or would like to.

It’s hard to tell anymore which department is creating and managing all that content, but I think it varies from company to company. Both are certainly capable. Marketers and public relations pros have both adapted to the changing technology. Marketing brought the traditional billboard ad to Facebook, and PR brought the media pitch to bloggers.

The convergence of marketing and PR online has to do with content. Technological advancements in how we receive our news updates, and how that content is delivered, and even the content itself, blur the lines between marketing and public relations. A simple tweet or Facebook post can introduce a new product (marketing) or explain a company’s take on an issue (PR). Similarly, a company blog can focus on what the company has to offer (marketing) or on building a company’s image (public relations). It’s all about the tools used.

Related articles:

marking pr advertising branding

Digital Media Consumption: Statistics and Trends

Curious about the latest stats and trends in digital marketing? GO-Globe breaks it down in an awesome infographic, with statistics on how much time people spend consuming digital media, through what devices, when, and how it’s changed–and changing–over the years.

These facts are helpful to marketers who want to better understand how to reach those key audiences and optimize digital content.

Digital Media Consumption - Statistics and Trends
Infographic by- GO Globe Hong Kong

Left Brain vs Right Brain

left brain right brain

Photo credit: Huffington Post

Introvert, extrovert, angsty teen, or drama queen? We use labels like these all the time to describe our friends and family, or people we dislike. We might not like to admit it, but the truth is, we naturally group people to fit certain labels, or personality traits. For example, we’ve all known and encountered the control freak, the ditz, the melodramatic—the list goes on.

What many people don’t know is that personality traits are often a result of dominating left-brain or right-brain hemispheres. But what do they mean?

Left Brain

Let’s break it down. Left-brain folks are extremely organized and systematic. They are goal-oriented and rarely absent-minded. Their world runs like clockwork—perfectly planned and in an orderly, linear fashion. A messy room or misplaced items? Not a chance. Left brainers are conscientious and meticulous individuals.

Math and science are a breeze, and complex problems or difficult decisions are handled with ease and expertise. Left brainers break everything down, analyze step by step, and come to a logically based conclusion. They are objective and reality based. They can well adjust in a changing environment and don’t let feelings get in the way of decision-making. Being ruled by emotion or impulses is not in a left brainers nature.

Left brainers like control and knowing. Think of the most recent team project you were part of. Who took over as group leader? Was it you? If so, you’re probably a left brainer. And yes, these were the kids who always sat at the front of the classroom.

While they aren’t risk-takers, left brainers are realistic and are fabulous planners who can be counted on to accomplish tasks. They make a great addition to marketing or public relations agencies due to their fantastic analytical skills and organization.

Fun Facts: Left-brain also indicates a preference for nonfiction, classical music, reading while upright, and dogs over cats. Has anyone come to mind yet?

Right Brain

Right brainers tend to be a little disorganized and can be unpredictable. They are impulsive and function spontaneously, and they aren’t concerned with keeping track of time or prioritizing. A day-planner? What’s that? Right brainers take life as it comes.

They are emotional and intuitive and act on feelings rather than reason. They express themselves through actions or by art and design. Right brainers are creative and visually orientated. These are your artsy friends, and they’re particularly skilled at writing fiction, playing music, and other hands-on activities.

Right brainers are more likely to focus on the “big picture” than the minute details. Can you think of a classmate or coworker who loves to spark philosophical discussions? That’s a right brainer! They have an insatiable desire to explore and understand why things are the way they are. These folks tend to be good with people and make great conversationalists.

While they can be a bit scatter-brained at times, they can be counted on to deliver fresh and innovative ideas. They refuse to be a passive observer and will jump on every opportunity to shake things up. Right brainers make fabulous additions to marketing and PR teams and agencies because of their ability to deliver that groundbreaking campaign idea, slogan, or advertisement!

Fun facts: Right brainers like rock music, fiction, noise, mysteries, multitasking, and cats over dogs.

A Tasty Example

To put it all in simpler terms, I like to use the example of a cupcake—after all, both right-brain and left-brain folks enjoy a cupcake now and then.

Best-cupcake-delicious-cupcakes

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/13NM3LO

The right brainers are the ones to dress the cupcake as if it were a work of art and make it look undeniably delectable, as if Betty Crocker baked it herself!

The left brainers, on the other hand, are the ones to insure all of the ingredients are included, in the proper order, and carried out to the to very last step…with a plan B whipped up just in case!

Well…What If I’m Somewhere In Between?

If you don’t fit neatly into one or the other, don’t worry! Many people possess traits from both sides, and they are equally wanted in the professional world. Marketing and public relations agencies not only look for those at the farthest ends of the pole, but those in the middle as well!

It’s great to have a little bit of both. It means you carry a wide range of knowledge and capabilities that any company would be lucky to have.

In addition, one isn’t better than the other. In fact, it is advantageous for a company to have both types on staff! Finding the perfect balance of left and right brainers can maximize marketing ventures to the fullest potential. Together, they make up a perfect team that achieves exceptional results.

So, are you left-brained, right-brained, or somewhere in between? Take the test and find out for sure!

Right Brain Left Brain Test

Results show that I use my brain equally! What do your results say?

Why I Got HubSpot Inbound Certified

Inbound Marketing Meme

I’m not sure what exactly piqued my interest in inbound marketing. Maybe it was HubSpot’s INBOUND 2014 conference, maybe it was HubSpot’s IPO. Whatever it was, HubSpot made inbound marketing a hot topic, at least in Boston. It certainly caught my attention, and I realized just how important and relevant it is. But what exactly is inbound marketing? This is the question I struggled to answer. And more importantly, how does one do it successfully?

These questions led me once again to HubSpot’s site, only I looked a little deeper this time. I came across HubSpot Academy and all it has to offer: certifications, webinars, examples, user groups, and more. The Inbound Certification, which is open to everyone, seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn and educate myself about inbound marketing. I earned my HubSpot Inbound Certification in one weekend.

The Inbound Certification

The certification consists of eleven courses that cover the core elements of Inbound Methodology. From the essentials of an effective inbound strategy to the fundamentals of blogging to cultivating happy customers, the classes provide a deep and clear understanding of what inbound is all about.

Each class is roughly 45 minutes long, and although this seems like lot to tackle in one weekend, HubSpot does a great job at keeping viewers entertained with amusing images, charts and graphics, along with a catchy tune that somehow didn’t get old. The courses are further broken down into chapters, and each course closes with a few key takeaways and additional resources to clear up any possible confusion. I appreciated the real-life examples provided to illustrate some of the more complex concepts.

For me, the sales and “smarketing” classes were totally foreign. I never learned past the attract and convert elements of the methodology. If this doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry. Start taking some courses, and HubSpot will clear everything up.

What I Learned

I learned a heck of a lot from the inbound classes, including some best practices for the various social media platforms, the four elements of a quality landing page, and how to best align content with the buyer’s journey. By the end, inbound marketing will make sense, I promise.

I highly recommend this certification program to every marketer, especially college students studying marketing. Inbound is the future of marketing, and sadly, university programs take far too long to catch up. Fear not, this program has got you covered.

The Exam

The exam consists of 60 multiple-choice and true or false questions that address important lessons from each course. You have 75 minutes to complete the test and three chances to pass it. If you don’t pass the first time, you will have to wait 48 hours before giving it another go. To earn your official certification, you must receive a 75% or higher on your test. The certification is then valid for 13 months from the month you received it.

Here are some tips for passing the exam:

  • Watch the classes in a quiet space where you can focus and won’t be distracted—Some lessons are more complex and will require your full attention.
  • Take notes as you learn—This will help you make sense of things, and you can refer to your notes as you take the test.
  • If something is not clear, use the additional resources provided—Take advantage of the extra resources at the end of each class to really drive home an idea or concept.
  • Thoroughly read the study guide provided—HubSpot has an awesome study guide that will prepare you for everything covered on the exam.
  • Check out this article—The 45 Inbound Marketing Terms You Should Know

Good luck and happy studying!