Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Five Tips for Creating a Visual Brand

By Vince Derama, Design Specialist

Visuals only hold the value that we give them. With no context, a shape is just a shape. Though it may serve many purposes in many forms, from complex geometry and math to the rich history of a 200-year-old brand, a shape on its own won't tell your audience a story.

Suppose we took a shape and placed it with another to give it context: 

In this instance, we can note that the shapes aren't the same, but they appear to have similar weight and value. What happens if we distinguish them further?

Now we can assume more about these two shapes. They're different colors and different shapes. They must be opposites.

It happens often. You'll view an object that you haven't encountered and make inferences about its use based on your personal experiences. The same happens with brand visuals. How can we influence our audience to make positive assumptions about us? How do we make sure that they view us in a good light, even if they've never interacted with our product?

1. Intentional Design

Like in the above example, we naturally make assumptions based on related experiences. It's likely that we viewed the red "X" as a negative symbol, and the green "O” as a positive symbol. These exist for many other symbols, characters and even colors. It's important that we bear in mind the suppositions that can be made about a brand.

Fortunately, designers have the edge. They have their own experiences in what has worked to connect with target audiences and what hasn't, and can bring these experiences back to you. A designer’s real expertise is their ability to put themselves in the perspective of someone who has had baseline exposure to your products. In combination with the knowledge of their target market, designers have the opportunity to shape consumers’ opinions and future expectations of your brand.

2. Coherency

Visuals should obviously fit with company messaging: Composition is appropriate to the designer's medium, color palettes appropriate to the unique target market and everything from front to back works toward the overarching goal. But as they say, "the devil is in the detail."

What's not so obvious is that a brand should be descriptive of its origins and convey your goals in the market. A brand should put a face to a product, service or organization. And when potential consumers look at the competition, they should be able to clearly see the difference in the experience your product can offer.

3. Design for People

One of the things that is not stressed enough is that people are going to be the ones viewing any branding you execute. When determining what “personality” a brand conveys, consumers often hope for something "tech-y" or "friendly" or "fun – those descriptors are a few of many, of course." A successful brand will find ways to tie these themes back to the people in its market. It's important to keep reminding yourself that your brand isn't trying to appeal to your competitors.

As a designer, a good measure of success is the ability to provoke emotion, whether a simple positive/negative reaction like, "this is nice," or nostalgic feelings, like remembering the color shirt your first date wore to the movies. Emotion is a good indication of success because it lets us know if and how people are making a connection to a brand. Keeping a brand too "market-centric" prevents doing so on a larger scale.

4. Flexibility

A flexible brand keeps things from becoming stale and brings a human quality to any and all of its messaging and collateral. Brand flexibility can open the door to many opportunities, and great brands can translate across multiple platforms simply and effectively. A successful brand will have a clear, recognizable and consistent message throughout.

It's often difficult to tell what's coming around the corner. Sometimes a series of events – planned or otherwise — could lead you to huge growth or opportunity to reach a larger audience. Going through the effort of a rebrand could be costly or untimely. When developing a brand, it's hard to be conscious of the unknown, but leaving your visuals flexible can set you up early for success.

5. Continuity

Like a great brand translates across platforms, a great brand can also translate across multiple generations. A brand can go through multiple rebrands and changes in messaging but always remember the brand is about the product or service. Keeping this in mind will help develop a consistent brand.

Continuity is the bridge between the visual and non-visual elements of your brand. This includes everything from the product, messaging, history, imagery and color scheme. Though these elements may change, the bridge that brings them together should not.

Need some examples of great visual brands? Visit our page to get our take on effectively approaching and building a brand. Or, comment below and tell us if you have any tips.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pay for Play: Will Facebook Get in Trouble?

By Grant Wright 

The concept of pay for play isn't new. Rather, it’s age old, or perhaps the oldest profession in some respects. But as Facebook further monetizes its platform, it’s falling down a new slippery slope.

Months ago, Facebook implemented the capability for pages to gain Likes by paying for page promotion. The theory goes that the more Likes a page has, the greater likelihood a given post on that page will be seen by its target audience. Targeting the promotion to specific attributes, in turn, can shape the target audience. For example: Have a new luxury car to trumpet? When promoting the car’s page, you'll choose to target people who have interests in “Automotive” and “Luxury;” maybe specific brands like BMW, Lexus and Mercedes; or people living in certain areas and of a certain age range. Then, when you post about your new car, those more interested in your message will be more likely to see it.

Sounds good in theory, but the potential disconnect is whether the people truly interested in “Automotive” and “Luxury” are engaging with your page, since there are no barriers to anyone doing so. From Facebook’s perspective, it is delivering on the promise of increased Likes. But if they’re not the quality of Likes you’re seeking, it can be a false sense of accomplishment.

The problem worsens when you post to your page. At first you may be dismayed that few see the post, and that fewer still Like or comment on it. Engagement is low. To counteract this, you opt to boost the post to more of your audience – pay for play. However, while the post Likes may increase, there oddly still seems the lack of engagement. You wonder why no one is actually commenting and engaging with you. The reason may be your page’s target audience became diluted with false Likes - people who clicked Like, but really don’t care about luxury cars. So the boost is going to more people, but to fewer who actually care about the subject of your post.

Facebook isn’t motivated to address this issue because its monetization is at stake, and a recent Youtube video sheds light on this. Some may feel as though this is a conspiracy theory with insufficient evidence. Others may feel an ah-ha! moment.

At (W)right On, we advise a smaller but engaged audience is better than a larger but disengaged one. Facebook and other social media promotion has its place, but when done in moderation and with care.

What’s your take? Conspiracy? Real? Somewhere in between? Let me know your experience!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

5 Things All Young PR Pros Should Know

 In my very first PR internship, I was in awe of my boss. She was smart, witty, had a killer resume and could write a pitch like nobody’s business. I wanted more than anything to become my own version of her. Beyond going down in history as the juncture in my life when I officially caught the PR bug, that internship taught me a great professional foundation that has taken me where I am today. And while I’m by no means an industry veteran, I’d like to think that foundation has given me some room to offer advice to the next up-and-comers of the PR world.  For as many publicists and PR agencies there are out there, there are probably about as many unique approaches to handling clients, crafting a great press release and hammering out a solid PR strategy. However, there are a few things that undeniably apply across the board that will help you learn, grow and earn respect.  

1. My Social Media, Myself

You’ve heard it for years – “don’t put anything on public social media channels you wouldn’t want your mom/grandma/boss/teacher to see.” Many people, especially those lumped into the “millennial” category, disregard it. Well, from one millennial to another – don’t. PR is social-savvy trade by nature, so I guarantee any prospective employers and coworkers will check you out from Twitter to Tumblr. Save the profanities, compromising photos and any dramatic recounts of fights with significant others for after-work vent sessions with your friends. They have no place in the professional world.

2. You Will Mess Up

People make mistakes. People who are new to something, by default, tend to make more of them. Guess what? It’s ok. When – not if – you mess something up, just be a realist about it. Think:

How can I handle this? 
Think of a solution (or several) before ‘fessing up. Your supervisors will appreciate the forethought, and it shows maturity and initiative. However, if you’re really struggling, of course ask for help.

Who needs to know?
More often than not, probably just your immediate supervisors. If a client needs to know, they’ll guide you on next steps.

What can I say?
Explain what happened, apologize and move on. Unless it’s something absolutely earth-shattering, other people involved will, too.

Then, just make sure you learn from what happened and let it go. 

3. Don’t Be a Diva

As you’re finding your place in the industry, you’re going to have to be an intern or an assistant, maybe even several times over. You’re going to have to do things that aren’t “fun” or “cool” or like you’ve seen Samantha do on “Sex and the City” (which, let me say, is incredibly unrealistic for 99% of PR pros). Don’t ever think you’re above it. The people that are directing you to do these things probably did the same stuff 5, 10, 20 years ago – they earned the right to move forward in their careers. As cheesy as it sounds, doing it with a smile on your face and gratefulness for the experience will take you far. If you’re up for a promotion against someone who sulks when they’re asked to update a media list or scan in new press hits – you’ve got that thing in the bag.

4. Media Hits Do Not Make a PR Strategy

Yes, media hits are an important component of a PR strategy. But, they are not a strategy in and of themselves. It will behoove you to learn to think strategically from an early point in your career. When you’re building a PR plan or pitching a story, think not just, “who is going to see this?” but “what is this going to do for my client?” Sure, an editorial feature in a magazine looks impressive, but is it going to sell hotel rooms? Encourage people to sign up for a new juice cleanse? Spread the word about an upcoming charity event and boost ticket interest? If it’s not the right audience or market, the answer may very well be “no.” In that case, move on – don’t waste your time or the client’s budget spinning your wheels on something that doesn’t make sense. Your clients will appreciate you far more if you get them two hits in publications that return great results rather than 20 in publications that just don’t connect.

5. It Gets Better

Being a publicist can be extremely stressful. You have clients to please and coordinate with, deadlines to meet, plans to create, press releases to distribute, events to attend – phew! Keeping it all under control can be a daunting task, especially if you’re a newbie. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Write it down

Some studies have indicated writing down to-dos actually decreases your memory capacity, but I wholeheartedly disagree – to me, they’re essential. Before leaving my office each day, I make a list of everything I need to do the following day. In the morning, I check my email, add to my list and prioritize accordingly. As I wrap up, I check things off – it gives me an idea of where I stand on important projects, plus, it’s always satisfying to cross another thing off your list.

Roll with the punches

There will often be things that come up that are an instant priority above all other tasks. Evaluate your status on other projects and adjust accordingly. We publicists are a paranoid bunch, and we often have the urge to do everything in one day. Resist – there are generally things you can swap around so your plate isn’t so full.

Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to reach out to a senior staffer if you’re feeling overwhelmed or need help figuring out how to plan your day. They’re experienced and they’ve been in your shoes, so they’ll be happy to guide you.

Suck it up

Sometimes, you have to work late or start your day at 6am. Own it. Accept it. That’s your job.

As you start to come into your own and develop a pattern for workload and client needs, your stress will start to subside. It’s all part of the process of becoming a full-blown, a**-kicking communications professional. And, on the days when stress does get the better of you, remember this advice from PR great Kelly Cutrone: “If you have to cry, go outside.” 

Friday, January 10, 2014

What Makes PR Nearly as Stressful as the Battlefield?

By Julie Wright, President

What’s nearly as scary as battling a wall of flames, navigating your way around IEDs in a warzone or crash-landing a plane on the Hudson River?

Apparently, it’s being grilled by an irate newspaper editor, explaining to a client why their competitor is on the front page and not them or organizing a press conference where no one shows up.

After soldiers, generals, firefighters, airline pilots and event coordinators; PR executives have one of the most stressful jobs.

That’s according to the rankings of the most stressful jobs released by CareerCast. (See list below.)

CareerCast says: “Jobs such as public relations executive, newspaper reporter and event coordinator are among the most stressful because of tight deadlines and scrutiny in the public eye.”

I would like to put my own explanation forward. You can control many things in this world--your physical fitness if you’re a firefighter, your altitude and heading if you’re a pilot, your own expectations if you’re doing just about any kind of task–but you cannot control other people.

All you can do is influence them.

Will the reporter accept your pitch? Will the Facebook fans engage with your promotion? Will the assignment editor send a camera? That’s just the media side of the equation.

Will the client approve the release in sufficient time for you to pitch their news? Will he or she deliver the messaging during the interview? Will they keep their cool when they get a tough question?

Will the big, creative idea you talked your boss into meet expectations? Can you manage the crisis and get the facts out before it blows up into a media or social media sh*tstorm? (Editor’s note: That’s industry jargon, which I normally advise clients to avoid. ;-))

You can do a lot to ensure successful outcomes – develop tough questions and practice them in advance with your client, draft messaging and make sure your client reviews it, set a project timeline that incorporates client reviews and revisions, build strong media relationships and a reputation for accuracy and responsiveness, have a monitoring program that alerts you in real-time when bad news hits, etc.

But it’s up to other people to make the final choice, adopt the desired behavior or change their mindset.

The stressed out PR executive is basically walking through a minefield of human relationships, watching for that spark of backlash that becomes an inferno or that updraft that has them soaring high one minute and then a wind sheer bringing them crashing down the next.

So, how does a good PR exec stay cool? They seek to control the only thing they truly can, and that is themselves. Develop sound strategies and a plan for implementation, get buy-in from the plan’s closest stakeholders and then work the plan. A healthy dose of paranoia will also help – expect the best but always prepare for the worst-case scenario.

The right attitude becomes your ‘flak’ jacket. You get used to understanding what you can control and what you cannot while always being upfront and clear about that in your dealings with news media and clients. You also look at lists like the top 10 least stressful jobs and say to yourself, “No thanks. Where’s the challenge and creativity in that?”

Here’s their full top 10:

1. Enlisted military personnel (84.72 stress score)
2. Military general (65.54)
3. Firefighter (60.45)
4. Airline pilot (60.28)
5. Event coordinator (49.93)
6. Public relations executive (48.52)
7. Corporate executive (47.46)
8. Newspaper reporter (46.75)
9. Police officer (46.66)
10. Taxi driver (46.18)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Perfect Press Release, 2014 Edition

I have a New Year’s resolution for business owners: Embrace the changing role of the press release and how it affects your company’s bottom line. Gone are the days where press releases were a one-and-done pass to securing media coverage – with new channels popping up every day and more businesses competing to be heard amidst the noise of their respective industries, it’s rare that a journalist reads a release and writes a story as a direct result of a traditional wire distribution service alone. But despite their changing role, press releases can still be an important part of making sure your story gets the attention it deserves – they’re just evolving a bit. Here are five essential components any modern press release must have to make it through today’s media storm:

1. Keywords are key: I always tell clients that nowadays, the main benefit of sending a press release over the wires is for SEO ranking. However, that one benefit is crucial for businesses and makes the effort entirely worth it. It’s the right keywords that will set your brand’s page or news above the rest and lead customers to you instead of your competitors. Google and other search engines index new content based on the quality of keywords contained, so take the time to do some research on what people are searching for in relation to your press release. Google AdWords has a great keyword tool that is simple to use.
Note: Wire services can still be great and offer lots of benefits (including SEO help), but as they can get quite pricey, we recommend picking and choosing which releases you pay to distribute vs. which you do through free wires.

2. Make it newsworthy. Although search engine visibility is a paramount goal, it’s important to ensure your content is still interesting and truly newsworthy. We’re all biased toward our own businesses’ interests – it’s human nature – but take the time to think about what other people will care about outside of your office. Did you hire an experienced, Fortune 500-level CEO who will be implementing a whole new customer service program? Go for the press release and broad distribution. Did an associate vice-president get promoted? Post the press release to your website. 

3. Location, location, location: Even if they’re interested in your story, most journalists are extremely busy and will not take the time to read your entire press release, whether it’s included in a pitch or they stumble upon it through web search. That being said, think strategically about how you’re placing information. Have an important main point and CTA? Place it in the first or second paragraph – think a 30-second read at the most – and the last. This is where people are most likely to look for a summation of key content. That way, even a glance can catch a journalist’s eye and leave them wanting more.

4. The eyes have it: Photos, infographics, and video are increasingly important additions to any modern press release. New media in general is catering to a visually-driven consumer, and placing these aids in your release is basically guaranteed to amplify your views. According to PR Newswire, a press release with even one photo will get 14% more reads than a text-only release. A release with a video and no photos will get 20% more views than text-only, while a release with both a photo and a video will garner 48% higher consumption. If you really want to maximize the power of visuals, interactive components like infographics and charts will skyrocket you to 77% more views when combined with a photo and a video. If you really want to get creative, make your whole press release an infographic. These are hugely popular and very impactful, and a graphic designer can easily whip one up to stay on budget.

5. Check yourself: Even if your press release covers the most groundbreaking, compelling news of the decade, readers – especially journalists – won’t take you seriously if it’s not well-written. Keeping your punctuation, grammar, and clarity on point will help you better hold consumers’ interest and respect your brand; prompting them to want to learn more and, with any luck, further engage. A poorly written release will leave readers assuming you and your company are unprofessional and will take the same care with delivering a service or product as you did with your writing. At the very least, have a trusted coworker who understands editing proof your work. However, working with a PR firm will guarantee your press release is not only written well, but contains messaging primed for connectivity.

6. Make a connection: Another thing that a successful press release should have is well-thought anchor links. The words you choose to anchor link can make a definitive impact on your press release’s search engine ranking, as well as its general “clickability.” For example, say your release is discussing your coffee shop’s award-winning lattes. For your intents and purposes, you’d be much better off using “best lattes in San Diego” to link to the award site or your company website over something like “award.” When people search for “best lattes in San Diego” in Google, your site and release will be associated with that term.

Press releases aren’t the only thing that can make a business successful on the web and in the press, but when combined with a careful strategy and solid media relationships, they can be a fantastic tool when leveraged properly for today’s consumer. To learn more about how the perfect press release and other PR and communications services can help your business stand above the rest, visit

Monday, December 30, 2013

Top Marketing and Communications Trends for 2014: Part Two

By Molly Borchers, Senior Account Executive

Curious about what new marketing and communication trends 2014 will bring? In part one of this post, we identified three key trends for the New Year: social media becoming pay-for-play, branded journalism, and wearable technology and the Internet of Things. Today, we’ll discuss three more trends

Collaborative economy:  Crowd sourcing, crowd funding, crowd storming: Fab, AirBnB, Uber, TaskRabbit. These are all examples of the collaborative economy. Recent advances in technology like mobile, social, 3D printers and the Internet of Things are empowering people and businesses to share existing resources with each other rather than buy anew or reinvent the wheel. It’s a simple, but revolutionary concept. The collaborative economy was a huge trend in 2013, but is likely to grow in 2014 and marketers should challenge themselves to think about how they can leverage it. ‘My Starbucks Idea’ is a good example of how a brand creatively harnessed the power of crowdsourcing, not only for marketing, but to innovate their business.

Anticipatory computing – This is the act of serving up information a person wants before they even know to ask for it. Mobile users have been checking into their locations, listening to music on their phones, and updating ical events for years. Now, companies like Foursquare and Circle are using the data from these mobile interactions to tailor suggestions specific to the user, which effectively means that your smartphone could dictate your preferences and purchases.

For example, Foursquare is rolling out push notification recommendations to help users find what’s happening in their area. People who opt-in to the push notifications will get suggestions on where to eat or what to do in their neighborhoods. I predict that this idea will proliferate in 2014, and will have a significant impact on advertising and marketing.

Super fans as marketers: The idea of engaging an audience that is already passionate about your brand isn’t new, but social media makes ‘super fans’ even more valuable. It’s easier than ever before to find and reach super fans, and they have a menagerie of tools at their fingertips to evangelize their brand affinities.

A recent Mashable article stated that a Facebook friend is now worth about $174, which 28% higher than 2012, and that figure is expected to increase. Online friends are clearly valuable, but if recommendations from Facebook friends are worth almost $200, what’s the value of a recommendation from a real-live friend? Super fans can be a brand’s secret weapon, not only because of their power online, but also offline.

As we progress through the age of the ‘super fan,’ marketers will enlist these ‘assets’ to market and sell for them, both online and in-person. Here’s an example: Pepsi rewarded selected BeyoncĂ© fans who created videos based on the singer's latest commercial with the chance to appear in a video made with her choreographer, as well as a trip to her concert in Brooklyn. Smart.

What do you think will be the major marketing trends in 2014? Tell us in the comments.

Click here to read part one of this series.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top Marketing and Communications Trends for 2014: Part One

By Molly Borchers, Senior Account Executive

At the holidays, most people take time to reflect on the last 365 days, but this year, I looked back on my entire career. I’ve only been doing this for seven years, but in that time, the marketing and communications fields have changed at a lightning pace. In 2006, I was schooled in traditional PR and I worked on a mammoth-sized PC that took up my entire desk space. Facebook was merely a way to keep in touch with college friends and Twitter didn’t exist. In those early years, I remember initial discussions with my team about whether we should count blog posts as media hits.

Oh, how the times have changed.

It’s been fun to be a part of the rapid pace of change, but it can be a challenge to keep up. That’s why, in order to continue to drive success for our clients, I’ve identified the top digital marketing communications trends of 2014.

Social media becoming pay-for-play: Facebook has changed its news feed algorithm, which means it’s harder for brands to achieve organic reach. We’d seen it anecdotally here at (W)right On as we monitor and report on our clients’ Facebook page metrics. In early December, our suspicions were validated in this Ad Age article: “Facebook is being more blunt about the fact that marketers are going to have to pay for reach.”

We should also keep in mind that Twitter went public in 2013 and is expected to be profitable for investors. Right now, there is no “algorithm” that shuts down organic content, but we should keep an eye out for changes in 2014. A pay-for-play at Twitter is a distinct possibility. Agencies should adapt and account for the change in guidance and implementation strategies.

Branded journalism: In 2011, I was doing research for a client on online newsroom best practices, and I discovered Cisco’s award winning brand journalism platform. Since then, more and more companies, like Adobe, GE, and Coca-Cola, have adopted it; and they’re even hiring internal journalists to produce content. Instead of relying on media placements and advertisements, brands are using digital and social tools to speak directly to customers. With all the changes in the traditional and digital media landscape, it makes sense that more brands are adopting a “build it or buy it” strategy to content marketing. I predict that we’ll see even more of this in 2014.

Wearable technology and the Internet of Things: The buzz around wearable tech has been going on for a while, but it’s about to explode. You may own a Nike Fuel Band or a FitBit already, but according to ShotTracker, the market is expected to be eight times larger than it was in 2012. By 2018, it could reach $19 billion.

In 2014, Google Glass will be available for purchase. Glass’ marketing applications and impact on search will be limited at first, but I predict that will change rapidly. One clue: A recently released Glass app, Glashion, enables users to snap clothing and accessories of passers-by and complete a comparison shop. Think about what those possibilities mean for marketers!

Wearable technology is just one aspect of the ‘Internet of Things,’ which are billions of smart, connected “things,” (i.e., machines or devices) that will encompass every aspect of our lives. As a result, huge amounts of user data are being generated. As the Internet of Things becomes more ubiquitous, marketers will need to figure out how to harness that data.

Be sure to check the blog next week for part two of this series where we’ll provide three more top digital marketing trends for 2014.