Visual Storytelling

The growth of photo oriented social media sites has reached a frenzy with the popularity of sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr. The social connectedness of these sites has huge implications for companies who extend their brands into the blogosphere simply by posting photos and adding captions. As reading time dwindles and perusing the web to glance at headlines and stare at pictures continues, is it any wonder that marketers are trying to connect with customers using these visual mediums? Consider this relevant news story from CNN Say Cheese that describes how various brands are using pictures to sell their products. Clearly these sites are not going away and are growing their customer base by leaps and bounds.


What does your photo say about your brand?

A Finger in your Food

Here we go again. A few years ago it was a fingertip in a bowl of Wendy’s chili. This time it’s a finger in a burger from Arby’s. Ick! Another fast food chain caught up in a crisis PR scenario. Since it just happened, we will watch it dramatically play out for all those involved. It looks like the PR team is immediately jumping to action with a response from the corporate communications director and the obligatory quote from the finger recipient and his mom. Of course, the company will be doing damage control immediately. What level of response would you expect the company to deliver in this case?

Reading for the News vs. Reading for Pleasure

I love to read. A time-honored tradition in my home growing up was reading the San Jose Mercury News daily newspaper. I watched my parents do it and enjoyed reading it to stay abreast of current news. This habit branched into a love for reading short stories from the Reader’s Digest Magazine and Condensed Books. I still enjoy pleasure reading and staying current about the news. As I examined my daily media habits today, none of my choices involve the printed newspaper. Nowadays I used various aggregator tools such as Google Reader, FlipBoard and online newspapers such as the Columbian, USA Today and various customized news sources to stay up to date. On my drives around town I listen to music and National Public Radio. I also enjoy reading various excerpts from the New York Times, Wall St. Journal, news magazines  and online regional business journals. As a bit of a news junkie, I will read catch up on news excerpts or breaking news on my iPad or iPhone from  sources such as the NY Times, Yahoo! and more. When I watched this video about a baby mistaking a magazine for an iPad, I laughed out loud.

Then I wondered, what are young people reading, if anything, today? This recent survey gave me some hope that Millenials, in particular are still engaged. See here:

This made me think about what my own children are learning from my example. They don’t see me read a printed newspaper or magazine. Do they wonder if I’m playing games on my electronic devices? If the perception (or reality) is that “you are what you eat,” can it be true that “you are what you read?” In an election year (and soon-t0-be-aired Summer Olympics), it seems to me that people are more engaged. It makes me realize the power of PR to influence the media and what we hear, watch and read. Where do you get your news?

Selective Attention

A few years ago I was in the mode of shopping for a new car: a MINI Cooper. Suddenly, I noticed how many MINI Coopers were sharing the road with me. This concept, known to researchers as “selective attention,” refers to our brains hardwired tendency to focus on one thing at a time. A fascinating article in the Wall St. Journal discusses this idea further by relating it to listening in on select conversations during cocktail parties or even talking on the cell phone vs. talking to a passenger while driving an automobile. Relatively few members of the population are effective at multitasking (2.5 percent) and even students who are using Facebook in school classes are not learning effectively–which bring consequences when it comes time for exams. For marketers and PR people, it means we rarely have someone’s undivided attention. What does it mean for you?

Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?

Just finished a very interesting article from Atlantic Magazine, that not only has implications for marketers and public relations people, but perhaps is a more telling commentary on the state of human relationships. Naturally, the conclusion among researchers is that the technology does not make us more lonely, but it is how we use these tools. There is some fascinating research about social and human interaction that speaks directly to the issue of loneliness and the feeling of connectedness. I’m particularly interested in this subject since I have felt that Facebook legitimizes narcissism. What do you think?

Multitasking Lowers Productivity

It seems clear that drivers using cell phones are distracted. This is an argument that seems justified and is backed up by insurance industry statistics resulting in new laws across the country. However, have you stopped to consider what the impact of multitasking is on your overall productivity? If you consider that manner in which our routines, meetings or study habits are interrupted by the long-held belief that multitasking allows us to get more done–and more quickly–I think it’s worth discussion. Consider the following blog entry by Peter Bregman, a CEO consultant writing for the Harvard Business Review.
I’ve decided I’m going to follow his example and avoid multi-tasking for a week and see what results. What are you willing to give up?

Citizen Rights to Record the Police

Given the recent discussion of the legality of recording your local police officers in action, I couldn’t help but think of some high profile cases and a few lesser known stories. Charges were dropped against Emily Good, the Rochester, N.Y. resident who was arrested and charged with obstruction of governmental administration while filming police officers conducting an arrest from her front yard last year. That doesn’t change the fact that she now has a police record. Read the article and then watch the video and tell me what you think about whether you are willing to risk an arrest and jail time even when you know you are in the right.

The Man Who Lived On His Bike

Publicity with video clips is a strange beast. Engaging video clips can capture imagination, tell a story, persuade, inform, offend–you name it and there is a reaction to fit any example. From a PR perspective, these are great opportunities to share and reach a large audience, particularly if it “goes viral” and it has millions of views. This particular video is particularly entertaining, but for 2-3 minutes. If there is a cause or a reason that the producer created this piece, it’s lost on me other than for pure entertainment. Take a look and tell me what you think:

Man Lives on His Bike

The Hacker Way

In the wake of the anticipated $5 billion Initial Public Stock Offering (IPO) for Facebook, a revealing portrait of founder Mark Zuckerberg’s management and company philosophy is found in an open letter to future stockholders found here:

The letter is alternatively forward thinking and snarky. Perhaps his mantra that “done is better than perfect” symbolizes his engineering-focused rule of computer programmers. Their stated company code to break it down and reinvent, otherwise known as the “hacker way,” seems troubling because of what it does not say. I did not find a long-term philosophy about building a great company. Perhaps this is an archaic business philosophy in a world where get-rich dot-com companies come and go. As a potential investor, I did not find anything reassuring about the company’s attempt to protect consumer privacy or to provide a long-term return on investment for shareholders. Does this sound like a nurturing place to work or one in which confrontation rules and no-holds-barred engineering trumps the value of the people who work there. What do you think?

Advertising & PR = Persuasion

Clients often ask what is the difference between advertising and PR. The short answer is advertising is a paid message that you control. PR is unpaid, sometimes referred to as “earned media.” What both of these unique disciplines have in common is summed up best by one word: Persuasion.

Ultimately, you want people to feel, say or DO something when you communicate with them. Something I learned not only in the classroom at BYU, but over years of experience is that clients expect results to their bottom-line. Whether you use advertising techniques or PR, top management realizes that both disciplines are very powerful–albeit a necessity in today’s world.

Thanks BYU!