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    Led by Paul Maccabee, MaccaPR is a blog from Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

    Dedicated to inspiring chief marketing and PR officers, corporate communications directors and marketing professionals, MaccaPR was named one of the "Best PR Blogs in the World" by InkyBee

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    4 Social Media Graphic Design Tips for PR Pros

    Posted by Leila Hirsch on Jun 23, 2015 5:30:00 AM



    Public relations professionals may be expert at media relations, key messaging and corporate communications, but few of us are great graphic artists. Yet with Instagram, Pinterest and other social media channels hungry for visual content, the ability to develop engaging imagery has become an essential skill for marketers and PR pros.

    Lucky for us, agency friend and North Loop neighbor Megan Junius (right) is the owner of Peter Hill Design, a graphic design and branding firm whose clients have ranged from Beazley Accident & Health, DeGidio’s Bar & Grill, Open Arms of MN, Henson & Efron, Park Dental to Disney Garden and Newman’s Own Organics. Megan sat down with the MaccaPR blog to share tips that PR and marketing professionals can use to enhance their visual assets for both blogs and social media.  

    1. Keep It Simple (And Consistent):

    During early attempts at designing graphics for this MaccaPR blog, I thought the more the better! An extra border, a shadow… and a filter! What could go wrong? Luckily, Megan Junius is a fantastic teacher. While some graphics can benefit from a layered approach, it’s generally more important to keep things simple. Nothing screams amateur more than a few layers of filters, which can create a new tone or transparency over an image such as on Instagram. Sure this may be appropriate for your personal social media accounts, but for your brand, we agree with Junius when she says skip the filters! 

    Throughout the course of our lunchtime interview, Junius drove home one important point that all PR professionals and brand marketers should commit to – consistency is key. From image sizes to fonts, keeping social media and blog graphics consistent will help maintain your brand’s identity while appearing polished and professional. 

    A brand that does a smart job of keeping imagery simple on social media while maintaining maximum impact is the Santa Monica, California-based The Honest Company. Graphics are thoughtful and visually appealing to the eye without screaming “Look at me!” The eco-friendly products company has a great grasp on who their target customer is and delivers graphics that are in line with brand messaging.  


    “The best way to maintain consistency with the graphics your brand uses is to build out your brand standards and guidelines right away,” said Junius. “This creates a solid foundation for any future social media or blog asset creation.” 

    When deciding upon fonts and sizing options to incorporate into your brand standards, Junius explained that a good rule of thumb is to choose three of each and stick with them. As tempting as it can be, don't go for the over-stylized or oversized. Keep it simple. 

    2. Know When To Create (And When To Outsource) Your Social Media Graphic Design:

    Sure, free is always good but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. In today’s world of Instagram, Pixlr, Canva and dozens of other photo editing apps, marketers can fall victim to the endless array of overlays, filters and borders in an attempt to jazz up their visuals without outsourcing to graphic design professionals. 

    We asked Junius what’s the easiest way to identify a novice non-designer. “It’s usually the typography that sticks out right away,” laughed Junius. “The use of basic fonts, curves, triple-thick borders and no kerning* is an easy giveaway too.” (*Kerning is the proportionally adjusting the space between characters in a font.) 

    If your brand’s budget doesn’t allow you to employ the services of a graphic design firm or if you don’t have an internal graphics team, there are plenty of resources available to create free or low-cost graphics for social media or blog assets:
    • Canva: At Maccabee, we’re frequent users of Canva. The “amazingly simple graphic design” platform, that was lauded by Canva chief evangelist Guy Kawasaki at Social Media Marketing World, gives amateur designers the entry-level tools they need to become graphic design rockstars, or at least back-up bass players, when creating images from infographics to social media headers.
    • If your business creates infographics, check out The program is the “data visualization product that brings out the best in your data.” And, it’s easy to use!
    • Photoshop: For in-house design tools, Junius recommends PR pros employ Photoshop. Take the time to learn how to use and avoid the sins of amateur design – over-stylized photos, shadows, too many borders, not enough white space and typography gaffes.
    • And More! Check out “33 Free Design Tools and Resources to Turn Anyone Into a Graphic Designer,” for even more tips and tools. Well worth the read. 

    3. Think Strategically About Colors and White Space:

    As I discussed in my recent MaccaPR blog post recap of Social Media Marketing World, every piece of content your brand develops, from social media posts to conference pamphlets, needs a visual. Guy Kawasaki shared a statistic at the conference that's too good not to repeat: On Twitter, including a photo with your tweet nearly doubles your chances of engagement

    There are specific sizing ratios to consider when creating images for social media channels. Junius recommends, if possible, resizing social media images to the correct ratio, as deemed appropriate per social network. That will ensure maximum viewing potential for your brand’s customers. For example an image featured on a Facebook post should be sized to 1200 x 1200 pixels. Need the correct ratios for social media imagery? Social Media Examiner breaks it down in the “Ultimate Guide to Social Media Image Sizes.”


    Without a doubt visual assets should be high on your top priority list when developing your brand’s standards. Think tones and photo style when considering how you want your brand to be portrayed. 

    Junius speaks about how big brands, like Target, are instantly recognizable from their imagery. While using a variety of visual assets, Target maintains a consistent and signature style featuring big, bold product shots with lots of white space. 

    Target Weekly Ad(Source: Target Weekly Ad)

    4. Be Wary of Copyrights:

    Brands need to consider not only what its social media and blog graphics look like, but also where they originate. Developing your own imagery ensures that not only are your brand’s photos authentic and original, but will help your company avoid any copyright issues as well.

    “There is always a risk involved when using Google images,” notes Junius. “You can’t be positive where the image came from, which opens you up to liability issues. A company like Getty Images has data crawlers to find infringement of its imagery so it’s important to properly source and, even better, purchase your images.”

    Junius went on to explain that there is no such thing as royalty-free images. In fact, Peter Hill Design always purchases or creates its own imagery for their clients’ use as well as their own.

    While stock imagery can be useful, it’s obvious to most readers that it is in fact stock imagery. Think Vince Vaughn stock photos (below) - need we say more? We asked Junius what her top recommendations are for non-designers looking to purchase photo assets for use on social media.


    “There are quite a few options including iStock, Veer Images and, of course, Getty Images,” explained Junius. “However, we’ve found that any time we have used our own imagery [in regards to social media], our posts on social receive almost twice the engagement.” 

    So perhaps it’s time to look closely at your brand’s social media and blog graphics. Are they telling the story you’d like them to or is there an opportunity to employ one of Megan’s strategies for improvement?

    A special thanks to Megan Junius of Peter Hill Design (below, left) for taking the time to chat visuals and social media graphics!


    Looking for more tips on how to improve your brand’s social media and blog graphics? Check out these additional MaccaPR posts chock-full of tips:

    LeilaHirschLeila Hirsch is an account executive at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.





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    Topics: Social Media

    Hyundai “Message To Space” TV Spot – Marketing Masterpiece or Brilliant Illusion?

    Posted by Paul Maccabee on May 28, 2015 6:30:00 AM


    (Source: Hyundai YouTube)

    Has there ever been a more emotionally touching, cosmically enchanting car ad than Hyundai’s epic four-minute “Message to Space,” which has now racked up a staggering 58.9 million views on YouTube? 

    “Message To Space,” created by agency Innocean Worldwide, depicts how Hyundai worked with a 13-year-old girl who appears to be Stephanie Virts of Houston, daughter of NASA astronaut Terry Virts, to send a message to her father as he circles the Earth in the International Space Station. Her message ‘Steph Loves You,’ inscribed in giant letters across 2.1 square miles of the floor of Nevada’s Delamar Dry Lake by the tires of 11 Hyundai Genesis vehicles, was apparently easily visible to her father in space. 

    But what if parts - significant parts - of this breathtaking video story were staged? What if some of the father-daughter resonance of Hyundai’s “Message to Space” video wasn’t quite what it seems?  Here’s the Hyundai ‘Message to Space’ spot in all of its glory, along with a “behind-the-scenes, making of” video:

    That Hyundai’s Genesis cars wrote a message in the sand is indisputable - the performance on the ground was certified by Guinness World Records as being the world’s largest tire-track image. Hyundai’s PR bonanza for the audacious stunt included coverage from Time magazine to ABC-TV News. AdWeek praised the spot as “a sweet and pretty otherworldly stunt.” AdAge chose “Message to Space” for its Creativity Top 5 and awarded Hyundai the #1 spot on its Viral Video Chart.   

    But then last April 21, Canada’s Globe and Mail published a remarkable article entitled, “NASA Puts Space Between Itself and Hyundai Ad Campaign,” that cast doubt on what occurred in the sky above those autos.  

    The piece quoted NASA spokeswoman Jennifer Knotts as insisting that no NASA employees (including any astronauts) actually appeared in the Hyundai video. What’s more, added the NASA PR woman, when Hyundai originally contacted NASA, the automaker “told us they were going to use an actor to stage the scene (aboard the ISS).” NASA said they advised Hyundai about public domain footage shot inside the International Space Station, as well as footage of Earth as seen from the station, footage that - of course - was shot prior to the events depicted in Hyundai’s spot.

    “If Hyundai used an actor to simulate shots on board the ISS, as Ms. Knotts said was their plan as told to NASA,” the Globe & Mail wrote, “that might not necessarily get around the rules - particularly if the family was compensated for their appearance in the video. Hyundai would not respond to questions about whether members of the family were paid.”

    Yes, yes - of course, we’re talking truth in advertising, of all things. But consider:

    • When consumers watch the film, ‘Avengers 2,’ they know that Robert Downey Jr can’t really fly.
    • When an audience watches magician David Copperfield in Las Vegas, they expect to be deceived and defrauded.
    • In contrast, TV audiences expect that their TV news anchors (hello, Brian Williams) will refrain from fooling them.
    So what precisely is the understanding between advertisers and their consumers as to honesty? If you’re a consumer who is considering spending $26,750 (MSRP) for a 2015 Hyundai Genesis, is it reasonable to expect that Hyundai’s marketing will contain no simulations, dramatizations or other fakery? Does it matter that Hyundai’s footage of an astronaut receiving a love note from his daughter down below may, in fact, have involved generic public footage shot prior to the “Message to Space” event? And that the astronaut depicted in the four-minute video may not really be Stephanie’s father/astronaut at all?



    To explore the issues raised by “Message to Space,” we reached out to Minneapolis advertising executives Chris Preston, EVP-Creative Director for agency Preston Kelly; John Blackburn, Strategic Planning Director for mono; and Corey Johnson, president of agency Solve (as seen above) - we also contacted NASA, Hyundai and the car maker’s agency, Innocean. Here’s what we uncovered:

    Why was the "Message to Space" spot awesome?

    “Why is this Hyundai spot so successful?” asked mono’s John Blackburn, a veteran of Minneapolis agency Fallon’s legendary BMW Films campaign.

    “Because it’s so infrequent that you fascinate people with a TV ad, that an agency creates a spectacle! At first, I thought – oh, no, Hyundai was operating in the most tired cliché of automotive advertising, which is driving a car through some Bonneville salt flats, kicking up dust as the morning sun hits your sheet metal. Agencies love deserts because there’s no traffic laws to follow on a dry lake bed, and no distractions from showing off your car in a dynamic situation, with great lighting. But when ‘Message To Space’ got to the girl, Stephanie – they took a familiar setting and put a story around it, Hyundai made it emotional with the relationship between the girl and her father. I thought, “Holy cow, you could really see that message from Space?” You wonder if her Dad saw it, and that’s what keeps you watching - it’s just great storytelling.”  


    (Source: Forbes)

    Preston Kelly’s Preston noted that this spot, championing the All-American heroism of the U.S. space agency, NASA, was shot by a South Korean marketing team with a French production designer for a Korean car brand with music by the Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra. “The ‘Message to Space’ ad elevated that theme of American ingenuity, recognized a revered set of American ideals tied to NASA, even though Hyundai is not an American company,” says Preston. “ ‘Message to Space’ made you proud to be an American – consumers think, hey, those guys get ‘us’ even if they’re foreign, and that’s good for the Hyundai brand.”

    No matter whether parts of the four-minute Hyundai spot might have been staged, it’s a stone cold masterpiece of video storytelling – the crisp editing and use of Johann Strauss’ “Voices of Spring” waltz, in particular, is exquisite.   

    If Hyundai Staged Some of the Spot, So What?

    “Was the spot intentionally misleading?” asks Preston. “Ethically ambiguous? I think that poetic license is understood with so obvious a commercial enterprise. By not naming the astronaut in ‘Message To Space’ and using commercial storytelling for the event, I think Hyundai was within the boundaries of dramatization ethics as consumer viewers understand them.”


    (Source: Hyundai)

    Magicians know that it’s not what a conjuror does that makes audiences gasp, it’s what your audience thinks you do - the real magic occurs in an audience member’s head. There is often a huge discrepancy between what’s perceived and what actually occurs in a magician’s hands. Houdini didn’t need to make an elephant disappear, he merely had to convince an audience that the elephant no longer existed on his stage - two very different things. So isn’t it enough for Hyundai to make viewers believe they are watching every moment of this remarkable stunt - even if they are gently tricking us to connects the dots in the ‘Message to Space’ video that aren’t entirely connected by on-camera reality?

    “In this era of trust and authenticity, Hyundai danced around the line,” says Blackburn. “I think you either have to fake the whole thing or none of it. We in advertising have been digging our hole with half truths for years. There’s all sorts of fake, manufactured, photoshopped advertising - but consumers expect honesty today. With Fallon’s BMW Films (where I was a part of a massive team, personally working on distribution strategy), we were honest about the BMW films - featuring stars like Madonna and Clive Owen - being Hollywood stories that never pretended they were real life.” 

    “Wieden & Kennedy’s ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ TV spots for Old Spice with Isaiah Mustafa were over the top, surreal entertainment,” adds Solve's Johnson. “No consumer would think it’s real that Isaiah had unicorns running around him or diamonds were magically pouring out of his palms. Same with the TV spots Skittles developed by its agency TBWA - those TV spots are crazy, weird and entertaining. In one Skittles spot, a lady is walking a cloud and when a guy tries to pet the cloud, it strikes him with lighting and skittles candy rains down. It’s funny, consumers remember it, but no one believes it depicts reality.”

    What line should advertisers not cross?

    “You have to ask - what line should advertisers not cross?,” says Preston. “Over my 30 years in the advertising business, I had the challenge of working under strict guidelines regulating advertising for kids cereals - you had to be careful when marketing to children. With marketing to adults, the line is blurry - and it should be. The couple in the Levi’s TV spot? They don’t really fall in love. That party on the beach for Corona beer? That wasn’t really an authentic party. Those images looked real, but they’re not - isn’t that manipulative in its own way?”

    So, could Hyundai have opened the four-minute spot with a disclaimer that the spot was ‘based on actual events’? 

    “If it’s an actual event that they are re-portraying, it would have been nice to say it was a dramatization,” says Preston. “But ‘Message to Space’ is a much better story without those words at the beginning. In fact, you would have cut down on the video’s effectiveness instead of letting consumers enjoy the story. Honestly? This Hyundai spot never struck me as an authentic documentary from the start. There’s too much time spent milking expressions from the little girl, the lighting is too good and the drama too manufactured. People recognize by the end that it’s an ad for Hyundai and you forgive its trespasses because you enjoy the stunt, you’re proud of the American space station and you’re touched by the father and daughter relationship. I think viewers have a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ in what is a semi-believable ad.” 

    Johnson points to the HUVr Board hoax in spring 2014, when skateboard phenom Tony Hawk participated in a 4.5-minute video (below) from the fictitious corporation HUVr Tech (actually, Funny Or Die) that seemed to promote a real life version of Michael J. Fox’s levitating hoverboard from the movie, “Back To The Future”   

    What’s so intriguing is - the prank generated 16.1 million views on YouTube from consumers who wanted to believe a skateboard could enable you to ‘fly,’ but the behind-the-scenes video exposing the hoax generated barely 320,000 views, suggesting that perhaps people actually do prefer to believe in miracles. 

    “Advertisers have a contract with consumers, but that trust is a blurred line,” says Johnson. “Where this ‘Message to Space’ crossed the line is when it was trying to portray real events which may not have happened this way. We talk everyday at our agency about being authentic in depicting products in our campaigns. In the past, food photography would use steam from an iron to make the food appear piping hot, or glue for milk in a cereal ad. The goal was to make the food appear appetizing, even if it was not real. Consumers do not want to be deceived that way anymore.” 

    “A disclaimer - something like ‘what follows is based on a true occurrence’ - could have been put into this Hyundai spot,” concludes Johnson, whose agency works for Porsche. “But once people see that warning, they know something fantastic is about to follow that may not be real, and that will cut down on views. YouTube has desensitized consumers to what is reality - lots of things that get millions of views on YouTube are quite unrealistic!” 

    So Was Hyundai’s Message To Space A Success?

    “You can’t argue with 58 million views of this Hyundai spot on YouTube,” marvels Preston. “It was a brand win. Contrasting the intimacy of her hand-drawn message to Dad with the immensity and technology of space, and the cars writing in unison across miles of lake bed is effective. You get drawn into the story despite your jaded consumer sense that something isn’t quite kosher. It may not be a particularly effective seller of that Genesis model - for example, it didn’t make me want to run out a buy a Genesis so I could drive my signature in the sand. But it made me feel something for Hyundai!”

    “The ‘Message to Space’ film was most effective as an emotional, engaging story - it was a beautiful story with very good production values but it fell short in terms of brand relevance,” says Johnson. “There was nothing in the ‘Message to Space’ spot that was uniquely about the Genesis pulling off that feat, you could do the same thing with any car. Essentially, you could replace the Genesis with any vehicle and it would carry the same level of brand relevance.”


    (Source: Hyundai)

    “The car business is a brand game and sales are important,” says Blackburn. “To my mind, the video differentiates Hyundai rather than Genesis, and I’m okay with that. Hyundai are still trying to outposition the American and Japanese brands and you got a really good look at the Genesis here. But ‘Message to Space’ wasn’t about Genesis, it was about the Hyundai brand.” 

    We reached out to Hyundai Motor’s global PR team to ask if the footage of NASA astronaut was actually of Terry Virts (as the spot implied) or was a simulation with an actor; if the ISS space vehicle pictured in the video was the actual ISS vehicle at the moment that astronaut Virts witnessed his daughter’s giant ‘message’; and if a NASA astronaut actually took a photo of his daughter’s love note carved into the Nevada desert.  

    JJ Ghim of Hyundai’s PR department replied: “Concerning your questions: We cannot comment on your questions...all we can say is that it’s based on a real story.”

    Okay. When we sent similar inquiries to the Innocean ad agency based out of Seoul, Korea, its PR manager Albert Lee responded: “My colleagues and I reviewed your questions, and we apologize that we cannot provide the details you seek.” Added Lee: “The final product of the campaign film is all based on facts. However, we cannot further discuss the details of the production process due to NASA regulations. We hope that you understand the position we are in.” 

    On subsequent views, as if watching M. Night Shyamalan “Sixth Sense” film for the second and third time, you can pick up clues in “Message To Space” you may have missed the first time: the image of Stephanie’s Dad in a picture frame at 0:18 where his face is smudged out, the father/astronaut’s face in soft focus at 0:30, the father shot from behind snapping pictures through the station’s window at 0:40, the image of Stephanie’s father’s head that’s cut off at 3:00, and how he’s photographed from behind at 3:19. 

    “I’m not an expert in NASA rules and regulations,” says Preston. “But it does feel like Hyundai intentionally pushed the boundaries right to the edge as far as using an actual NASA astronaut for commercial gain goes. Did they cross them? I don’t think so.” 


    (Source: Global News)

    Stephanie Schierholz, a public affairs officer with NASA, responded to the MaccaPR blog’s questions with a response that included the following:

    “As a government agency funded by taxpayer, we are prohibited from making endorsements, and NASA employees are subject to ethics restrictions that prohibit employees from using their title, position or authority to endorse a product, service or enterprise. As a result, NASA did not support the ‘Message to Space’ commercial. NASA did advise Hyundai about NASA’s imagery use guidelines. The NASA imagery used in the making of the available for public use...none of the images was directed to be obtained for the purposes of the commercial...the Earth views are from publicly available footage, as is the body-only view of an astronaut.”

    NASA then referred MaccaPR to Hyundai for any questions about casting, filming or astronaut participation in the commercial. 

    “I think most consumers have a tolerance for certain levels of dramatization, but there’s a kind of reversal when you intentionally go to such lengths to try to portray something as real when it is not,” concludes Johnson. “Message to Space" tugs at your heart strings and leaves you feeling a little duped when the dubious nature of its authenticity is called in to question. If viewers had known it was ‘based on true events’ going in, Hyundai would have lost a lot of interest, viewers and shares. As consumers are finding this out later, Hyundai could lose a little shine off their brand.” 

    “Advertisers frequently spin pretty fiction to entice consumers,” concluded the Globe & Mail, one of the only media outlets to raise questions about the video. “But considering the current preoccupation with authenticity, brands may want to be cautious about promoting true stories that could raise viewers’ skepticism, lest they tarnish the emotional connection they are trying to forge.”

    So what do you as marketers - and as potential purchasers of Hyundai automobiles - feel about Hyundai’s ‘Message To Space’ - and the wiggle room that marketers take in telling their products’ stories in a way that may not be precisely...authentic? Did Hyundai, and its agency, cross a line here? Or is that a line that consumers are happy to see crossed in exchange for being entertained by a great story, told eloquently by a masterful marketer?

    Please comment below.

    Paul MaccabeePaul Maccabee is president of Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency. 




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    Topics: Brand Strategy, Marketing

    Takeaways From 4 Mega-Trends Every Food Marketer Must Know

    Posted by Jean Hill on May 20, 2015 6:54:00 AM


    Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Food Leaders Summit in Chicago where I was reminded of two things: 1) I love Chicago and 2) I love food. A perfect two and a half days, where attendees had the opportunity to immerse themselves in discussions about food (from sustainability and transparency to packaging and messaging) and how consumers are driving change across the food industry.

    After stopping by Garrett Popcorn Shops® and wandering through Walgreens on State Street to be fascinated that I could, if I so chose, buy sushi at a drugstore – I felt not only satisfied (thanks to the popcorn) but also in the right frame of mind for the conference (thanks to the side trip to Walgreens' newest concept, where shoppers can pick up dinner as well as aspirin). For at the conference, I heard loud and clear from speakers from ConAgra to Cargill that consumers are buying their foods differently than in the past. I’m more conscious of my food choices and more convenience is the name of the game for me – and millions of consumers like me. 

    Although I hate to be stereotyped when defining myself, I do support the point our PR agency’s client Julie Berling, Director of Strategic Insights & Integrated Communications for GNP Company, made during her own speech at the Summit – that as a consumer, I shop with my head as well as my heart. 

    FoodLeadersSummit_2015Last week, GNP Company’s Just BARE brand of all natural chicken posted on its Just Dish blog a recap on the Food Leaders Summit. (Read “Top 5 Hot Topics Food Leaders Are Talking About” here and also begin following Just Dish! It’s a great blog offering excellent insights into food topics.)  Here’s a quote from that Just Dish blog recap: “According to food developer, author and Food Leaders Summit speaker Barb Stuckey, the type of food we eat is changing. She says, ‘our lives are changing, but restaurants and grocery stores haven’t.’ Yet. In fact, she said four mega trends are disrupting the food industry, which will change the ecosystem of where we live, buy food, and eat.” With the permission of Just Dish, I’d like to expand upon those four mega retailer trends. What follows are thought starters for food and consumer packaged goods marketers in particular, yet apply to all marketers.  


    Takeaway: Build in-person experiences and consider every touch point with your brand.

    Mega-Trend #1 – Set It and Forget It Food

    Just Dish: “Are you subscribing to your food like you are your makeup (Birchbox) or dog’s treats (BarkBox)? There are numerous food companies that want you to order their pre-made sample boxes on a subscription basis. Simply enter your name, address and credit card information and magically, food arrives at your doorstop. From Nature Box, Conscious Box and Love With Food, consumers now can receive products they love – and even new products to sample – without leaving their homes.” 

    MaccaPR: I’m not typically a big shopper…so you would think these subscription service concepts would appeal to me. In fact, it’s the opposite. I like to grocery shop, pick out my own makeup and stop by my neighborhood coffee shop.  It’s not because I have all the time in the world…it’s because I like to enjoy the experience, personally see what my options are and make choices based on my wants and desires. Key to me: the experience. For consumers, all interactions with products – from understanding its attributes and ingredients to exposure to marketing, reviews and philanthropic causes– impact decision making. While not a new concept, it’s important to reiterate that brands are about a consumer’s perception of them…and marketers benefit from thinking about every single experience a consumer has with their products. Food and CPG marketers are already realizing the effects of online retail, but focusing on the IRL (in real life) experiences can help brands stand out on store shelves – and build brand loyalty when shopping online. As Enjoy Life Foods’ CEO mentioned at the Summit, his company strives to think digitally, but act in analog. That in-person experience can be so important. 


    Takeaway: Recognize the importance of video and how-to content.  

    Mega-Trend #2 – The New Scratch Cooking

    Just Dish: “Companies like Blue Apron and Plated are taking subscription boxes one-step further by offering full meal kit delivery. With boxes full of fresh ingredients, portion sized condiments and even step-by-step instructions, those individuals who are novices in the kitchen and cook only on special occasions (millennials, this means you) can now have a meal time experience they can enjoy more often."


    MaccaPR:  I’m proud to say I’ve raised a millennial who is a bit of a foodie. My son loves to cook. But that doesn’t mean I did a good job of teaching him. He’s shared with me many a time how he goes to YouTube to get inspired, learn new methods of preparation and find recipes. His favorite? Eggplant caviar. (I’ve never cooked an eggplant in my life!) Marketers: my son is not alone. The power of video, such as The New York Times Video database, in teaching and influencing consumer behavior, cannot be denied. Video and step-by-step instructional content should be a part of every marketers strategic plan.          

    PeopleClaim - The Review of Reviews


    Takeaway: Encourage trial and make it easy to share review.   

    Mega-Trend #3 – The Breakdown of Category Silos

    Just Dish: “When shopping, consumers generally go from one side of the grocery store to the other to get everything needed for, let’s say, taco night. Tried-and-true grocery store aisles are being switched up. Stuckey says that food retailers – both online and in-store – more and more will bring everything together, making it fast and efficient for us to pick up the tomatoes, cheese and ground chicken for a Mexican fiesta—all in one place.”

    MaccaPR: As stated earlier, cooking at home for consumers (millennials in particular) is a special event, one in which cooks express themselves through not only the food, but also the event itself. Marketers can benefit by helping consumers create these dining events. Be a part of these experiences by offering themed recipes, entertainment ideas and unique refreshments. How? By developing online platforms for consumers to gather and authentically share opinions and tips for entertaining, even ideas that involve your product. Positive consumer experiences and reviews, as indicated in this PeopleClaim infographic (right), impact the bottom line. And hey, it’s fun to be a part of an online community.


    Takeaway: Think of your product in digital terms.

    Mega-Trend #4 – Food on Demand

    Just Dish: “For the sake of convenience, busy consumers across the country are letting others make meals or do grocery shopping for them. Available in some markets, GrubHub and UberEATS deliver freshly prepared meals concocted by restaurant chefs, while Instacart sends shoppers to grocery stores to pick out food on your behalf. No more going to grocery stores and going up and down the aisles. Your next meals can be ordered online, and delivered to your home.”

    MaccaPR: Stuckey made a good point during her talk that marketers need to heed: visually, products must be online-ready. Meaning, with more and more consumers doing their shopping online through sites like Amazon Fresh, consumers may no longer have the tactile experience with a product that they would have had if they had gone to a grocery store. Manufacturers should think about how their products stand out from a features and benefits standpoint, but also from how they are visually displayed on a website or hand-held device.


    If you implement these takeaways from the conference’s food retail mega-trends, you’ll find yourselves ahead of the rest. Enjoy! In the meantime, I’m going to hold some focus groups so I can get even more insight into what motivates the millennial audience to cook. (Meaning, I’m going to work extra hard to get an invitation to my son’s home so I can taste that eggplant caviar!) 

    JeanHillJeaHill is senior vice president at Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.
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    Topics: Marketing

    Online Marketing Lessons From Carly Fiorina's Domain Name "Oops" Crisis

    Posted by Paul Maccabee on May 6, 2015 6:00:00 AM

    Digital marketers across America winced this week, as they heard that GOP Presidential Candidate Carly Fiorina had failed to secure her own domain name: Now millions of voters who are curious about the just-announced campaign of former Hewlett-Packard CEO Fiorina find themselves staring not at her campaign photos, but at a floridly anti-Fiorina website that hammers the candidate for the callousness of 30,000 employee layoffs under her watch at HP.

    "Carly Fiorina failed to register this domain," taunts the headline text at “So I’m using it to tell you how many people she laid off at Hewlett-Packard.”CarlyFiorinaTime

    (Source: TIME)

    “It’s a funny gaffe, a chance to throw pebbles at giant campaign bears,” marvels Wired’s Brian Barrett of the Republican candidate’s hijacked campaign domain. “But it also speaks to a larger lack of preparedness, an inability to anticipate the obvious consequences of an even more obvious oversight. There’s only so much you can do if someone parked on your campaign domain before you ever thought to have one.” Websites from TechCrunch to Politico ridiculed her mistake. Concluded Gizmodo: “It’s pretty surprising that a supposedly tech-savvy nominee like Fiorina filed to cover her bases here.”

    So what can your marketing team learn from Fiorina’s head-smacking domain name fail and earlier domain name stumbles by Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush (which we addressed in Part I of this special two-part MaccaPR series) - even if you’re battling for supremacy on retail shelves, rather than the White House?

    Read on for marketing lessons drawn from how 2016 presidential campaigns are wrestling with domain name challenges, featuring insights from attorney Kristine Dorrain, director of Internet and IP Services for Minnesota-based FORUM

    Understand The Domain Name Differences Between Marketing and Politics 

    presidential-candidates-2016“Arguably, a politician is not selling anything – although you could debate that candidates are ‘selling’ Republicanism or some other governing philosophy,” says Dorrain. “But the trademark system is dependent upon your being involved in interstate commerce – even though Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio have been paid thousands of dollars to speak at events, for example, campaigning is generally not viewed as commerce, so the rules governing domain name and trademark are somewhat different for marketers vs. political campaigners.” 

    That said, there’s clearly big money to be made from commerce in political domain names. Back in October 2014, The Hill reported that the opening bid to buy via Go Daddy was $275,000 (note: that domain is still up for sale); and you could then snap up, which today is an official Rand Paul campaign site, for just $125,000. If you’re the digital director for a campaign, you’d also want to own the domain extensions for your candidate matched with all potential running mates.

    Hot tip: if you’re feeling bullish that Ted Cruz will pick Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential mate, the domain name for is currently available via GoDaddy.    

    Politicians noted with some relief that in March 2015, the new domain name .vote was introduced, accompanied by rules that prohibited “deceptive names” or anonymous (aka “proxy”) registration and that require “an obvious connection between the domain name and the registrant’s activities in the democratic process.”   


    But the universe of potential domain names is still dauntingly vast. ABC News claims that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg “preemptively bought over 400 domain names related to his name, ranging from to the ludricrously comical” Trying to lock up every possible permutation of your brand or candidate name is a Fool’s Game. Dorrain notes that the pool of potential domains just exploded exponentially last Spring, as the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which supervises website naming on the Internet, expanded domain extensions with 1,400 additional top-level domains, including .rocks, .guru, .company, and .expert. 

    So with a seemingly infinite number of domain names that could pertain to your company and brand, what’s a Web-savvy marketer to do?

    What This All Means for Brand Marketers

    “The biggest take-away for brand owners,” says Dorrain, “is to constantly evaluate your domain strategy. For example, it’s a good idea to register domain names for key products before you publicize their names. By the time a product hits the market and is eligible for trademark protection, cybersquatters can have already moved in.” 

    “If there’s already infringement happening against a brand, such as what happened to Cheerios and Canon,” concludes Dorrain, “there are a few options:register_domain_names_for_key_products-2

    1. Many brands find that cease and desist letters are pretty effective. 
    2. Our FORUM administers Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) cases, and those can result in a transfer of the domain name to the brand owner if that owner prevails. This is a pretty fast option, with most decisions made in 32-45 days. 
    3. Finally, brand owners can file in court under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) if they can obtain jurisdiction over the respondent – remedies include statutory damages and attorney’s fees.” 

    Google To Your Rescue: It’s All About Content

    Fortunately, the all-powerful Google wants consumers and voters to find the content they actually search for and is opposed to deceptive cybersquatters who register domain names that distract searchers from the content they wish to find. “Google is getting smart enough to know what information voters and consumers actually want to be taken to,” says Dorrain, “Based on your past search history and other factors, Google is working on knowing that when you enter 'Jeb Bush' you want information on Florida governor Jeb Bush, not on same sex marriage.” As we mentioned in our past post, the URL “" (below) directs you to a site run by two LGBT advocates from Oregon who are decidedly not Jeb Bush supporters.   


    Savvy marketers – whether they’re selling candidates or deep-dish pizza  recognize that the final judge remains Google. No matter what domain names you choose for your brand, to ensure that your site rises to the top in Google search, you must ensure you fill the site with as much relevant content as possible. Even if cybersquatting trolls try to fool Mother Google with fake domain names, the search engine’s algorithms are relentlessly searching for sites full of authentic and keyword-optimized brand content. 

    Ultimately, our objective as marketers and corporate communicators can’t be to register all 10,000 of the possible domain names that could be used to attack our brand or candidate. In this age of 1,400 new domain extensions, our goal must be to fill our branded websites with enough lively, relevant and engaging information that Google will send customers or voters to us – rather than to shadow sites managed by your competitors who explain, in grisly detail, why you really suck.  

    Until then, anyone care to buy the domain name, – now selling at GoDaddy for $5,500? It’s always good to bet on the future of our young people... 


    Read Part I of this two-part MaccaPR series, "What Brand Marketers Can Learn From Presidential Domain Name Fails." 




    Paul Maccabee

    Paul Maccabee is president and co-founder of Maccabee, a public relations and online marketing agency based in Minneapolis. Learn more at, a domain name that we actually own.

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    Topics: Brand Strategy, SEO

    What Brand Marketers Can Learn From Presidential Domain Name Fails

    Posted by Paul Maccabee on Apr 27, 2015 5:28:00 AM

    Let’s share a warning for candidate Hillary Clinton, along with Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and the airplane hanger full of other GOP presidential hopefuls who are suiting up for the battle to win the right to redecorate the Oval Office, ride in Air Force One and know that when the White House Band plays “Hail To the Chief,” they’re hailing them.

    Until recently, 2016 candidates merely had to prove they could meet Constitutional requirements to be president (over 35, natural-born U.S. citizen, etc.), raise a war chest of up to $750 million, win 270 of the 538 electoral votes in the Electoral College, and convince voters that they’re capable of crushing ISIL, ending Iran’s race to develop a nuclear weapon, and transforming the U.S. economy into a full-employment paradise.

    But now it’s clear that any credible candidate must also clear one additional hurdle: prove themselves to be master of their domain – their online domain that is – or face a public relations immolation.  


    Indeed, the first PR crisis faced by just-announced U.S. Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign arose from the discovery that his staff had neglected to buy the domain name for his presidential bid. This only revealed further horrors, when it was discovered that the URL led voters to a pro-Barack Obama site (pictured above). What’s more, the domain name diverts voters to a website praising Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Mashable taunted Cruz with "Campaign 404: is not ready for 2016."

    Similarly, here are other, recent domain name fails from 2016 presidential hopefuls:

    • Potential candidate U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan doesn’t own Go there and you’re redirected to a UK-based music store.
    • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush doesn’t own Instead, two bearded gay men from Oregon, who are eager to talk with you about same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues, registered that domain name address.
    • You’ll find at an anti-Bush site created by a “loyal Republican” devoted to “saving the Republican party from supporting Jeb Bush for president.”

    So what can marketing and PR pros learn from this domain name debacle? Our MaccaPR blog sought advice from attorney Kristine Dorrain, director of Internet and IP Services for Minneapolis-based FORUM (formerly, the National Arbitration Forum), which has administered resolutions of domain name disputes involving celebrities such as Mick Jagger, Eva Longoria and, yes, even Hillary Clinton.

    Register Your Domain Name Now – Right Now!


    How big a faux pas was it that Senator Cruz’s staff forgot to buy the domain name for the Republican candidate’s online efforts? The negative PR fallout alone included such headlines as “Cruz Website Domains Held Hostage” (CNN) and “Ted Cruz Doesn’t Own” (Time). Brand marketers and presidential candidates can avoid such humiliation, says Dorrain.

    “Personally, I’m amused by the brouha over candidates not owning their domain names,” explains Dorrain. “In his defense, both ‘Ted’ and ‘Cruz’ are quite common names, and the problem is – once someone has purchased a personal name as a domain name, they are usually at the mercy of that registrant. It seems that the campaign staff surrounding the candidate should have known better, but we don’t know whether they tried to buy it and were rebuffed. A presidential candidate who doesn’t own his or her own domain name suggests that they’re not looking to the future, a time when everyone is mobile, everything is online and every voter is connected digitally.” 

    As both political campaigns and brand wars are increasingly being fought on social media channels, ownership of relevant domain names can become a matter of brand survival. Mind you, candidates have struggled with this domain name issue for years. During the 2012 presidential campaign, candidate Gov. Rick Perry did register, but not, which redirected voters to a site operated on behalf of his rival Ron Paul – a situation that inspired the National Journal to diss “Rick Perry Has a Domain-Name Problem.”

    RickPerryAlthough many campaigns try to prophylactically purchase the most common iterations of a candidate’s name, “you can’t purchase everything,” sighed Vincent Harris, who served as digital campaign advisor to Newt Gingrich and Ted Cruz, in Politico

    Some long-established political candidates and brands may have an advantage over newcomers seeking to belatedly control their domains. “Hillary Clinton understood the impact of owning campaign domain names more than 10 years ago,” says Dorrain. “Look, her husband has been president twice, so the Hillary Clinton campaign team is politically and digitally savvy. She’s had years to figure out what domain names she needed to own.” In fact, back in 2005, then-U.S. Senator Clinton won the Uniform Domain Name Resolution (UDRP) case involving her trademark ownership of the domain, 

    MadonnaTo be sure, brand marketers may have it a bit easier than politicians: the domain name system is designed to protect trademarked names and words (such as Hormel SPAM or General Mills’ Cheerios).  Even if a cybersquatting troll registers a domain with your brand’s name, and uses it to profit from your trademark, Dorrain predicts that you could recover ownership of that domain name. 

    Much depends on each domain name owner’s use. For example, the superstar singer Madonna could retrieve if the domain name is being used for interstate commerce (sales of CDs, T-shirts, etc.) that profit from her trademarked name.

    TheMadonnaBut get this: if the Catholic Church registered to serve as the domain for its site about the Virgin Mary – not profiting from the singer’s goodwill, but focused authentically on sharing images of the Madonna painted by Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo – the church would likely be able to demonstrate a legitimate interest. This could mean the church might be able to maintain ownership, even against the lawyers for Madonna Louise Ciccone, who is decidedly No Virgin.

    It’s worth noting that is registered to a Wisconsin-based computer programmer named Chris Christie, who could defend ownership against the Governor of New Jersey – Chris Christie is, after all, the programmer’s actual name.  

    KristineDorrainFORUM“Everyone – marketer or private citizen – should register their first and last name for online use,” counsels Dorrain (pictured at left). “You never know what you’re going to be doing with your life in a few years! Imagine that your son is a 15-year-old basketball star in high school, someone sees him play and says, ‘wow, he’s really good,’ and locks up your teenager’s domain name. Five years later, he’s rocking basketball in college – but someone else owns his domain name for a fan site.”

    In fact, ZDNet advised after the domain crisis, “if you're thinking your little boy or girl might be president one day, register their domain name now! By the time they're old enough to vote, never mind run, it may be too late for them to get their best site.”

    You believe that’s thinking too far ahead? The National Journal noted that was originally registered (not by Perry himself) as far as back as 1998, when young Perry was still just Texas’ Agriculture Commissioner. 

    Recognize You Can’t Stop [Your Brand] Sucks 

    Marketers weren’t happy this year when a new domain was announced – .sucks – which Vox Populi Registry innocently claimed was “designed to help consumers find their voices and allow companies to find the value in criticism. Each “.sucks” domain has the potential to become an essential part of every organization’s customer relationship management program.” Oh, puh-lease Vox Populi!

    “There is a place for ‘I Hate You’ on the Internet,” says Dorrain, which explains the profusion of brand hate sites from to Clinton does not own, the domain is “reserved for future use," is currently for sale, and someone (perhaps you?) already registered back in October 2014.

    Although brands could buy their own .sucks domain name (if unsold) later this year for as little as $10.00 annually, PC World advised marketers against that investment. “Microsoft could stop from blossoming into life, but what about,,, or Unless major companies plan to use ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Policy against every .SUCKS domain that mentions them there’s just no stopping the .SUCKS revolution.”

    Use singer (and, MaccaPR-dubbed "Grand Mistress of Social Media Marketing") Taylor Swift as your mentor on this issue: when new top-level domains, including .sucks, were unveiled, the singer immediately bought and registered several variations to inoculate her online presence from, say,, .sucks or .adult. Although three domain names were purchased, other objectionable ones like were not. Swift’s team recognized it didn’t need to own all domain name iterations of her trademarked name. 

    As with everything on the Internet that relates to consumer criticism and even anti-brand rage, the only feasible path for companies to take is: acknowledge you no longer ‘own’ the conversation about your brand, respond to legitimate criticism, and try harder not to sell products or services that actually do “suck.”


    Stay tuned for more in our "What Brand Marketers Can Learn From Presidential Domain Name Fails" series – including how Google is coming to the rescue of victims of domain name trolling.


    Paul Maccabee

    Paul Maccabee is president and co-founder of Maccabee, a public relations and online marketing agency based in Minneapolis. Learn more at, a domain name that we actually own.

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    Topics: Brand Strategy, SEO

    Our PR Agency's Secrets For Top-Performing Resumes

    Posted by Gwen Chynoweth on Apr 14, 2015 7:12:53 AM

    With thousands of new college grads hitting the pavement looking for work in public relations, we thought this month would be a good time to share what our Minneapolis PR and online marketing agency considers to be the most critical components of a persuasive resume.

    We take the hiring of entry level talent every bit as seriously as when we’re seeking more senior account staff. Resumes, along with a candidate’s online presence (more on that in a bit…) give us a clear indication of how someone brands themselves and, therefore, their aptitude to represent our clients’ brands.

    Here are some of the elements we look for:

    1. Real-world experience beyond the classroom


    Oftentimes a young applicant lists coursework they’ve taken in college that’s related to PR, journalism or social media. This is unnecessary and takes up valuable real estate on your resume that could be used for more relevant information (i.e. more compelling copy that could increase your chances of winning that first PR job). After all, you’ve already cited your degree, major and minor, which implies that you’ve completed the appropriate PR coursework.

    Of course, it’s important to know how PR should work. Our agency staff needs to know that so we can apply the practice successfully to meet our clients’ objectives, and be able to define a PR campaign’s success and measure it. So, theory is a great place to start and the classroom is a great place to acquire theory.

    But the real world of agency PR is messy. Just a few examples:

    • The best laid PR and social media marketing plans and campaigns inevitably hit unforeseen snags that require on-your-feet thinking and wise decision-making.
    • One contact at a client company is convinced that a particular strategy is perfect, but a different contact at the same company demands that we focus on some other strategy. You need to mediate.
    • The media expects one thing from your PR pitch of a story, but the client wants you to deliver something not even remotely addressing the media’s needs. What do you do?

    For any agency to give more than a moment’s consideration to a college graduate’s resume, skip your list of coursework. Instead, highlight the real-world PR problem solving skills you exercised during internships, volunteer or part-time work or freelance gigs; illustrate them by quantifying the results you achieved.

    One recent intern applicant cited on her resume: “Revamped [Company]’s in-house social media strategy and increased engagement by 14 percent.” Another wrote: “Strengthened writing skills by preparing budgets, itineraries, letters of intent, and more.” The first example here quantifies the results of a specific effort, although it could be made even stronger by detailing how the social media strategy was revamped (Was the audience focus refined? Did they switch social media channels to better reach a particular audience or change messaging so it better resonated?) The second example is good because it describes to what assignments the candidate stretched her writing skills.

    2. Number and quality of internships


    Gone are the days when just one or two three-month internships will qualify you for the fast-paced, hectic nature of agency PR. Not only has our field morphed so dramatically over the past five years that limited experience won’t cover the basics anymore, but competition for entry-level agency jobs is fierce. The candidates who stand out for us cite multiple internships – in one extreme case, as many as nine! These applicants’ resumes make it to the top of our pile because they show – at least on paper – that they take their future in PR seriously, are not afraid to work hard, try new tasks, and have an insatiable appetite for learning and contributing.

    If, for some reason, internships are hard for you to come by, create you own by volunteering for nonprofits whose causes you believe in. Offer to write for their newsletter or blog, create their social media content – even better, to create their social media presence. Join their membership committee and help recruit new members. Assist them in organizing and promoting fundraising events. Track your successes and quantify them on your resume. 

    How? Quoting from a resume that’s currently on my desk: “Volunteered 100+ hours and strengthened personal leadership skills by motivating 1st-year students.” That one I noticed!

    3. How can you contribute from the first day on the job?


    Nearly every applicant who’s fresh out of college declares that they are eager to learn; which is great, for we expect all of our employees to learn and grow, regardless of where they are in their PR career. But our PR agency also wants to know how you are going hit the ground running and contribute to the success of our clients right now. Your resume can reflect that proactive attitude and ability by highlighting any “wins” you earned during whatever work experience you’ve had.

    Did you create weekly and monthly social media calendars during an internship? If so, in addition to listing that task, summarize any challenge you overcame to complete it and how you managed to do it. Did you write and distribute media alerts for special events? Great – but that’s only a piece of the story. The more important (unasked) question to answer: What kind of media coverage or social media engagement and buzz resulted from your effort? In other words, anticipate what a potential agency employer wants of a high quality worker and proactively address those needs by citing the results of your work, not just the work itself.

    4. Design is fine, but don’t carry it too far


    It’s understandable that you want to attract attention to your resume, to make it look sophisticated by using design elements such as unusual fonts, graphics and geometric patterns. However, skip design for design’s sake: Using bold design techniques can hamper, not help, unless you are applying to a graphic design firm. Keep in mind that a PR hiring manager is going to spend only a few seconds glancing at your application. If design distracts from vital information, your resume will not make it to the next round.

    Instead, aim for a clean, one-page layout that employs wise use of white space. That said, do NOT extend right and left margins to the point where type is falling off the edges of the page. Yes, some people do this to try to fit everything on one page. If you’ve had multiple internships that just can’t easily fit on one page, better to extend your resume to two pages than try to cram everything into an unreadable blob of text.

    And, if you can’t let go of design elements, use them minimally. For example, employ graphics that convey at a glance information about you that would otherwise be too wordy to explain. (Think: A simple infographic about you). Making use of spot color can be a good choice, too. Use a second color to highlight headings in your resume or other copy that you want to stand out. There are plenty of great design examples online – find one and tailor it to make it yours.

    One more note on resume design, which actually has to do with your text. Of course, you want your name to be remembered, but using 40-point type at the top of the page to spell it out isn’t the way to earn a positive first impression. A font that size screams at a hiring decision-maker and makes it difficult to move past. I’ll remember that blaring “headline” long before I’ll remember reading any of your qualifications.

    5. Include links to online profiles, such as LinkedIn and Twitter


    We’ll look for your presence on social media channels, anyway, so why not be proactive and list them on your resume?

    A word of caution, however: Pay attention to what you’re tweeting; clean up your Facebook page, be careful what you’re posting to Instagram or Pinterest. Social media is now an important tool in PR and marketing, and how you present and promote yourself online will tell us a lot about how you’ll do the same for our clients. A few pointers:

    • Your Spring Break revelry photos may live forever on your social channels – or at least long enough to horrify an agency’s HR director, convincing her that you are not cut out for a professional environment with high expectations.
    • Proofread everything – even your tweets! Your writing, wherever it appears, is a direct reflection on your standards for excellence. What’s more, writing is a foundational craft that’s critical to any PR executive’s success. Poor grammar or spelling, even in your social media posts, is a red flag to any potential PR agency employer that you won’t pay attention to those details on the job, either.
    • Posting negative comments about past employment experiences, no matter how justified you feel they are. Your future employer is looking for someone with a positive, can-do attitude, who can work effectively as part of a team and who is willing to solve problems rather than complain about them.
    • Avoid ranting about controversial topics. Yes, you’re entitled to free speech, but when you’re looking for that critical first job out of college, you want prospective employers to focus on your positive attributes: Your skills, education, aptitude, experience, knowledge and professionalism.

    Of course, everyone you know will be ready to give you advice on the best way to prepare your resume. The options are endless and there’s no single “right” choice. Just know that your document is going to receive only a few seconds’ initial inspection, so make that precious time count by putting your best writing and presentation skills to work!

    Related Topic: 5 Cover Letter Mistakes

    Gwen ChynowethGwen Chynoweth is executive vice president and chief talent officer at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.



    P.S. Find us on Slideshare!


    Resume Tips for Entry Level Public Relations Professionals via Maccabee Public Relations Slideshare

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    Topics: Agency Life

    5 Key Takeaways From Social Media Marketing World

    Posted by Leila Hirsch on Apr 2, 2015 7:16:00 AM

    SMMWSurrounded by podcasters, bloggers and marketers, I spent last week immersed in all things social at Social Media Marketing World. With more than 100 sessions presented by experts from LinkedIn and Yahoo to the Boston Celtics and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, attendees from 49 countries descended upon San Diego.

    It began with an insightful keynote presentation on the top trends in social media in 2015 from Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner, the conference host. During his presentation, Stelzner noted current trends, such as the growth of podcasting and revealed new online trends, such as the increasingly strong influence of native video.

    Here are top five takeaways from last week's Social Media Marketing World (#SMMW15) conference:

    1. Every piece of your content needs a visual.

    Without a doubt, the top trend I heard reiterated time and time again at SMMW15 was that every piece of content your brand or company generates needs some sort of visual. This includes all social posts and blog posts. You name it, it probably needs a visual!

    For Twitter alone, including a photo with your tweet nearly doubles your chances of engagement with that post, according to Guy Kawasaki, author and former chief evangelist for Apple, in his presentation, "10 Ways to Pack a Punch with Visual Marketing." Who doesn’t want 200 percent more engagement with their brand’s followers?

    If you need further proof as to why every post should include a visual, picture this: as you scroll through your Twitter feed do you stop to read the tweets that are text only or do your eyes gravitate to those posts with photos? "... tweets with images were found to have generated 18 percent more clicks than those without images and were favorited 89 percent more as well," according to Social Media Impact. Your brands' consumers are no different. Captivate customers with imagery before your competitor does. 

    As Facebook marketing thought leader Mari Smith covered in her "How To Use Facebook To Increase Sales" presentation, consumers who use Google are in search mode, while consumers who use Facebook are in socialize mode. Facebook users are often looking to be social; so, ask yourself if your brand’s social posts are engaging. Do the visuals make the post pop off the page and grab the attention of viewers? "Content is king, but engagement is queen and she rules the house!," according to Smith.

    2. Be Seen on Pinterest.

    If you haven’t already, it’s time to claim a place for your brand on Pinterest. Why? Nearly all pinners (98 percent, according to Peg Fitzpatrick) have tried something new that they saw on Pinterest. Marketers can't argue with a statistic that incredible! This means that for brands already on Pinterest, a good portion of active Pinterest users are trying their products, reading their content and responding to their calls to action.


    Pinterest is visual marketing at its highest level as it allows brands to build communities, establish engaged audiences, and deliver content in a way unlike any other channel. Brands such as HGTV and Chobani are doing great work on Pinterest by delivering to their followers thoughtful and useful content coupled with beautiful imagery.

    I often heard repeated during the conference that Pinterest is the new Google. More and more often consumers are going to Pinterest to search instead of to the more traditional avenues of Google or Bing. What does this mean for your brand? Use keywords (e.g. terms that help classify digital content) and take time to appropriately establish the copy of your Pinterest boards and pins. Take into account what your consumers are searching for. What will lead them to your content? 

    Pinterest recently upgraded its search function by increasing the importance of keywords. Using keywords in the content of pins, board titles and board descriptions, your brand increases its chances of jumping to the top of search results and Pinterest’s smart feed. Brands often forget to use keywords in image titles. Google searches a number of places when indexing content, including image titles, so don’t forget to name each photo appropriately before uploading in pin format.

    3. Native video is taking off.

    Both Facebook and Twitter have recently launched native video applications for the social platforms. Native video, as defined by AdWeek: short clips that are uploaded to or created on social networks and played in-feed as opposed to links to videos hosted on other sites.

    If you’ve visited Facebook lately, you most likely noticed the increased number of videos found in your newsfeed. Brands are using the social platform's video feature to not only increase engagement with followers, but also to substantially increase exposure with impressive ROI numbers. After only two seconds of play, a video has been counted as a view. Videos autoplay on newsfeeds, meaning there's the opportunity for enormous views.

    Native video is especially important for Twitter as it allows you to upload up to a 30-second video that doesn’t count against the 140-character limitation placed by the social platform. Think of the content a brand could deliver in 30 seconds instead of only 140 text characters. The options are limitless and if your company hasn’t tried it yet, I recommend looking into native video on Twitter further to find out how your brand could leverage this feature.


    (Source: TIME)

    By now you’ve surely heard of the sensations created by Meerkat and Periscope. Meerkat, launched in February, took social media by storm as users were now able to use the live-streaming video app to broadcast to audiences. Meerkat was all the rage at Day 1 of Social Media Marketing World with speakers and audiences using the app to broadcast presentations and events in San Diego. What followed on Day 2 sent social media marketers into a tizzy of debate when Twitter launched its answer to Meerkat... Periscope. Is there a better place for the news of a competitive live-streaming video app to go live than at a social media conference with attendees from around the world tweeting constantly? From SnapChat to Periscope, what we know is that video apps will continue to grow; brands should think about how they can leverage video on each unique platform in the future.

    4. Embrace data and deliver measurable ROI results.  

    SMMW2Nichole Kelly, president of SME Digital, gave a great presentation on, “How to Become an ROI-Driven Social Marketer.” She said something that every marketer can relate to:

    What's holding us back from ROI is the fear of failure.

    Kelly said marketers fear data, which documents measurable results of a marketing campaign... because it can tell us if we have succeded or haven’t delivered on the promise of that initiative. Instead of fearing data, we need to embrace it, she preached.

    There are a number of tools, from Facebook Insights to Google Analytics, which marketers can use to quantify the results of their campaigns. Although this tool has been around for quite some time, one you may have not used is Google Trends. Google Trends helps you explore the popularity of a search term, keyword or image to measure patterns of how it performed over a period of time. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, finds this tool to be incredibly helpful for brands to deliver targeted content. 

    More than one presenter at SMMW15 said that if your brand does only one thing to prove ROI, it has to be tracking your links. Any number of link shorteners will work, such as or, but brands have to use them! There should be a trackable link in every blog post, Instagram bio section and tweet. Without tracking links, brands are unable to clearly identify which type of content is working and which isn’t.

    5. Deliver content targeted to your brand's audience.

    How much content is too much? What many speakers touched upon at SMMW15 is that brands need to worry less about whether content is about them, and instead focus on whether or not it’s helpful to the consumer. By providing content that is useful to the consumer, a brand becomes the hero and is more likely to create an engaged following for the brand.

    Brands need to consider that consumers are always listening, even if they're not engaging. This is a topic that Kim Garst, Twitter thought leader, discussed in her presentation, “How to Sell with Twitter: Techniques That Work.” The implications of social listening are that even though a consumer may not like, retweet or comment on a piece of your content, they are taking note of it. Garst suggested that brands need to be aware of the content they publish every day; each piece of content has future sales capability regardless of interaction.

    In order to ensure that your brand’s content delivers the results you're looking for, Joe Pulizzi told the audience of his “How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy” session to develop an editorial mission statement. An editorial mission statement allows everyone in your company, in addition to those who interact with the company externally, to be on the same page by establishing what your brand is all about. This editorial mission statement will also help a company establish exactly who their target audience is while delivering content that's valuable to their consumers.

    For Pulizzi, that means subscribers. Because brands do not own the followers on any of their social platforms, they need to use these platforms as a means to building their subscriber lists. By delivering informative content through social media, brands are able to build relationships with followers that will convert them into subscribers. How do brands do this? According to Pulizzi, use the 411 rule. Brands should share four pieces of content from influencers for every one piece of original, educational content they have created and one piece of sales-related content.

    (Pictured at right from top: SMMW15 Speakers Joel Comm, Guy Kawasaki, Kim Garst and Joe Pulizzi) 

    While these five takeaways merely scratch the surface of the content presented at Social Media Marketing World, MaccaPR will offer you an even deeper dive into social media insights that you can use to help improve your brand’s awareness on a number of different social platforms. Stay tuned!

    For more social media goodness, check out our posts from past SMMW conferences:

    LeilaHirschLeila Hirsch is an account executive at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.


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    Topics: Measurement, On the Road, Pinterest

    4 Big Content Marketing Lessons from General Mills, 3M, Ameriprise Financial & SCHERMER

    Posted by Leila Hirsch on Mar 18, 2015 7:00:00 AM

    Remember when public relations required you to persuade gatekeepers – news editors, TV and radio producers and reporters – to carry your company or client's content to their audiences? Now, brands from Red Bull to Google are becoming publishers and broadcasters themselves. In this brave new world, marketers are creating their own content – infographics, podcasts, webinars, YouTube videos and more – that are distributed for free via their digital channels.

    This was the focus of a March 2015 event co-sponsored by Maccabee Public Relations and Minnesota PRSA. Moderated by Maccabee's Social Media Director Christina Milanowski, the panel discussions featured content marketing all-stars:


    If you're getting started or continually refining your company's content marketing strategy, here are four big takeaways from our evening of content marketing nirvana:

    1. Every marketer’s definition of content marketing may be a bit different, but all lead to the same goal.

    World-renowned content marketing expert Joe Pulizzi openly admits in his book, Epic Content Marketing, that there are many definitions of content marketing. He called it “the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling…instead of pitching your products and services, you are delivering information that makes your buyers more intelligent or perhaps entertaining them to build an emotional connection.” But, definitions vary by marketer. Take, for example, the four marketing expert panelists’ definitions:

    • Angela Dalton: Content marketing is any content that increases engagement with a customer/visitor. It’s the content that attracts and maintains visitors to your website.
    • Brian Enderlein: Content marketing is, in two words, content and marketing. It's been done for years. For 3M, we are not just products, we are the thoughts behind the products and we have the science to back it up. Content enhances and supports our brands.
    • Maura Ryan: Content marketing is content in any form or channel that supports a business strategy.
    • Chris Schermer: Content marketing is about creating content that is helpful to your customers. It’s about being constantly available and making a commitment to your customers to serve and solve their problems, all while putting selling behind it.

    What we can agree on is that content marketing encourages marketers to establish their companies - instead of being just a vendor, seller or manufacturer - as a leading information source in their industries. And, why shouldn’t we be? No one knows our company or industry and its audiences better than the PR and marketing professionals who live and breathe their brands every single day.

    2. Content marketing isn’t about you; it’s about your customers.

    One point that we found reiterated by our panelists is that whatever type of content your brand is creating and curating, you need to know your audience. Whether it's mothers looking to make cleaning easier with help from an innovative 3M Scotch-Brite product or connecting millenials with creative cooking through General Mills’, knowing your audience is key to the success of your content.

    Angela Dalton said it perfectly, “We are all guilty of falling in love with our content, but if it isn’t relevant to your brand strategy [and, therefore, your customers] just stop doing it. Don't put a round peg in a square hole.”

    We couldn’t agree more! There is only one reason that you are generating content for your brand in the first place: to accurately engage, interact and potentially impact your customers' purchasing behaviors.

    What’s more, Chris Schermer, of buyer-driven B2B brand experience agency SCHERMER, explained that all marketers have the responsibility to not only produce meaningful content, but to also resist the volume of content created.

    We know consumers don’t want to be bombarded with “Buy this!” or “You need this!” Creating content isn’t about spamming your customers. A quick peek at the junk inboxes of their email accounts will reveal plenty of that. Instead, content marketing is about creating useful content for the consumer or, as Chris pointed out, “to make them the hero of their own story.”

    So the question is, how do you successfully develop this type of content? How do you champion your customers so they become your biggest fans while maintaining your brand strategy? You listen. Hear what your customers are saying and what they are searching for. What do they need and how can you be the one who provides it for them?



    For 3M’s Brian Enderlein, successful content marketing begins with analyzing and listening to consumer and customer touch points across all channels. By monitoring keywords consumers were using to search 3M’s websites, the company discovered areas to enhance or build upon with new solutions-based (and not product-based) content. Brian recognized that 3M’s customers were looking for how to solve everyday problems they faced at home. The company was well aware that it had a loyal following of customers for the brand’s products, but, by producing how-to content, it not only provided great products to its customers, it enhanced their buying experiences. 3M's useful content solved household problems by helping consumers connect to the brand in a way that they previously hadn’t.

    General Mills has a unique source for generating its content: Blog partners. Almost 100 percent of content is created through partnerships with bloggers. And it makes perfect sense! By working with a seasoned blogger who is invested in growing her blog, but also in working closely with the brands that support her blog, General Mills is able to tap into its customers through alternative, yet authentic sources. This not only extends the reach of the brand’s content through social media, it's also a way for a consumer to connect with the brand that doesn’t shout, “Buy me!”

    3. Every “content marketing team” is unique.

    When it comes to internal content marketing teams and resources, nearly half (45 percent) of B2C marketers have a dedicated content marketing group in their organizations, according to the Content Marketing Institute. However, our panel discussed that many content marketing teams could be one person or a group of social experts. Perhaps there isn’t even anyone in the building with content marketing in his or her title!

    Maura Ryan said she works closely with multiple content owners, such as the integrated marketing team, product owners and PR professionals. Chris Schermer acknowledged that most large corporations don’t, in fact, have content marketing teams so it’s largely up to his agency to fill the gaps. 

    In a past MaccaPR interview with content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi, we discussed that a content marketing department can actually create another silo. Pulizzi instead recommended organizations assign someone as the ambassador in charge of all content marketing.

    Content marketing is a developing marketing practice that lives in many places in organizations, yet isn't often centralized. What is true is: There's no one-size-fits-all blueprint. Marketers are learning what works for their unique organizations.

    4. As content marketers, we must prove the ROI that is meaninngful to your C-suite.

    As Brian Enderlein of 3M pointed out early in the evening, our room of event attendees represented different types of marketers (digital strategists, brand managers and PR professionals), but every attendee was seeking the same thing: Content marketing insights. Enderlein said that, for him, analytics should be the foundation of content marketing.

    Chris Schermer believes that the goal of content marketing should be to create a sense of community that allows customers to achieve their goals. For Chris, that takes place through a series of traditional metrics via email, banner ads, embedded videos and more. He often also takes into account conversion rates for his B2B clients' content marketing programs - and acknowledged that tomorrow’s priority will be different from today’s.

    Through a balance of offline and online metrics, Maura Ryan measures impact of how each channel performs as the best route to take. Angela Dalton proves ROI through engagement and website metrics with

    Across all industries, marketers are striking a balance with the types of content they create and who should actually be in charge of creating it. No matter who takes on a company’s content marketing role, every marketer must be able to prove the benefit of his or her content marketing program to keep the C-suite satisfied and target audiences engaged. That is, after all, the reason the content is being generated in the first place, right?

    To download slides from this content marketing panel event and to download our exclusive Q&A with content marketing expert Joe Pulizzi, go to

    Download Content Marketing  Q&A with Expert Joe Pulizzi

    LeilaHirschLeila Hirsch is an account executive at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.
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    Topics: Inbound Marketing, Content Curation, On the Road

    Inside the Mind of a Daily Newspaper Business Editor: Q&A With Thom Kupper of the Star Tribune

    Posted by Paul Maccabee on Feb 25, 2015 8:14:37 AM

    Thom KupperIf you’re a corporate communications or public relations executive in Minnesota, the status of our state’s largest newspaper – the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, with more than 250 editors and reporters – is always of intense interest. Beyond its average weekly readership of 1.34 million, the Star Tribune now has an online reach that includes 7.3 million monthly unique visitors and 80 million monthly page views across all of its platforms. Did you think that news-breaking rivals such as Twitter, BuzzFeed, Bring Me The News, MinnPost, Mpls/St. Paul Business Journal, Twin Cities Business’ e-briefcase, and even Huffington Post have eroded the value of the daily newspaper at 425 Portland Avenue? Think again.

    The MaccaPR blog interrogated Thom Kupper, 45, newly-elevated to role of Assistant Managing Editor for Business at the Star Tribune as he steps into the warm shoes of Todd Stone, who has taken off for the Houston Chronicle.

    1. You spent 13 years covering business at the San Diego Union-Tribune before joining the Star Tribune in 2010. Let’s do the math – it’s 63 degrees in San Diego tonight, and 20 degrees here in Minneapolis. What in Great Odin’s name were you thinking?

    "It’s definitely a big change. But I grew up in the Northeast and went to college in Chicago at Northwestern, so this isn’t my first exposure to cold weather. Plus, there were some tough changes in San Diego – the paper has changed owners twice in recent years, along with severe downsizing – and I’m very happy to be at the Star Tribune."

    Star Tribune

    2. Could you paint a picture of how the Star Tribune business section is organized now?

    "Sure, right now we have 21 people including myself. A bunch of them are new hires we’ve made in the past year, and they are really motivated to make their mark here.

    The reporting staff for the most part is divided among three editors. Doug Iverson (formerly with the Pioneer Press and Finance & Commerce) edits healthcare reporter Chris Snowbeck and medical tech writer Joe Carlson (formerly with Modern Healthcare magazine); our Washington, D.C. reporter Jim Spencer, columnist Neal St. Anthony and Dave Shaffer, who covers Xcel Energy and other energy news. Then there’s editor Cathy Roberts, recently hired out of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in New York, who edits Mike Hughlett on food news, Tom Meersman on agriculture, Dee DePass on manufacturing, David Phelps on professional services such as law firms and ad agencies, and Patrick Kennedy on non-profits and big projects like our ranking of Minnesota’s biggest companies and CEO compensation packages. Evan Ramstad, who we hired about 18 months ago from the Wall Street Journal, edits Adam Belz on the economy (he also blogs at "3D Economics"), real estate reporters Jim Buchta and Kristen Painter (who came here from the Denver Post, and contributes to the "Just Listed" blog), and our retail writers Kavita Kumar and John Ewoldt.

    And finally, I work directly with our columnist Lee Schafer and our investigative reporter Jeff Meitrodt (formerly with the Chicago Tribune and a one-man I-Team at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Meitrodt said to MinnPost when he joined the Minneapolis daily, 'I still can’t believe the number of bodies we have. Jesus, with this many horses, we should do amazing stuff.'"

    3. How can you differentiate yourself against your competitors – the weekly Mpls/St. Paul Business Journal, Twin Cities Business, Minnesota Business, MinnPost and more?

    "We differentiate ourselves by doing ambitious, memorable stories that people cannot read anywhere else – original pieces that provide insight into the local business scene. There’s a challenge because we have to put out 7 newspapers a week. At the same time, we have a big business staff – 17 business writers in all. That kind of manpower gives us a big advantage over everyone else in town, and our challenge is to get the most out of it."

    4. What’s your own information diet for business news?

    "I scan the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal online in the morning, and then it depends – Target is on the cover of Fortune magazine this week, so I’ll be reading that! Otherwise I try to follow the other local publications and whatever catches my eye."

    5. There have been some changes in your Sunday section. Can you tell me about that?

    "Yes, for many years we’ve been carrying two or three pages in the back of the section that we got from the Wall Street Journal. But earlier this month the Journal stopped producing those pages. They aren’t available anymore. So instead we’re filling the same amount of space ourselves with staff-written content about investing and finance, as well as wire stories from Bloomberg, Reuters, McClatchy Tribune syndicate and the New York Times."

    Check out our latest blog post - it's a great read on the #StarTribune and its new business editor Thom Kupper.

    A photo posted by Maccabee Public Relations (@maccabeepr) on

    6. You love a flood of press releases, right?

    "Um, companies that shower us with 10 press releases a week – that is not helpful. Because we are not going to write 10 stories a week about even the biggest companies in the state."

    7. So if not press releases, what can PR people offer you that’s actually helpful?

    "What really helps is access to your executives – we don’t like it when a company puts out an announcement and they don’t have a human voice that can answer our follow-up questions. In the worst case scenario – and this does not happen often – a company will put out a press release and tell us there’s no one available to discuss it until, say, the next Tuesday.

    One thing we do appreciate: tell us in advance that you’re releasing a major announcement at 8:00 am on Friday morning, even if you can’t tell us what it is – so our reporter can be ready."

    8. Give PR Directors and VPs of Corporate Communications some advice: what’s the best way to approach the Star Tribune business desk with a story?

    "Approach the beat reporter who covers your industry directly; hopefully, PR people already know who those reporters are. It’s not a good idea to come to me or one of the other editors, unless there’s a special circumstance. Generally we’re just going to pass the information along to the reporter anyway, so it’s best to go directly to them."

    9. I remember being shocked years ago when the Star Tribune sent a reporter to cover a “Junkyard Pilates” class that our PR agency client was offering – she put away her notebook and took out a camera to shoot a video interview.  How multimedia tentacled do your reporters have to be?

    "I remember when Chen May Yee pitched that story to me. That was a good one! But it’s really case-by-case. Ideally we’d like all our reporters to be able to write a story, take pictures and shoot video. And some of them have really taken to the multimedia approach. But we also have a team of Star Tribune staffers who shoot videos – it’s the main part of their job. With bigger projects, for example the “Left Behind” series that Adam Belz did last year, we always want to have videos to accompany the stories. It’s really become an essential part of how we tell stories."

    Junkyard Pilates

    (Source: Star Tribune)

    10. Can you tell us anything about the overarching strategy for the business team in coming years?

    "The strategy is kind of obvious – find great business stories that people will read and remember. Those come in all flavors, whether it’s a five-part series that wins journalism prizes or just an unusual story that’s told in a creative way. We’re fortunate at the Star Tribune that we have the manpower in the newsroom to do really ambitious work. And I think so long as we’re doing good journalism we’ll be pretty successful on whatever platform you look at, whether in print, online, mobile or whatever comes along in the future."

    Paul MaccabeePaul Maccabee is president of Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.   

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    Topics: Interviews, Media Relations

    What Taylor Swift Can Teach You About Social Media Marketing

    Posted by Paul Maccabee on Feb 10, 2015 6:30:00 AM

    Welcome to your Taylor Swift Master Class in Social Media Marketing!  

    Your teacher today will be America’s #1 Online Brand Strategist, Professor Taylor Swift (Cue: Insane, utterly-abandoned shrieking, evolving into wild explosive screaming and rhythmic chants of, ‘Taylor, We Love You!’) Who better to instruct us in social media marketing than this 25-year-old, 7-time Grammy Award-winning “public relations genius” (in the words of the Washington Post)? The Nashville-bred superstar has leveraged every element of her social identity – on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vevo and YouTube – to make "1989" the #1 best-selling album of 2014.


    (Source: Billboard)

    If your CEO or President ever questioned whether there’s proof that social media marketing can provide ROI for a company’s investment, now you can point to Swift’s sales: More than 3.66 million copies of her fifth studio album “1989,” with more than a million units moved in its first certified-Platinum week. The secret behind those astonishing numbers? Taylor uses social media to connect one-on-one with 100 million fans at a time.

    The good news? You can do that too, even if your BFFs are not Lorde, Selena Gomez, Justin Timberlake and Karlie Kloss.

    Yes, Swift is an infernally catchy pop songwriter with earworm-burrowing hooks. True, she’s an electrifying, blonde mane-twirling, red lipstick-smacking entertainer in concert. And yes, her skill with traditional PR – as the singer dominated the covers of Rolling Stone, Vogue and People, along with broadcast interviews from “Ellen” to “Good Morning America” – plays a part in her volcanic success.

    “Taylor Swift is a PR mastermind of the highest order,” confirms writer Chris Ostendorf, in his Daily Dot commentary titled, The PR Genius of Taylor Swift’s Viral Media Empire. “Swift has carefully, methodically and brilliantly crafted a public persona designed to make you love her (or else). In terms of image control, there probably isn’t a single entertainer out there today who’s as good at playing the game. . . it’s her skills in self-promotion and image management that put her a cut above.”

    Yet the marketing genius that fueled Taylor Swift’s rise to mad levels of worldwide-stardom goes far beyond her mastery of media relations. More than any other icon of our generation, Taylor Swift amps up social media branding to its fullest potential – fusing her online and real world personas in a way that makes her appear approachably down-to-earth, even as her celebrity profile soars far higher than the mortals who are buying her music.

    So what can you learn from Taylor Swift, the Grand Mistress of Social Media Marketing?

    Lesson #1 - Embrace The Mass Intimacy of Social Media  

    First, there’s no celebrity who understands how to connect en masse – seemingly authentically and intimately with millions of fans – as brilliantly as Swift. What started with a core audience of 13-22 year-old girls during her Nashville-based country ingénue phase, has now blown that up to a level of global domination that even North Korea’s Kim Jong-un would envy. 

    What’s remarkable about Swift isn’t just the sheer enormity of her social media numbers, which spans 21.4 million Instagram followers to 561.9 million views for the “Shake It Off” video. Social media isn't all about massive numbers of followers, likes or shares. For Swift, it’s the emotional resonance of her online content – video, images and messages that display a comfort level with intimacy on a mass scale that’s nothing short of uncanny. 

    Taylor Swift Social Numbers

    Swift has a tremendous marketing staff supporting her – not just the promotional team at her Big Machine Label Group, but also the guidance of Nashville-based publicist Tree Paine, SVP of Publicity for Warner Brothers Nashville. As far as I know, Swift could have a stadium full of publicists and social media specialists frantically tweeting, Tumblring, Instagramming, YouTubing, Facebooking and blogging on her behalf. But all that’s visible to us are her images and videos – often shakily-shot with hand-held cameras, slightly out-of-focus, unprofessionally-lit and filled with the rich behind-the-scenes immediacy of Swift’s love of her cats and appetite for snack food.

    Is Taylor really composing every tweet, writing every post and personally popping each image online? The best answer would quote French playwright Jean Giraudoux, “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” When Taylor takes to Twitter to update us on her day (below), only a cad would peek behind the social media curtain to see if her PR team is giving her an invisible hand.    

    For a master class in online intimacy that’s a universe beyond the scripted artificiality of most brand videos: Watch how Swift shot this video when surprising one fan, Gena, by showing up unannounced at her bridal shower.

    Corporate Video Producers Take Note: See how Swift addresses the camera in a conspiratorial whisper, the lens a foot from her face, as she takes you (yes, just you alone – except for the other 2.4 million viewers) into her confidence. Imagine how far your brand could go with videos that spoke with, rather than at, your customers on YouTube with this level of feeling?

    Lesson #2 - Keep Your Brand Name Simple

    Taylor’s 2012 album was titled simply, “Red,” a name chosen because Swift said the name captured “all the different emotions that I’ve experienced in the last two years. . . all those emotions are red.” Her current album title, “1989,” is her birthdate. The Taylor Swift song “15?” It’s all about the feeling of being. . . 15.

    There’s no arcane metaphors – as in Led Zeppelin’s enigmatic lyric “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow” – here. Swift’s song and album titles are easy to remember and difficult to forget. Compare that to the camera currently being marketed as: “Nikon D3300 24.2 MPR CMOS Digital SLR with AF-S DX Nikkor VR 11 Zoom Lens.”  If the name of your product sounds like the combination to a Masterlock or the serial number on a dollar bill, take a page from Taylor Swift and keep your brand name simple.

    Lesson #3 - Choose Your Partners Wisely (and Boldly)

    Taylor’s brand partnerships with Diet Coke and Target (along with earlier affiliations with Walmart, Keds and Walgreens) feel so appropriate they were practically inevitable. But it was Swift’s daring collaboration with last December’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show that demonstrated she could make any cross-brand deal work. Surrounded by Victoria’s Secret models whose curves seemed as artificial as Swift’s performance was natural, the singer turned what could have been a mockable moment into a deft demonstration of female empowerment.

    Papa John's Taylor Swift My favorite Swiftie partnership was an alliance during the 2012 marketing campaign for "Red." Other artists have sold their albums through Whole Foods and Starbucks – but the promotion of "Red" with pizza chain Papa Johns meant that you could snare a copy of her album with your pepperoni pie (at right). The promotion combined Swift’s theme of surprise with the tomato-spattered color "Red" and her proclivity for delivering pieces of herself to fans at their homes.

    Have you thought of where – unexpectedly – your company’s product could be sold that none of your competitors would think of? If Starbucks can sell CDs, why can’t you sell or demo your products in yoga studios, amusement parks, emergency rooms, movie theatre lobbies, elevators, TSA check-points or jazz piano bars? 

    (Source: Papa John's)

    Lesson #4 - Humbly Ask Your Audience For Help

    Fortune 1000 companies market as if being a thought leader means exuding Greek God-level certainty.  Whether marketing software or kitchen appliances, brands tend to display unshakeable confidence in the conceit that no one could possibly know their industry/product better than [insert name of your brand here].

    In contrast, Taylor Swift’s messaging revels in endearing humility – most famously, she asked fans to help her master the art of Twitter hashtags. Here’s Taylor herself, asking fans to help her understand Tumblr, the microblogging platform and social network: “Taylor here. I’m locking myself in my room and not leaving until I figure out how to use my Tumblr. Well, might leave for a second to get a snack or something, but that is it. I have lots of questions, help me.” What would happen if rather than pronouncing definitive answers from your company experts, you had the humility to invite answers from the people who may know your products and services best – your customers?

    Lesson #5 - Carly Simon’s Not the Only One With Anticipation

    While artists from Bob Dylan to Beyoncé have taken to mysteriously unveiling their new albums with virtually no fanfare, Taylor Swift has learned from Hollywood movie marketers the value of heart-stopping anticipation. Swift has transformed the launch of each CD into Super Bowl-level global events by tantalizingly building suspense with multiple layers of online reveals.

    For example, to spark online buzz for the release of her single “Shake It Off” last August, Swift teased fans with hints about the tune on Instagram, Twitter and other social channels. And, back in 2012, Swift pre-released her ‘Red’ single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” via a Google+ hangout with fans and a live Web chat, which launched a full two months before the CD dropped at retail.

    How could you create a 60- to 90-day ramp leading toward the launch of your next product or trade show, that will play upon your customers’ all-too-human desire to find out what’s coming next? Be like Taylor (or Alfred Hitchcock) and layer your launch for suspense. . .

    Lesson #6 - Transform Your Customers into A Community

    Fans of YouTube celebrity Bethany Mota call themselves “Motavators.” Devotees of the “Twilight Saga” films and books call themselves “twihards,” and I don’t want to repeat here what female fans of actor Benedict Cumberbatch refer to themselves as. Taylor Swift’s fan base? Her fans have embraced the collective moniker, “Swifties.” Does your customer base feel so connected to your brand they’d define themselves as a community of fans for your company?

    Secret Sessions

    (Source: E!)

    Nothing demonstrates Swift’s ability to transform small groups of fans into a multi-million strong community than the triumph of her Secret Sessions event campaign. For a sneak preview of "1989," Swift invited 89 fans to each of her five homes – where fans erupted with shock, surprise and joy as Taylor herself walked into the parties (see above). She hugged and fed them her home-baked chocolate cookies. Inevitably, Swift posted the behind-the-scenes video of these preview parties on YouTube for the tens of millions who couldn’t join her personally, which sparked an avalanche of fan love that rippled across the Web.

    Take some advice from Taylor Swift: how could you interact with a handful of your brand’s customers – at a user conference, trade show or client appreciation party – and then equip those customers to talk about you to the thousands of your customers who couldn’t attend?  

    Lesson #7 - Have You Ever Been Experienced?

    Admit it: How thrilling is the experience of buying your company’s product or service? Is the purchase just a transaction? A dull swipe of a credit card? With a nod to Jimi Hendrix’s first album, Taylor’s marketing is all about the experience. In fact, the very act of buying Swift’s products becomes a ceremony of communion with Taylor Swift herself. According to Billboard magazine, fans “want the full and complete Taylor Swift experience, and that experience includes buying the album.”

    Taylor Swift Time

    At a time when the Recording Industry Association of America has reported that CD sales have plummeted by 19 percent and fans are migrating to streaming services like Spotify and Pandora where they can listen “for free” rather than buying the album, Taylor made sure that the experience of buying a hard copy of "1989" surpassed that of online downloads. Famously, Swift pulled her song catalog last November from Spotify, making a bold statement about the tangible value of her music. What can you do to transform the act of a customer buying your product into an experience that’s deeper, richer and more emotionally resonant than the ring of a cash register or the ping of a credit card reader?    

    One part of Taylor Swift’s social media skill is to balance the impression of exclusivity with images, content and promotions that have massive reach. For example, Swift forged a deal with Minnesota’s own Target that offered an exclusive deluxe edition of "1989" with three extra songs and private voice memos about her songwriting process, along with early demos of the songs. Best of all, the Target-exclusive provided a dozen Polaroid photos that acknowledged her lyrics, “You took a Polaroid of us, then discovered, the rest of the world was black and white, but we were in screaming color.”

    (Source: Time)

    Which begs the question: How are you treating your existing customer base with special love – providing them with discounts, exclusive products, beta test sneak previews and first looks? Are you taking your target audience behind-the-scenes with a podcast, infographic, video, event or webinar that they, and only they, can access for a limited time?

    Lessons #8 - Let Others Celebrate Your Brand

    Most of today’s marketing involves brands telling the world how great they are – where’s the magic in that? Taylor Swift, though, gets other people – very famous people such as Girls TV actress Lena Dunham—to say how great she is. So BFF singer Lorde effused on Twitter, “OMG 1989 Is Out, What a Day, so proud of my sista.” Ask yourself - what could your dealers, retailers, value-added resellers, wholesalers, distributors (heck, even your banker, lawyer and accountants) say about you on their social media channels?

    Lesson #9 - Have The Humility to Really Listen And Respond

    Perhaps the most powerful lesson taught by Taylor Swift is that she truly makes her fans feel listened to and appreciated – and she uses social media as a two-way medium of conversation with that audience. The tragedy of today’s social media marketing is that too many corporations still treat Facebook, Twitter and other channels merely as additional pipes through which to push their commercial messages – and then walk away before they can hear what their customers want to say in return.

    Swift’s online communication truly feels like a dialogue with fans. Witness how Swift responded to a fan who had been troubled by bullies at school with a touching Instagram message and then how Taylor retweeted a video of a Houston-area woman singing along to “1989” in her car. Best of all, Taylor Swift re-posts images of her fans buying her CD in-store and holding up their own Polaroids – her customers transform themselves into Swift’s content collaborators. 

    Not everyone can post an elevator selfie, as Taylor did (below), featuring friends Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé and Jay Z or a birthday party pic with model Karlie Kloss and Selen Gomez goofing off. But it does beg the question: When was the last time you took your customers, dealers, distributors behind-the-scenes into your R&D lab, over to your ad agency during the development of your next campaign, into your factory to look behind the lathes, printing presses and scanners? When did you last ask customers to send you images of your product in use? Have you enabled comments on your company blog and YouTube channel? Have you transformed your social media channels from one-way push at customers into back-and-forth engagement with them? 

    CEOs are learning the revenue value of Taylor Swift-level listening to customers. AdWeek recently praised several companies as savvy social listeners, including:

    • General Motors, which altered the cooling ventilation systems in its Cadillac Escalades at the factory upon hearing social media complaints from owners,
    • Five Guys Burger and Fries, which is testing frozen desserts after hearing from customers via Twitter and Facebook, and
    • Dick’s Sporting Goods, which ramped up staff when social posts from customers highlighted weak in-store customer service just before closing hours.

    But, just a few weeks ago, Swift took “listening” to an absurdly glorious level. Her team Tay-lurked a select group of fans – heading to Facebook to study their jobs, friends, family, hobbies and likes – and then Swift delivered personalized Christmas and Chanukah gifts to them, climaxing with a surprise “Swift-mas” visit to one fan in Connecticut who was handed gifts by Taylor herself. Some 16.3 million YouTube views of Swift’s gift giving suggest how her micro-connection with this handful of fans, amplified a million times over through social channels, provided Swift with macro benefits.

    Here’s her final piece of advice for marketers: “Fans are my favorite thing in the world,” says Swift. “I’ve never been the type of artist who has that line drawn between their friends and their fans. The line’s always been blurred for me. I’ll hang out with them after the show. I’ll hang out with them before the show. If I see them in the mall, I’ll stand there and talk to them for 10 minutes.”

    As marketers, we must ask ourselves: When was the last time a brand, any brand, made you feel that you were their favorite thing in the world? If you hesitate to become a company that forges Swiftian-levels of loyalty, then you may have to accept that your customers, in Taylor Swift’s words, “are never ever getting back together” with you. So is it time to "Shake It Off”?

    Paul MaccabeePaul Maccabee is president of Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency. 




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    Topics: Social Media, Marketing