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    12 Secrets To Protecting Your Brand From Celebrity Scandals

    Posted by Paul Maccabee on Sep 14, 2015 5:00:00 AM

    Source: News Watch 33, ABC Action News

    Marketers watched with astonishment this year as the Subway restaurant chain’s brand - once valued by Forbes at $6.8 billion, putting it on the magazine’s list of Most Valuable Brands - imploded, as the company flailed about when spokesperson Jared Fogle agreed to a plea deal involving child sex and porn. Our public relations world promptly erupted with crisis advice, recommending what Subway - which had featured the now self-admitted molester in some 300 ads over 15 years - should have done after it learned that the face of its brand had committed acts which guarantee that its $5 foot-long will forever be associated with a pedophile.  

    Were Subway’s tight-lipped tweet responses too little too late?


    Should Subway try to reverse the damage by giving money to charities that protect children? Did Subway distance themselves from their spokesperson too fast or too slow - or is it now impossible to separate the prison-bound Jared from his distraught sponsor?

    Yet, few have asked the more urgent question that faces all brands in this era when smartphones guarantee that a spokes-celebrity’s scandals will be documented for viral eternity: Why wait to act until a brand’s spokesperson is arrested, convicted and imprisoned, his perp walk (and your brand’s collapse) documented across America?

    Were there protective steps that companies like Subway, Jell-O (Bill Cosby’s former patron); Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot (sponsors of disgraced Southern cooking belle, Paula Deen); Nike, AT&T, Gillette, Gatorade and Tag Heuer (which hired Tiger Woods to endorse their products) and RadioShack and 24-Hour Fitness (sponsors of cyclist Lance Armstrong) could have taken before their endorsers caused collateral damage to their reputations?

    For answers, we visited with Minneapolis sports and entertainment attorney Lee Hutton, whose clients have included singer Puff Daddy, ex-Kardashian family member and NBA player Kris Humphrey and NFL’er Hank and wife Kendra “The Girls Next Door” Baskett. We expect that Lee’s advice for marketers considering an endorsement deal with a celebrity will intrigue you:

    #1 - Negotiate a Contract That Sets Boundaries of Celebrity Behavior

    First off, Hutton (below right) underscores that an effective endorsement contract between a brand and a celebrity or athlete should be written broadly so it sets parameters on what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior by the Famous One. “It’s good to set those boundaries of behavior in your brand’s contract,” says Hutton, “because otherwise, a courtroom will decide if the actions of your celebrity endorser warrant consequences - and once you’re in court, the dispute gets into the public eye, with exposure that’s bad for both the celebrity and your brand.” Hutton recommends that brands insert a morals clause which, in his words, “sets out ‘what ifs’ protecting both the celebrity and the brand if the endorser engages in something scandalous.“The devil is in the details,” says Hutton. “What, for example, would happen if your spokesperson is merely accused of some salacious activity, but that malfeasance is never proven? Your contract should address that.” 

    #2 - Identify Who Speaks To The Press If Everything Hits the Fan

    PR executives take note of Huttons’ next advice about celebrity agreements. “I insert a clause in these contracts that identifies who controls communications with the media during a crisis,” says Hutton. “Face it, the message that the brand wants to get out may not be the same that the athlete or celebrity wants to share during a crisis. Who speaks to the press often depends upon money - the brand may pay the celebrity more money so that his or her contract requires your PR director to be the point of contact with media in the event of a crisis, rather than the athlete or his/her team.” 

    #3 - Decide In Advance Who Controls Media Outreach During A Crisis

    Hutton says that an endorsement contract can specify what happens if a crisis occurs - not just who is authorized to speak to the media, but also who issues any press releases. Who makes strategic decisions on the message to be distributed, as the scandal gathers steam? An endorsement contract may even specify whether your brand can publicly announce that you’ve terminated your contract with a celebrity who transgressed, or if that termination must be done confidentially, behind closed doors.

    #4 - Go Sherlock Holmes On Your Endorser

    Could Subway have detected ominous warnings about Jared’s deviant behavior, or could Jell-O have uncovered hints about Bill Cosby’s nefarious activities, long before their scandals sullied Subway and Jell-O’s brands? “You must do your due diligence and investigate a celebrity or athlete before you sign a contract - it’s negligent not to,” warns Hutton. “If you hire an athlete to do a TV event involving children, and it comes out that your celebrity is a sex offender - your company could be sued along with the athlete.” (Note: Subway’s spokesperson, Jared, appeared at elementary schools to speak to children about obesity).


    (Source: Flickr)

    #5 - Establish Warranties Tied to A Celebrity’s Past Behavior

    Hutton recommends that marketers interview a potential celebrity or athlete to establish what entertainment lawyers call ‘warranties’ - representations that the celebrity makes about their own personal lives which, in legal terms, ‘induces a brand to hire them.’ If a spokesperson represents that they have no secrets pertaining to drugs or criminal activity, for example, “you can establish fraud if they lie about those representations - and when there’s fraud, the judicial system works to make things whole again for your company, which could include rescinding the contract if it was violated.” 

    #6 - Watch For Red Flags on Social Media and Beyond

    “Before you sign a deal, ask the athlete or celebrity to sign an authorization allowing you to perform a full background check,” urges Hutton. “Will he or she refuse and if they do, is that refusal a red flag for you? In fact, sometimes when you discuss a background check, the celebrity will come out and disclose something in their past that they expect you’ll find out anyway.” Hutton suggests requesting that a celebrity share their social media codes, so your company can delve into how they use Facebook and other social channels before signing. “Is the celebrity doing impulsive tweeting that could embarrass your brand? Are their thousands of followers real people? Has the celebrity posted offensive images on Instagram that suggest red flags?” asks Hutton. 

    #7 - Even With Celebrities, The Past is Prologue

    ICON Global CEO Elijah Shaw (left), a Los Angeles-based corporate security and personal protection expert whose clients have included Usher, Prince and Naomi Campbell, adds his own counsel. “Celebrity by nature has a built-in ‘trust factor’ - the assumption that because these people are in the public eye, any tarnishes would have already come to light and therefore, more extensive vetting gets overlooked,” says Shaw. “That opinion is changing as new scandals come to light that have their roots in the past. “

    Although celebrities appear to live under a media microscope, doing a background check on a celebrity is no easy task, adds Shaw. “Being a celebrity opens up a treasure trove of potential research material, as their movements, associations and history are usually documented. With that said, notable celebrities take great lengths to protect their privacy and sanitize information.”

    According to federal law enforcement documents, Subway spokesperson Fogle had begun soliciting prostitutes as far back as 2007. Bill Cosby had served as spokesperson for Jell-O for 25 years after his first spot aired in 1974, meaning that accusations of sexual assault overlapped directly with his years as Jell-O’s spokesperson. It’s likely that a background check by a competent private investigator could have alerted both brands to the dark clouds soon to engulf them. 

    #8 - Understanding What Makes The Celebrity Of Value To Your Brand

    Hutton suggests that what brands want most from a celebrity is one thing: stability. That means not only avoiding scandals, but also ensuring that nothing changes in an athlete’s performance as a champion. “Brands can put a clause into a contract that prohibits any action taken by the athlete that prevents the company from making money off their celebrity,” says Hutton. “For example, sponsors hired Tiger Woods because he was #1 in golf. The brands didn’t want to say to their consumers - wear our shoes or our watch and you’ll be a runner-up. No, marketers want to say, use our product and you too will be #1.”

    #9 - Know What Your Brand And Your Celebrity Stand For

    “Before your brand signs a contract with a celebrity, you have to understand the culture of your consumer,” says Hutton. If your company sells beer, snuff and guns, then incidents involving a brand ambassador abusing alcohol, tobacco and weapons may not sully your brand with that particular audience. “But if your company’s brand stands for healthy living and wellness, then your spokesperson's arrest for driving while intoxicated or on drugs would be a big violation. Or, what if they ride a motorcycle under the influence, and the celebrity is an endorser for Harley-Davidson?”

    Yet, the moral sense of each generation changes, along with what might become a deal-breaking scandal for a brand. On one hand, General Mills hired Cheech & Chong, America’s most famous marijuana tokers, to promote Fiber One “magic” brownies in a hilarious 2.5-minute fake movie trailer. Meanwhile, Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps lost an endorsement with Kellogg when he was seen on video with a bong, followed in 2014 by a drunk driving plea.

    Would the revelation that Hollywood leading men Tab Hunter (an endorser for Gillette) and Rock Hudson (a spokesperson for Desoto automobiles and other brands) were secretly gay be devastating for their sponsors today as it might have been in their 1950s heydays? No one thinks twice today about Ellen DeGeneres endorsing American Express, Covergirl, J.C. Penney and Galceau VitaminWater - her coming out was barely an issue with her millions of fans. 

    #10 - All Scandals Are Not Created Equal

    (Source: Flickr)

    “Consequences can be very individual,” notes Hutton. “Both Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan were number one in their respective sports; and it came out that both had been promiscuous with women. Nike kept their sponsorship active with Jordan, but not with Tiger Woods.” The sponsors of the Rolling Stones’ world tours (Citi, Jovan perfume, E-Trade) know well that they’re attaching their brands to the Bad Boys of Rock - if notoriously dissolute Keith Richards (above) were arrested at an orgy in Paris tonight splashing in a cocaine fountain with three nubile, tattooed 17-year-olds, it would only increase the guitarist’s value for sponsors. But acceptance of a celebrity’s transgressions have limits: Will anyone be able to watch the TV spots of O.J. Simpson running through airports for Hertz without thinking of his white Ford Bronco police chase and subsequent trial for a double-murder? 

    #11 - Be In Direct Contact With Your Celebrity Endorser

    “Your brand should have someone in direct daily contact with the celebrity, long after the contract is signed,”
    urges Hutton. “Face it, the success of a brand can be completely intertwined with the success of an athlete or performer’s career - a Tiger Woods virtually becomes an extension or a department of your company.” How could sponsors know about Tiger Woods’ personal issues if they weren’t in daily contact with him?

    (Source: AdWeek)

    #12 - Know Your Celebrity’s Entourage

    Finally, Hutton advises brands to meet with the entire team around a celebrity - his or her agent, manager, and publicist. “Is there a sleaze factor? What relationship does your celebrity have with their entertainment attorney - who will the athlete turn to for advice before or during a crisis?”

    So, are the benefits worth the hazards of linking your brands to a superstar?

    “Celebrity endorsements are riskier than ever,” grumbled ad agency SVP Jim Gentleman in AdAge recently. “When they go bad, the costs are immeasurable and the brand damage is difficult to overcome. Don’t be surprised if Subway’s next campaign features a talking sandwich...that is sure to never embarrass the company.” 

    Given the propensity of some celebrities to indulge in illicit and/or illegal behavior, some brands may indeed find animated spokes-toons like Geico’s talking Gecko, dead celebrities like Elvis and Marilyn Monroe, and even fictional spokespeople like Allstate’s Mayhem and Progressive’s Flo more appealing. Face it, Charlie the Tuna, Mr. Clean and the Geico cavemen won’t be arrested in a brothel or heroin den anytime soon.

    should brands be wary of hitching their product to a celebrity’s fame?

    “No question, the situations with Lance and Tiger caused many brands to be more cautious about endorsements,” sighs Hutton. “But I tell my clients - don’t fear what isn’t inevitable.

    “First off, Millennial consumers see celebrities as an essential component of the personality of a brand.” But more importantly, Hutton notes that it’s virtually impossible for a brand to perform a national social media marketing campaign without a celebrity as the voice of their social channels. The Rolling Stones’ 2013 “50 and Counting” tour partnership generated 747 million social media impressions for the band and its sponsors, according to AdWeek - with Mssr. Jagger and Company engaging with more than 5 million users on Twitter alone. “You need a celebrity and you need their social media followers,” concludes Hutton, even if there are risks.

    “How can you tweet out to millions of consumers without having a human face - a celebrity or an athlete’s face - to bring your brand’s social media messages to life? You just can’t!”


    Paul MaccabeePaul Maccabee is president of Maccabee, a Minneapolis public relations, social media marketing and online communications agency. His firm has worked with celebrities including actor Jeff Bridges, NFL legend Walter Payton and country music singer Trisha Yearwood.

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    Topics: Crisis Communications

    5 Ways to Get Your Sales Team Jazzed about Your Inbound Marketing

    Posted by Christina Milanowski on Sep 10, 2015 5:27:00 AM

    Greetings from Inbound15, the annual inbound marketing conference held by Boston-based HubSpot. I'm on assignment from Maccabee (yes, that's me in the photo below) to learn more about how some of HubSpot's 15,000 customers are using the discipline of inbound marketing to pull visitors (potential prospects, clients and customers) in, rather than having to push out with traditional tactics like advertising to gain prospects' attention.

    So far, Inbound15 opened with keynote speakers from author/blogger Seth “Permission Marketing” Godin, “Gifts of Imperfection” author Brene Brown, and HubSpot co-founders Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan, and break-out sessions covering related topics including measurement and email marketing tips and tricks. In full disclosure, Maccabee is a partner agency of HubSpot and we use the software to power our own agency's inbound marketing efforts, which include this blog!


    Of note was the "Get Sales Jazzed about Inbound Marketing" session from Jenifer Kern, VP of Marketing for Virginia-based creative, digital and management consultancy, Celerity. It's the age-old question (and tension) within many organizations... how can sales and marketing work well together?

    In the ideal world, she said, marketing and sales would go together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You want a seamless melding (no one wants just a jelly sandwich). So, how can you unite the sales team with your marketing department's inbound marketing practice? She preached these five lessons for chief marketing officers, PR professionals and digital marketing specialists who currently or about to leverage inbound marketing:

    1. Start with the Top Dogs 


    As you implement an inbound marketing practice, gain the buy-in of senior leadership. In Kern's case, she aligned with the C-suite. To do this, she tapped into the competitive spirit of the CEO, showing how competitors were outperforming Celerity and, of course, how inbound marketing could outperform rivals. Focus on low-cost opportunities... think: what are the low hanging fruit that will produce quick, inexpensive wins? Finally, be sure to assemble internal superstars who want to see inbound marketing efforts succeed. 

    2. Expand the Sales Universe 

    Kern next described her own efforts in showing to her sales team that inbound marketing is not just a marketing strategy, but a benefit for sales. Inbound marketing can help expand the sales universe through active generation of more sales-ready leads and, ultimately, more revenue. Plus, she pointed out that it's not a threat to existing outbound sales efforts, but a complement. 

    3. Talk Up Inbound Marketing Successes 

    Don't just communicate, but over-communicate successes. When deploying an inbound marketing program, don't be shy or humble. Kern's own boss recommended she be loud about successes, so inbound marketing internally became a positive. Still, be sure to be transparent about efforts and the work it takes to continually fine-tune and perfect the strategy. 

    4. Finding the Right Harmony 

    "If you don’t like sales, get out of marketing," said Kern unapologetically. To be a good marketer, it's important to be in tune with sales. She does this by walking in their shoes, listening to sales calls, and talking to customers. Plus, she's learned what makes the sales team tick by creating a persona. Common aspects of sales professionals, she said, include being driven to succeed, strong family bonds, problem solver, resilient and positive, competitive, easily distracted, and on the move.

    5. Make It Ridiculously Easy

    For a sales team, which is often on-the-go, Kern emphasized making access to inbound marketing super easy. This means, signing on the sales reps to mobile-friendly platforms like HubSpot, providing data and reports in easy-to-digest dashboards, and giving them quick access to timely customer interactions. 

    Leverage these tips and your inbound marketing efforts are sure to more seamlessly integrate with sales efforts. For more great counsel from Jenifer Kern, read her recent, "What's Jazz Got To Do With It?" blog post. 

    ...and stay tuned for more key learnings and buzz from Inbound15!

    ChristinaMilanowskiChristina Milanowski is vice president and social media director at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

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    Topics: Inbound Marketing, On the Road

    6 Awesome Examples of How To Leverage Corporate History in Brand Storytelling

    Posted by Christina Milanowski on Aug 26, 2015 5:09:00 AM


    You’re scrolling through Facebook and your past posts - with images recalling a five-year-old inside joke, best friend’s wedding, or favorite family vacation at the lake - spark memories that come flooding back like it was yesterday. Those feelings of nostalgia and a shared past bring our history to life, which allow us to collectively reminisce on social media about the way things were (or the way we’d like to remember them!)

    Your brand can share storytelling moments from its company history with your key stakeholders, too. Corporate histories are important to customers, employees, business partners, and community members. Your corporate story can prove that sound business decisions have been made along the way, pay respect to your employees, build goodwill, and demonstrate long-lasting corporate strength.

    But, it takes strategic insight and smart planning to communicate a brand’s history well. From legacy videos and anniversary books to corporate birthday events and digital archives, what follows are five ways smart brands have leveraged their company histories in brand storytelling.

    1. Legos' Corporate History Video

    Although 17-minutes-long, the Lego brand video is a shining example of how engaging the medium of video can be in communicating a corporate history story that's true to its brand.  

    Produced by Danish agency Lani Pixels, the animated film was lauded by Contently for surpassing more than one million views in less than a week. "By telling the story of how Lego came to be, consumers are getting a behind the scenes look, and, simultaneously, learning about the people who built it. When customers get this rare glimpse, they tend to feel more connected to the company."

    Plus, as Contently goes on to say, "a good story will make a brand seem unique among similar fierce competition." The video, narrated by the grandson of Lego founder Ole Kirk Christiansen, was created to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Lego brand.

    2. The New York Times Digital Archives

    The digital age has allowed companies to tell their histories in new ways (and not just in online videos). The New York Times TimesMachine is a best-in-class example of how a brand can digitize its archives to engage its audiences. As a newer service offering, TimesMachine provides The New York Times subscribers with a fully searchable archive of past newspapers, such as the July 20, 1969, article, "The Day Before The Moon Landing." The archive indexes papers from 1980 back to the paper's founding in 1851. 

    On the launch of TimesMachine, Fast Company writer Nick Rappolt in “Why Brands Should Mine Their Archives” says: “Instead of leaving back issues to grow dust, the paper unlocked the value of its old content with TimesMachine, which resurfaces historic interviews and features to give context to current news stories, boost reader dwell time and cultivate a strong brand story as a long-established ‘newspaper of record.'"

    Even if your company doesn’t have nearly 165 years’ worth of content under its belt, there’s still more than you might think to curate and share electronically. For example, the UK supermarket chain Sainbury’s posted stories, old pamphlets, vintage photos and photos of cool, old grocery items in its dynamic, “living archive” collection.


    (Source: The New York Times)

    3. Levi Strauss' Online Content

    Another great example of digitized history comes from the 162-year-old Levi Strauss brand. Levi Strauss transforms its archived content through robust online channels, which include: 

    • A dedicated "Our Story" section on its website complete with historic photos, a heritage timeline, and resources for educators on the invention of blue jeans, and
    • The "Unzipped" brand publishing platform that offers "a deeper look inside Levi Strauss" through Throwback Thursday vintage photos and blog posts on its culture and social progress. 

    Says Levi Strauss' historian Lynn Downey in its "Our Story" video, "Not a place where old stuff goes to die, [our] archives is a living breathing part of the company and a very, very important contributor to the business." For more on Levi Strauss’ use of brand history storytelling, check out the recent Entrepreneur article, "How Levi's Became a Brand With Staying Power."


    (Source: Unzipped)

    4. Branded History Museums

    Brands of all kinds, whether B2B or B2C, have made the ultimate investment in telling their corporate stories by erecting museums, temples paying tribute to their past. Examples include:

    • The World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia, puts on display the soft drink brand’s old advertisements and bottle memorabilia, as well as a vault containing the secret formula.
    • Wells Fargo's 11 museums across the U.S house historic artifacts, including real stagecoaches, gold nuggets reminiscent of the Gold Rush, and old-timey telegraphs.
    • Hormel’s SPAM brand has a dedicated museum near the company’s processing plant in Austin, Minnesota (aptly dubbed SPAM Town USA). In fact, the now 12-year-old museum of the 78-year-old brand is undergoing renovations for a new, decidedly less canned museum experience. Stay tuned in 2016!
    • Ben & Jerry’s factory in Burlington, Vermont, features a flavor graveyard of its past ice cream flavors such as Vermonty Python and One Sweet Whirled.


    5. Kemps’ Experiential Anniversary

    If your brand isn’t ready for a permanent installation - or even a partial display of heritage in your lobby - why not takes your corporate history on tour? Just one year ago, our firm helped client Kemps Dairy celebrate its 100th anniversary. After a century of producing delicious dairy products, Kemps sought to creatively brings its past into the future.

    What ensued was the creation of a 53-foot-long Mobile Mooseum. The semi-trailer truck paid homage to Kemps’ frozen dessert products, dairy history and heritage. It contained an 8-foot-long electronic mooing cow sculpture and even an actor playing a “soda jerk” operating a vintage 1940s ice cream soda fountain, followed by a Guinness Book of World Records-breaking event (Read more about the World’s Largest Scoop of Ice Cream in “4 Marketing Secrets for Viral GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS”). In sum, Kemps’ anniversary was a great example of how to give a brand’s corporate history a whole new life.



    6. GNP Company’s Souvenir Booklet

    For our PR agency’s client, GNP Company, Minnesota-based producers of the nationally-known brands of Just BARE® and Gold’n Plump® chicken, we helped chronicle the company’s family-owned history of nearly 90 years following the retirement announcement from third-generation CEO Mike Helgeson. Tasked with chronicling the GNP Company history and Helgeson family legacy, we dove deeply into the company’s archives, along with memorabilia from Helgeson family members and local historical societies. We went on to interview Helgeson, his son, his father, a half dozen retired employees and current leadership.

    From start to finish, the history project was completed in 12 weeks, just in time for team member meetings and retirement events in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The souvenir booklet - a 40-page document with a “Which Came First?” chicken and egg theme, French fold pages and pullout chronological timeline - was printed on 100 percent post-consumer waste fiber with vegetable-based inks, which was important given the company’s focus on social responsibility.

    The booklet was gifted to more than 2,000 GNP Company team members and family farm partners, as well as dozens of community members and business partners.


    (Source: GNP Company)

    Throughout the process of gathering old stories and files, many employees past and present remarked that the history project was long overdue. Employees and communities want to hear about the history of local companies, but companies don’t often devote the time, money or bandwidth to kick start the preservation of their legacy.

    How To Tell Your Corporate History

    So, where can PR and marketing staff get started in telling their brand’s story? Here are Maccabee’s lessons for undertaking such a project:

    • Gain the buy-in of senior leadership. Develop a strategic plan that goes beyond the feel-good benefits of the project and points to the positive bottom-line effects your project can have.
    • Know your end goals and an idea of your output. It will help to stay focused when the project inevitably growers larger than you expect.
    • Set a deadline. Without a due date, a brand history project may never get done.
    • Being collecting memorabilia - Now! Even if you don’t plan to take on the project for years, beginning to capture images and files in one central place can help save time when you do get started.
    • Curate, curate, curate. You don’t know what you’ve got until you go looking for it. Developing an archival program can be a daunting task, especially when company archives seems so closely related to the boring task of storing old files.
    • Leverage relationships. Speak to your community resources, such as historical societies, libraries and newspapers. Trade media and industry trade groups can also be of great help.
    • Get the work done and find other uses. In the case of GNP Company, the historical content was compiled for the souvenir booklet, but was then available to be repurposed for future initiatives, such as employee orientations and in-office signage.  

    In a marketing world trapped by so much corporate sameness, capitalizing on your brand’s long and storied history can make a big difference. Play on your employees’ and customers’ feelings of nostalgia. Dare to reveal your corporation's personality and resiliency over the years. Showing your key audiences that you're unique and relatable will help you meet achievable business goals, and the chance to celebrate your brand’s second 100 year anniversary!

    ChristinaMilanowskiChristina Milanowski is vice president and social media director at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

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    Topics: Corporate Communications, Brand Strategy, Content Curation, Internal Communications

    To Byline or Not: 5 Reasons Why Your Blog Should Identify Its Authors

    Posted by Paul Maccabee on Aug 5, 2015 5:06:00 AM


    Must your company identify the author of each of your blog’s posts with a byline? Or is it an acceptable social media best practice to publish blog posts that are credited to an anonymous company voice?

    That seemingly simple question - asked of our Minneapolis PR firm last month by a client - reminded me of what happened with the first corporate blog our firm helped create. A prominent Twin Cities technology company wanted our help in launching a blog that would distribute a stream of commentary about new state and federal regulations that affected hundreds of key clients. But who would be credited as the author of these posts? We recommended then that each post be credited to the executive in charge of tracking those very regulations - the thought leader who was the source of that knowledge. Let’s call her ‘Tina.’ The resulting ‘Tina’s Blog” proved wildly popular with its narrowly-focused, but enormously lucrative, audience. When Tina would wander across trade show floors, prospects would spy her name tag, grab her arm and treat her like a celebrity: “Oh, my God - are you Tina? We love your blog!” 

    That’s the power of business blogging at its best: personal, expert and human content that ignites a back-and-forth conversation between your company and the customers with whom you want to build long-term relationships - and revenue.

    5 Reasons Your Blog Should Identify Its Authors

    So how should your company handle the authorship of your blog? With some help from General Mills’ Manager of Corporate Social Media Kevin Hunt, Digital Missile managing director Gabriel Israel Grinberg and Deluxe’s earned media director Adam Dince, we answer the Hamlet-esque question, “To byline or not to byline.” Why should you name the authors of your corporate blog posts? Let me count the ways…

    1. Bylined Bloggers Infuse Your Company With Humanity, Personality

    KevinHuntGMQuote“Establishing that your company’s blog is written by an actual person,” says our agency’s social media director, Christina Milanowski, “not only helps to advance your expert positioning and thought leadership platform - it also makes your content more relatable from a human perspective.”

    That’s arguably the reason PepsiCo paid singer Beyoncé $50 million to serve as its spokes-celebrity and endorser. There’s no corporate personality for consumers to grab onto with giant PepsiCo, but grafting Beyonce’s charisma and popularity on the 274,000-employee, $66+ billion corporation helps humanize it.

    Your blog authors - if identified by name - can serve that same purpose. “Readers of corporate blogs want information, but they also want some personality from it - a unique point of view or perspective,” says Kevin Hunt (left), who manages the lively “Taste of General Mills” blog. “They want to see a face and a name on the posts, so they can weigh the experience or role that the author brings to that blog.”

    2. Bylined Bloggers Suggest You Have a Broad Bank of Talent

    There’s more to the historic lineups of the New York Yankees than Babe Ruth or Alex Rodriguez - there’s also Derek Jeter, Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and more. And there’s more to the Rolling Stones than Mick and Keith (well, not MUCH more, but Charlie Watts is still pretty awesome). Similarly, by clearly identifying the roster of up to five bloggers who contribute to your company’s content, you make explicit the depth and breadth of your talent. 

    John Lincoln of San Diego’s Ignite Visibility adds, “Research shows that 63 percent of people feel multiple authors promote the credibility of a blog, when compared to a single author or no stated author.” Check out the ‘Taste of General Mills” blog, which credits no fewer than 125 authors, a mosaic of intertwined blog voices for General Mills. “I’m a big believer in corporate blogs having a name behind each blog post,” says Hunt, “and that’s been our approach. It’s allowed General Mills to showcase a variety of employees in a variety of roles across the company, each with their own unique voice. Nameless blog posts come across as news releases or statements from corporate communications.”

    3. Bylined Bloggers Build Trust, Loyalty and Engagement

    I love my agency’s lawyer, accountant and banker - but most of my loyalty is not with their law firm, CPA firm or’s with the specific person I’ve grown to trust, not just the institution that employs them.

    So if you cloak your blog’s authors in the invisibility of the Great and Powerful Oz, you miss out on the chance to build trust and loyalty with a human-to-human connection to your audience. What’s more, promoting the authors of your blog is a critical part of establishing employee advocates for your brand – advocates who can extend their value through branded e-books, speeches, webinars, podcasts, infographics, YouTube videos and much more.

    Gabriella Israel Grinberg (below), managing director of the Minneapolis agency Digital Missile and a former social media staffer at Select Comfort and Target Corporation, told us: "Whenever possible, a company blog should identify and highlight authors of its blog posts, for several reasons. First, unless the post is an official company announcement, readers want to know who they are reading and what kind of credibility or credentials the author has. Providing a blog author’s name helps your company develop a following on social media, and also highlights talent within the company. What’s more, providing recognition to employees within your organization allows them to feel more engaged and encourages them (and their peers) to share the blog content with their networks, allowing for greater online distribution.”


    “Second, without an author, your blog post could look 'fake,' meaning the content was just churned out by an intern or third-party content farm,” says Grinberg. “Most importantly, your company should select employees who have a unique blog writing style that matches and/or complements the voice of your company." 

    4. Bylined Bloggers Build Employee Retention

    Marketing directors have confided to us about concerns that if they promote particular employees as blog/social media authors - and those content creators build a following for their posts - the company risks losing that following if the employee moves on.

    AdamDinceQuoteAdam Dince (right), director of Earned Media (SEO, Social and Content Strategy) at Deluxe Corporation, doesn’t buy that argument. “With so much competition for digital talent, many businesses hesitate to highlight their employees’ writing talents through proper blog authorship attribution,” says Dince. “In my opinion, this fear-based mindset is a big mistake. Employees who feel limited in their ability to get credit for the work they do (especially thought leadership work like blogging), will eventually leave and go elsewhere.”

    “But more than that - when employees know that their personal brand is tied to their professional writing, more effort is put into the quality of their posts,” adds Dince. “Take it from someone who has lead and managed teams for years. You’ll experience far greater attrition through stifling employee voices, than being a resource for them to grow and flourish - including through expressing themselves by blogging!”

    Adds General Mills’ Hunt: “I think it’s misguided for companies to be overly concerned about their employees raising their profile by blogging, and possibly leaving for another company. You should want to show the world that you have smart people working for you, and show your employees that you value their thinking. “

    5. Bylined Bloggers Build Search Visibility on Google

    Two words: Author Rank. Okay, three words: Google Author Rank. 

    Why wouldn’t your company take advantage of the Google algorithm that ranks blog authors based on the prominence, influence and topical content of those content producers? In the words of Movable Media’s president Andrew Boer, “Google thinks it is the authors who really matter - since it is authors, not brands, who ultimately create content. So if you only publish a blog with a corporate voice, you are missing out on building up the rank and reputation of your writers.” Resistance is futile: we must identify blog authors as the Google Mothership commands us.

    Every one of the blogs that Forbes’ magazine featured in its “10 B2B Companies That Show What a Killer Blog Looks Like” identifies the author of its posts. But there’s always an exception - consider the case of the Groupon’s blog - Groublogpon-The Serious Blog of Groupon. This B2C blog is essentially anonymous, but vaguely attributed to its feline author, “Cat.” While no human author is listed, the attitude of Groupon’s blog is wickedly subversive - one recent post introduced the new start-up, Grouber, a “revolutionary new car service with feline drivers” that uses “GPS-guided red lasers to signal the correct route to the four-legged kitty captain behind the wheel.”

    *   *   *

    So we must look back to Elizabethan England to ask: why have scholars argued so fiercely about whether William Shakespeare himself (or purported ghostwriters such as Sir Francis Bacon or Edward DeVere) actually wrote William’s plays? Because the identity of an author’s voice matters. Consumers of content - whether it’s of ‘Richard III’ or your company’s next blog post - recognize that knowing the human being responsible for what we’re reading enables us to establish trust. Name your blogger (and his or her expertise), and you’ve empowered your prospects to evaluate whether they should believe (and follow) your blog author.

    (Source: Ben Sutherland)

    In this age when customers value transparency and authenticity above all else, is it anything less than brand suicide to camouflage the authors of your blog content?

    Which is why we end this blog post, as we’ve ended all 100 posts that have appeared in the MaccaPR blog before, with the identification of its respective author.

    But first, here are a few of our favorite clearly-bylined corporate blogs:

    • The HubSpot Blog: A perfect example of a corporate blog that identifies the diverse personalities of each author is this blog from the inbound marketing experts at Boston-based HubSpot. You’ll see that each HubSpot post prominently who the author is, along with the author’s Twitter icon and a clickable link to the author’s biography, head shot photo and best of all, a historical compilation of previous post they’ve created.
    • AdKnowledge Blog: The digital ad technology company AdKnowledge celebrates its five bloggers as “Featured Authors” with head shots and clickable links to the quintet’s latest blog posts. Best of all, each blog author boasts a biography, along with links to their Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn profiles.
    • Canva’s Design School Blog: Another strong example of a multi-authored blog.
    • Intuit’s Labs Blog: Here’s a great example of how Intuit builds trust between prospects and employees - in this case, through a three-part blog series written by Intuit design strategist Amanda O’Grady. Notice how the post opens right away with Amanda’s bio, and how it establishes an intimate, first-person “I love Zappos” tone.

    So who authored the blog post you’re reading now? Read on...

    Paul MaccabeePaul Maccabee is president and co-founder of Maccabee, the Minneapolis-based strategic public relations and online marketing agency. Born at a very early age, he insists that he did not write any of William Shakespeare’s plays. He is a man of mystery, encircled by an enigma, wrapped in a taco. His Mojo works.

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    Topics: Blogging, SEO

    3 Ways Your Brand Can Embrace the Marketing Power of Snapchat

    Posted by Julia Irwin on Jul 20, 2015 5:05:00 AM


    If you’re a social media marketer, the latest buzz isn’t circling around just Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or even LinkedIn. Now, it’s all about snapping. Snapchat is a mobile photo- and video-sharing tool; with 100 million daily active users and 400 million snaps sent each day, it’s one of the top 20 most used smartphone apps in the country. What makes it unique from, say, Instagram, Flickr or Vine is that Snapchat is entirely mobile-based. Additionally, the photos - captured on the sender’s smartphone - have a limited time window for viewing. After opening a snap, the recipient will only be able to view the content for the time span allotted by the sender, which can range anywhere from one to 10 seconds.  

    According to Snapchat research, nearly two-thirds of American adults own a smartphone. More than 60 percent of them use Snapchat, with over a third (37 percent) of those users falling between the ages of 18-24. Alternatively, over a quarter (26 percent) of Snapchat users are between 13 and 17 years old, and just under a quarter (23 percent) of users are 25 to 34 year-olds. So naturally, we must conclude that the majority of Snapchat users are between the ages of 13 and 24, falling into a demographic group that’s the holy grail for marketers: millennials. 

    Now for the million-dollar question (or if you want to get specific, $16-19 billion, Snapchat’s estimated value): Why do Snapchatting brands from McDonald’s, HBO and General Electric to Taco Bell, Acura and Heineken care about a mobile app used by teens and young adults to exchange selfies and pictures of Sunday’s brunch? Answer: because Snapchat’s messaging power extends far beyond that. Let’s walk through the Snapchat features that offer marketing potential for your brand:  

    Your Brand Opportunity #1: Live Stories with brand and consumer-curated content

    How can you paint a picture of your brand’s Snapchat identity when every trace of the image disappears in 10 seconds or less? That’s where ‘Stories’ come in. Snapchat users have the option to submit photos and videos to their individual Stories, which all followers then have the option of viewing as many times as they’d like for 24 hours. For brands, there are ‘Live Stories’, which combine user-curated content with brand-sponsored content, available for viewing by all Snapchat users. This feature evolved from Snapchat’s initial ‘Sponsored Stories’ feature, which launched last fall with a 20-second trailer for Universal’s upcoming film, “Ouija.” The ad appeared at the top of the Stories section with a clear “Sponsored” note, fully disclosing to Snapchat viewers that they were about to watch an ad (if they chose to open it). Studies found that people who viewed the Snapchat trailer for “Ouija” were 13 percent more likely to buy tickets to see the movie on its opening weekend. 

    Source: Adweek

    From October 2014-April 2015, brands used Sponsored Stories with the intention of reaching all Snapchat users, regardless of whether or not they followed the brand’s account. However, now brands have the option to appear as part of a ‘Live Story’, which gathers photo and video content from events or destinations around the world, ranging from fans celebrating the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 in Vancouver, Canada, to daily life in the West Bank. For example, Samsung partnered with the American Music Awards last November to promote its Galaxy Series. The Live Story broadcasted behind-the-scenes, Samsung-branded photos and videos combined with user-generated shots from the crowd and red carpet.

    Source: Ad Age

    According to Snapchat’s data, the number of Stories viewed now surpasses the number of individual Snaps viewed per day, indicating that users are most definitely fans of this feature. Additionally, up to eight times as many 13 to 34 year olds in the US opt to view Snapchat’s Live Stories rather than TV for similar events. Why? Because Stories give users a close-up, firsthand experience - minus the requirement of actually attending your featured event. Instead, they can live vicariously through others’ experiences by watching their curated content. And you can’t get much closer to an experience than by viewing it directly through someone else’s eyes - think of it as an extension of the social TV phenomenon we’ve discussed in past posts.

    Your Brand Opportunity #2: Ads Within Broadcasters’ Published Content

    sperry-ad-phone-blogIntroduced in January 2015, ‘Discover’ is another section of Snapchat that displays photos, videos and news articles from various broadcast channels - such as CNN, National Geographic and Food Network - that is refreshed every 24 hours, modeled after Stories. Marketers have the option to purchase 10-second advertisements that are nestled between published content on each news channel, following the format of a TV or YouTube ad.

    However, the decision still remains with the user on whether to watch your ad or skip past it by simply tapping the screen. Although Discover was initially housed in a separate section of the app (requiring an extra swipe for access), Snapchat recently repositioned it to be featured front and center: right above Live Stories and Recent Updates, allowing for higher exposure. But you must be wondering, what will this cost my brand? When first launched, Adweek reported that Discover ads boasted a hefty price tag of $750,000 per day, although Snapchat has since (thankfully!) lowered its rates (Photo Source: Sprinklr).                                                                                               

    Your Brand Opportunity #3: Geofilters for Sharing Locations in Real-Time


    Similar to Instagram, Snapchat offers filters to enhance its users’ photos. Users also have the option to use specially designed filters for national and cultural holidays, such as Mother’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and Fourth of July. In July 2014, Geofilters were introduced. This function, which allows users to share their geographic locations, was initially only available in large cities and popular tourist destinations, such as New York City or Disneyland. But, since Snapchat began crowdsourcing Geofilters in December, the pool of available filters has expanded to include thousands of locations such as specific neighborhoods, college campuses and localized events, like parades or concerts.  

    Then last month, Snapchat launched a new type of Geofilter: sponsored (and marked accordingly). McDonald’s was the first business to take advantage of the feature with overlays of its signature McDoubles and fries—among other products and logos - available to users when inside any McDonald’s U.S. location. Fashion brand Lilly Pulitzer soon followed suit with its own branded filters, only appearing when users entered one of 31 corporate stores. While still fairly young, sponsored Geofilters display the potential for marketers to connect with Snapchat users on an even more customized level.

    Snapchat for Brands: How You Can Get Started

    The quality that runs across all Snapchat marketing approaches is quite simple: the user ultimately has the option to view or deny the content pushed out by brands. Watch the branded Live Story or Discover ad, or don’t. Use the sponsored Geofilter or skip it. Today’s consumers prefer to have a choice when it comes to exposing themselves to advertising content, and Snapchat is a platform that keeps the control in the users’ hands (literally). Consequently, the ads they do decide to watch are more likely to have a positive lasting impact, as they were not forced upon unwilling eyes. 

    In September, Snapchat will celebrate its fourth birthday. Our agency predicts that its popularity among users (currently over 100 million) and adoption by brands will only continue to grow. But like any human interaction, if you want to make an authentic connection, you can’t force it. To form a lasting relationship, your marketing campaign has to be a two-way street - the Snapchat user has to want to consume your content, which points to a larger key message. As with the implementation of any social tool, crafting a strong Snapchat identity should be only one piece of your company’s overall communications and brand development strategy. Ensure your company’s brand identity is integrated across all marketing materials and social platforms in order to establish a solid follower base.

    Do you feel your brand is ready to get on Snapchat, but don’t know where to start? For some inspiration, check out the brands that made Adweek’s cut for Best Brands on Snapchat: 

    JuliaIrwinBlogCropJulia Irwin is an Assistant Account Executive with Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

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    Topics: Social Media, Brand Strategy

    Get to Know Minnesota Business Magazine: Interview with Editor Steve LeBeau

    Posted by Paul Maccabee on Jul 8, 2015 5:10:00 AM


    If you're a Vice President of Corporate Communications, Chief Marketing Officer or PR Director in Minnesota, there are only a handful of local business media outlets that you really care about - the monthly Twin Cities Business, the daily Minneapolis Star Tribune, and St. Paul Pioneer Press, the weekly Mpls/St. Paul Business Journal and, increasingly of late, Minnesota Business magazine.

    With the exit of former editor Steve Mollman, the MaccaPR blog was pleased to interview the new editor-in-chief of Minnesota Business, Steve LeBeau (right). That name sound familiar? LeBeau is the former editor of the Star Tribune’s MARQ magazine, ex-managing editor of Mpls/St. Paul Business Journal, and news director for SPNN-TV Neighborhood News. Oh, and formerly a WCCO Radio talk show host and KFAN-AM Radio news director. Oh yeah, and he handled press for some Governor who was nicknamed “The Body.” Here’s My Dinner with LeBeau:

    1. I have to start with your four years working in then-Gov. Jesse Ventura’s Communications Office. You served as, according to your LinkedIn profile, Ventura‘s “speechwriter, ghost writer, publicist, photographer and a spokesperson."
    What was it like handling PR for Jesse? 

    "I was hired by Ventura’s people the day after his inauguration. It was interesting – not always fun, but interesting! Traveling with Lt. Gov. Mae Schunk to nearly 200 school districts across Minnesota taught me about the growing strength in the Twin Cities metro and the struggles of rural areas – trends which are helpful to understand when you edit a statewide business publication.

    Working with Ventura also taught me about the news business – the information that we in the public receive is only a fraction of the reality that’s actually happening. I illustrate this for people with my hands: If you only get your news from newspapers and TV, hold your hands six inches apart – that’s all the news you’re getting. If you’re in a newsroom, hold your hands three feet apart – you’re aware of more of what’s going on, yet not everything. But if you’re actually behind the scenes in the Governor’s office or at the Legislature, stretch your arms out wide – because that’s how much information you get that’s actually occurring." 
    jesse_ventura_460x276                                              (Source: The Guardian, Photograph: Tom Olmscheid/AP) 

    2. How should corporate public relations professionals approach Minnesota Business with a story idea?  

    "Here’s what I – and other editors - don’t want. A PR person sends me email after email after email, and most of the follow-up emails are just responses to the first email that you sent – even though I never opened that first one. The common theme of these PR people is – did you read my press release? My answer is: if I see it, I’ll delete it. I get more than 100 emails a day, and most go into my junk mail. That kind of PR pitching reveals a shot-gun approach. I know if they’re sending me an email like that, there’s no exclusivity – and if the daily paper can run it tomorrow, why would I publish it in October, when it’s old news?  

    What works best for me, is for a PR person to take me out for coffee and lay out the entire range of content they can offer me. I will discover what story interests me about the companies they represent. I have a gut instinct about what story would be interesting to me and our readers. You can do your social media online – my social media style is to do in-person socializing with a human being in front of me!

    When I used to work at KFAI Radio, I’d dig out the old PR releases that everyone else in the newsroom threw out – I wanted to uncover the alternative to the alternative news!"

    3. How will you compete with dailies like the Star Tribune?

    "I want Minnesota Business to be a magazine that’s opened and read far beyond the five minutes when you’re in a CEO’s waiting room."

    4. What’s your own news diet?  

    "I read the Star Tribune and others online – including Time magazine, and I have a home page with the top stories from BBC, New York Times, Al Jazeera and other media outlets for a world view. And I gather lots of opinions about business and public policy on Facebook, reading what friends are posting."

    5. How are you going to change Minnesota Business, post-Steve Mollman?

    "The focus on small and mid-size businesses will be the same – but I may do it with an edgier sense of humor. Minnesota Business is not the breaking news publication – that’s for the dailies and weekly. Instead, we want to publish strong opinions about growing companies – stories that businesspeople may disagree with. I don’t like seeing sets of facts in a business story. I like connecting the dots, through interviews with experts who we ask, 'what do you make of this?'"

    6. How has social media impacted Minnesota Business magazine?

    "If you want to exist, you have to be on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook – I hope to get people blogging about different industries, and have Minnesota Business be a content aggregator of business ideas." 

    7. What’s the most under-reported business story in Minnesota?

    0715MBS_COV01_tease"Here’s one – the economic impact of immigrants. We just received a report from economist and Assistant Vice President of International Programs, Bruce Corrie, from Concordia University, the nation’s foremost expert on business and immigrants. He’s done studies on the Asian businesses along University Avenue and his new report focuses on the emerging entrepreneurship of African immigrants, such as the Somalis. The leading businesspeople in those immigrant communities are going to burst out into mainstream businesses – and one of them is featured on the cover of our July 2015 issue!"

    8. The bullhorn is in your hands. What’s your message to PR and corporate communications professionals?

    "Hire people for PR who have served in the media. Those PR people who worked in radio, TV, print – they get it. They know how editors and producers think. They use Associated Press style when they send me a news release. When I worked at the Business Journal, there was one very intense deadline day – and PR people, who were not in tune with our deadlines, would call on that day to pitch us stories. That was a major faux pas. Former journalists who do PR still remember what it is like to be in the media, and though they have moved to the dark side, I consider them to be fellow travelers."

    Looking for more tips from local pros of the journalism world? Check out these Q&As:

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



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    Topics: Interviews, Media Relations

    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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    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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    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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