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

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

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PR Speed Round: Q&A with HARO Founder Peter Shankman

Posted by Christina Milanowski on Oct 28, 2014 6:00:00 AM

Peter_ShankmanPeter Shankman is a driven, successful and adventure-seeking public relations entrepreneur. You might know Peter best for those thrice-daily Help A Reporter Out (HARO) email newsletters that syndicate editorial opportunities to PR professionals across the country. Four years ago, Shankman sold to Vocus his free HARO service, which, at the time, had a user base of 30,000 journalists and bloggers and more than 100,000 businesspeople and PR professionals!

Since that time, he’s published several books including “Customer Service: New Rules for a Social Media World” and “Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans." He has spoken to audiences in 22 countries on social media, publicity and marketing. While on the road in Boston for his Mastermind series, his workshop for business leaders to take their companies to the next level, the MaccaPR blog had a chance to pick his brain on the topics of PR stunts, evolving media relations, NFL crisis communications and social media communities.

1. For starters, can you tell us more about you and being an “Adventurist,” as you say in your bio?

I’m a skydiver [Editor’s Note: 400 jumps so far!] and I’ve done Ironman races, distance running, and adventure racing. It all helps me keep control of my Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). [Editor’s Note: Peter actually “blames ADHD for most of his success,” according to his TEDxTimesSquare biography, and speaks often on topics of ADHD, including at the recent HubSpot inbound marketing conference.]

2. As the author of the book, “Can We Do That? Outrageous PR Stunts That Work,” what’s your favorite PR stunt or campaign of all time?


Once I coordinated an airplane filled with 150 CEOs who skydived to promote my agency. It certainly created buzz.

Also, Taco Bell got it right. In their PR stunt, they put out a 40x40 foot target in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean near Australia and announced that if pieces of the 150-ton Mir station hit it, it’d give out free tacos. The press Taco Bell generated was incredible. 

(Source: Space Ref

3. What lessons can PR people learn from the botched crisis response by the National Football League to scandals relating to Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, etc.?

The NFL needs to focus on being truthful. The NFL teams aren’t facing the facts that they have horrible reputations. The key to improving reputation is to own your mistakes. Be decent and honest.


4. How do zombie loyalists help a company’s bottom line? What tips do you have for a company starting to identify and build a base of such fervent fans?

The bottom line is to listen to your customers. Treat them well. They are people and not numbers.

The biggest mistake companies make in their marketing efforts is talking at people and not with them. Customers really are a company’s biggest marketers and, in this economy, having competitive advantages really comes down to how your customers are treated.

(Source: Amazon)


5. What advice do you have for companies wishing to attract more Twitter followers (you have 164,000+)?

Be real.

6. Many corporate CEOs would love to give a TED talk, as you have – what advice do you have for aspiring TedX speakers?

To be honest, TED found me. Having an audience is a privilege and not a right. A good speech relies on:

  1. Having a good story to tell.
  2. Knowing how to get your audience to listen, but by listening to them first!
  3. Not focusing on the PowerPoint.
  4. Focusing on teaching. A good speech is about learning.


So, there you have it! A speed round of PR creativity! To me, the story of HARO sums up Peter’s career perfectly. HARO was built on the trust Shankman earned from journalists over the years, which he paid off by delivering them sources on deadline. In each newsletter, he’d open with a personal story, showing his real side.

Bonus! 5 Tips for Leveraging HARO in your PR Strategy

Our clients, too, have benefited from being sources for HARO queries in the past. One example? Our agency recently spied an opportunity from a Wall Street Journal online editor seeking consulting stories from financial advisors. Our client Joel Greenwald, MD, a certified financial planner for physicians, jumped at the opportunity - and we shared a unique story with the reporter. Days later, Joel's name, firm and story appeared at for thousands of potential clients to read! Here are a few tips from the Maccabee team on leveraging HARO (or similar, but paid service ProfNet) opportunities:

  1. Ensure that someone on your PR team is subscribed to HARO. You can sign up via email, and following the urgent HARO Twitter feed is a good idea, too. Review the HARO newsletters at least daily. 
  2. Jump on potential opportunities quickly! This isn't to say you should respond to every opportunity. Be choosy. If you have a good story to tell, make your case... quickly. Many of the journalists' queries have short deadlines, as in, respond within 24 or 48 hours. Plus, having your response appear toward the beginning of the bunch is beneficial, before (not after) they've decided who to interview.
  3. Stand out from the other pitches. Make sure your email response is poignant to the query. Show your expertise and edit your response carefully. This reporter is likely sifting through many, many responses. Say what you want to say succinctly. Also, consider including a link or two for more context, such as a link to a blog post you've authored on that subject.
  4. Do your research. Oftentimes HARO queries don't list the publication or journalists' name. Still, you can sometimes gain hints as to who is requesting the story source. If a journalists' name or publication is given, make sure to research them before pitching. 
  5. Activate quickly. If you receive a journalist's response back, show you're timely by answering the journalist quickly. Make sure you (or your client) have the best shot at making it into the story. 

 In Peter’s final words, be sure to Have fun and have a good time!


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

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Topics: Interviews, Media Relations, Event Marketing

An Open Letter: Don’t Sweat the Small (Social Media) Stuff

Posted by Christina Milanowski on Oct 22, 2014 5:00:00 AM

Dear MaccaPR readers, 

I’ve just returned from the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association’s (MIMA) annual summit in Minneapolis and have a recap to share. My key take-away: please don’t sweat the small stuff... social media stuff, that is!

At last week’s MIMA summit, final keynote speaker Amy Webb of digital strategy agency Webbmedia shared a cleverly concocted look at what’s to come for the latest and greatest(?) social media network, Ello, which I’ll share below. The advertising-free, invitation-only social network Ello, like the sparkly, new social channels that came before it, not only has the power to transform your business, but also to distract you from your other channels, social media strategies and overall digital marketing.


(Source: @PCBritz)

From Ello to SnapChat and Whisper to Path, it seems like there are so many social channels to consider in our marketing strategies. These wise words from Content Marketing Institute author Joe Pulizzi, who I heard earlier this year at the Social Media Marketing World conference, continue to buzz around in my brain: “Don’t build your ship on sinking ground." (Oh wait, that quote was actually: "Never build your content ship on rented land.")


(Source: MaccaPR)

As existing and new social media sites are continually (re)invented, we must be discerning in how the changing landscape may (or may not) benefit you as a marketer. Putting all of your marketing eggs in a Facebook basket, for example, isn't as wise as it once was. Have you seen what Facebook algorithms have done to company content? You basically have to pay for ads to be seen in users’ newsfeeds. Let’s continue to be curious about the ever-changing social media world, but stay focused on the channels we can control (our blog and website) supported by cherry-picked social media sites.

We can get so caught up in this stuff. Marketers often become distracted from the work that can bring true meaning to our brands and brand audiences. This was illustrated by another MIMA Summit speaker and self-described “entrepreneurial ruckus maker,” Barrett Brooks of FizzleCo (Barrett, forgive me if I mis-tweeted your quote!):

To me, Barrett meant that we should move beyond which social channels to be active on. Instead, we'd be best served to invest our mindshare in really knowing our audiences so we can create (and publish) quality content that'll serve their wants and needs. What problems does your audience have and how can you fix them? 

As social media marketers and PR pros, can we agree to stay focused on our audiences, create great content and proceed with social media marketing carefully? With 2015 planning upon us, we counsel: choose a few social media channels and do them really well.

Sincerely, your social media friend,

Christina Milanowski


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

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Topics: Social Media

5 More Cures To Revive Your YouTube Video Channel

Posted by Paul Maccabee on Oct 7, 2014 5:42:00 AM

Part 2 of a 2-part Special Blog Post: See Part 1 Here


Last week, our MaccaPR Blog promised to reveal how the most underperforming YouTube channels could be transformed from dusty video repositories into vigorous sales lead generators, kick-butt customer engagement machines, high-energy web traffic referral drivers, and SEO magnets to heighten visibility for your company in search.

What’s more, we promised that rebuilding the effectiveness of your YouTube channel could be completed within 30 days for most brands – if you already followed our five previous prescriptions for healthy YouTube channels.

What follows are five more cures for what’s ailing most branded YouTube channels. You say that you "don’t need no doctor?" Check out, below, what may be compromising the health of your YouTube marketing efforts. 

6. Condition: Speaking In Tongues  

Symptoms: Your customers are confronted with videos that speak to them in Latvian, Mandarin and Farsi. Confusion reigns. A new Tower of Babel is erected.

The Cures:

  • As the geo boundary-less nature of the web turns virtually every company – mais oui, even yours! -- into an business with global reach, many YouTube channels are publishing videos in multiple languages. Use playlists to group these videos by global region or language.
  • Note how Wal-Mart flags its Spanish videos in a “Walmart en Espanol” playlist. Coke segregates its 47 Indonesian videos in this playlist below, while Chiquita Banana established a separate YouTube channel for its Japanese videos.

Coke Indonesia

7. Condition: Uncomfortable Video Bloat

Symptoms: Intel offers visitors to its YouTube channel a total of 5,452 videos (with such puzzling titles as “Upcycle Your Change” and the timely “Tech Trends for 2011”), while Cisco forces its visitors to wade through 4,809 videos. This is made more challenging by such enigmatic Cisco video titles as: “SPAN-on-Drop on Nexus 5600/6000.” Why force your prospects to claw their way through a jungle of YouTube clips that are irrelevant to their needs?

The Cures:

  • Apple’s YouTube channel only offers 57 recent, carefully-curated videos and Calvin Klein offers just 121 clips. Treat your YouTube channel like a Japanese Bonsai gardener – prune away those unnecessary videos to enable what remains to shine.

Apple YouTube

  • If your YouTube video features former executives who have since left the company – or "cutting edge" insights from 2008 trade shows – take them behind the barn and put them out of their misery.

8. Condition: Your YouTube Icon Is Buried  

Symptoms: It’s impossible to find a YouTube link on your company's website.

The Cures:

  • YouTube is currently the second most popular search engine in America, yet many of the brands we examined failed to incorporate a YouTube icon and link on their home pages. Let your YouTube channel be known!
  • Give yourself 20 bonus points if most of your customer-facing executives have added a link to your YouTube channel in the “Contact Info” section of their LinkedIn profiles.

9. Condition: Shambling “About Us” Channel Description

Symptoms: A puzzled look because the “About” section of your YouTube channel provides little information on your company, and few social media links to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. For examples, witness this lonely ‘About’ section on Levi’s YouTube channel as well as similarly empty ‘About’ sections on YouTube channels for OreoMaidenform, and even Apple.

The Cures:

  • Take advantage of this ‘About’ area by writing up to 1,000 words that reinforce your brand, encourage frequent visits and/or subscriptions to your YouTube channel, and explain the purpose and value of your channel.
  • Add social links in your channel’s ‘About’ section that invite visitors to hop over to Facebook and your other social media sites.  Although its About copy is anemic, check out how well Louis Vuitton includes all of its online/social channels from Google+ to Twitter and Google+ inside its YouTube channel description area. Similarly, DupontDKNY and American Girl display robust social media icons.

American Girl

10. Condition: Hyper-Extended Videos

Symptoms: OMG – your video is how long? Ben Kingsley’s Academy Award-winning film, ‘Gandhi,’ had every right to be 183 minutes long. But your CEO’s video about the company’s new enterprise-wide, disruptive, cloud-based, end-to-end, crowd-funded, integrated turnkey solution? That video should not become a two hour voyage. The Disney Classics YouTube channel actually opens with a single video clip that’s 112 minutes long, below. Goofy and Mickey’s social media staff should know better.

The Cures:

  • YouTube Best Practices suggest you keep your videos to no longer than two minutes in length. An extra bonus: Google ranks your videos higher if viewers watch it from beginning to end – so short videos increase your standing in search.
  • If you’ve got 10 to 30 minutes of excellent video footage on any topic, consider dividing it into three successive, more snackable segments. When playlisted together, the three clips will play serially after the previous video.


There, that wasn’t painful, was it? Learn about how a Maccabee YouTube Audit by our Online Video Doctors could improve the effectiveness of your company’s YouTube channel! Contact me by Twitter, YouTube video or… email me at!

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



Topics: YouTubeSEOVideo

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Topics: YouTube, SEO, Video

10 Video Optimization Cures for Your Brand’s Ailing YouTube Channel

Posted by Paul Maccabee on Oct 2, 2014 6:36:44 AM

Part 1 of a 2-part Special Blog Post

Whenever our PR agency pulls on its rubber gloves and puts a brand’s YouTube Channel under our microscope, I’m reminded of the words sung by the Immortal Bard (John Mayer, not William Shakespeare): “I don’t need no doctor, ‘cause I know what’s ailing me.”

The world of branded YouTube channels is a disorienting universe filled with enigmatic video titles, mysteriously missing visuals, lack of search optimization and 60-minute running times, during which CEOs stare fiercely into the camera and extol their company’s devotion to “Our Brand’s Difference,” “Client Centered Solutions,” and “People Are Our Biggest Asset.”

Let’s say this together: Is there a YouTube Doctor in the House?

YouTube Search Engines

The bad news: We recently assessed YouTube channels of about 100 brands and at least 75 percent of them are approaching Code Blue, badly in need of major online surgery and optimization for search. Many are being used chiefly as a clogged repository for dozens, hundreds and sometimes thousands of aging video clips of varying lengths, languages, timeliness and coherence. 

The good news:  Most of these moribund YouTube channels could be easily transformed from dusty video archives into healthy sales lead generators, vigorous customer engagement machines, lively web traffic referral drivers, and, more than anything, SEO magnets to heighten visibility for a company in search.

What’s more, dramatically improving the power of your YouTube channel could be completed within the next 30 days for most brands.  YouTube’s parent company Google has done its part to make this easier, ensuring that YouTube videos already rank high in Google’s organic search. YouTube’s one billion unique visits each month have made it the second most used search engine in the world.  

Best of all, videos about your company and its products are shareable by your customers, so your YouTube channel – properly treated and optimized – automatically equips your customers, dealers, employees and fans to become evangelists in pushing out your video content via social media. So, as Robert Palmer once sang, Doctor, doctor, give me the news. . . .

Here Are 5 Prescriptions For Common YouTube Conditions

1. The Condition: Lackadaisical Video Titles

Symptoms: Listless, out-of-date titles that fail to accurately describe the contents of your YouTube videos. These titles often lead to viewer apathy and puzzlement. For a sense of how grave this condition can be for brands that should know better, consider two Procter & Gamble videos entitled: “CSDW 2011 Holiday Card” and “PGITI Feb 2011.” Or, can you guess what IBM’s “SXSW Cognitive Cooking: Belgian Bacon Pudding” or Starbucks’ “PSL Days” videos are about from their titles?  No, we didn’t think so – and neither can their thousands of followers.



The Cures:

  • Make your video title relevant and descriptive of what’s actually in the video, and then ask yourself the question: why would anyone not employed by our company care about a video with this title?
  • Resist putting your company or brand’s name in the title of every video, given that many potential customers will be looking for your product category rather than your company’s name. In other words, a video titled “New Ways To Shoot Photos Underwater During Your Vacation” will get more consumer engagement than one titled, “Acme’s Cutting Edge MX-2000 Camera.”
  • Ensure that your video title (100 words or less) is rich in relevant keywords. Use as many unbranded keywords in your title as you can – hey, your brand name already surfaces as your username next to the video in search, so there’s no mystery about your company’s identity.
  • Avoid inspirational video titles that worked for internal audiences, but might baffle external viewers. At your sales meeting in Vegas, the 2015 Campaign Announcement video titled: “Kicking Butt and Taking Names: Nothing Can Ever Stop Us Now – We Are The Champions, My Friend!” left the entire room whooping, slapping fives and throwing chairs. But if you want to post that video on YouTube for customers, you may want to retitle it. YouTube is littered with videos titled: “Our Partnerships,” “A World Of Collaboration,” “Teamwork Is Our Motto,” “About Our Quality Brands,” and “World-Class Customer Service” – vague phrases which are unlikely to match the keywords that prospects would enter into YouTube’s search box.

2. The Condition: Disorienting Playlists  

Symptoms: A mysterious absence of Playlists, leading to confusion and customer abandonment.  It’s sad to see the savvy marketers at Apple grouping no fewer than 47 videos under the single Playlist title, “Featured Playlist.”  And then there’s brands like Gourmet Magazine and Smuckers, which both offer visitors the dreaded “This Channel Has No Playlists” message here and here.


(Soucre: Smucker's Brand YouTube)

The Cures:

  • Organizing videos into relevant playlists by theme, product or topic not only makes it easy for your prospects to find videos they’re interested in, it encourages them to stay and watch multiple videos. What’s not to love about playlists?
  • Playlists enable your prospects to self-qualify themselves as leads. Rather than organizing playlists by your company’s internal structure or business units (a common practice in the 100 YouTube channels we evaluated), organize your videos by audience target and consumer interest or benefit.  A B2B sales prospect is more likely to search for and find a video in a playlist called “Airport Maintenance Crew Solutions“ than one called, “Institutional Division, Civil Aeronautics Products Team.”
  • Many YouTube channels have playlists with vague titles, such as “Sales Leadership,” “Human Resources” and “Customer Service,” which mean little to your customer prospects. Instead of “Human Resources,” try a playlist titled “Getting A Job at Acme” (note: use this only if your company is actually named Acme).

3. Condition: Inadequate Channel Profile Images

Symptoms: Eerily blank YouTube channel header image, with your company’s logo floating strangely in sea of grey. Among the national brands that have left their YouTube channel’s header image area blank or nearly empty: office equipment leader Fellowes,  men’s fashion brand Hart Schaffner Marx,  Nikon, the National Basketball Association, and National Guitar Workshop.

Hart Schaffner Marx

The Cures:

  • Add an image to the top of your YouTube channel! Go ahead, we’ll wait while you do it right now.
  • YouTube allows you to upload channel header art that’s as big as 2MB – so you can go way beyond depicting your product package and company logo to show images of how customers enjoy your product, and display a metaphor for your service or visuals of what your brand stands for. Some great examples of evocative YouTube channel header images include those in the YouTube channels created by Gibson Guitars, Sheraton HotelsUnder Armour and Minnesota’s Creative Kidstuff.


(Souce: Gibson Guitar YouTube)

4. Condition: Anemic Description Box Copy

Symptoms: Depressingly empty descriptor boxes or partially-written descriptions under each video: resulting in poor optimization for search and near-oblivion for consumers seeking to find you.

The Cures:

  • Add copy under each video, which accurately and completely describes what viewers will see if they click on your YouTube video. Only about 10 percent of the branded YouTube channels we reviewed did this consistently.
  • Create a Call-to-Action: Once someone watches your video, what do you want them to do next? Call your toll-free number? Download a PDF (hopefully from a landing page that will capture their email address) which complements the content in your video? Share your video with friends and co-workers? Make a comment on your video? Tell viewers in the descriptor box under each video what you want them to do.
  • Think like a newspaper headline writer, and reel your viewer in with a powerhouse first sentence – encouraging them to click your “More Info” button to expand for a full taste of your video description.
  • Use the YouTube Keyword Suggestion tool to find keyword search terms that you can use in each of your videos’ descriptor boxes.
  • Consider adding a text transcript file of the words spoken in your video – Google can’t search images/video, but it will search a ‘script’ of what’s said in your video to identify keywords tied to your video. Paste it at the end of your description box.

5. Condition: Strangely Missing Web Links

Symptoms: Viewers of your YouTube videos feel stuck, unsure of where you wish them to click through to next. Website links given aren’t live, so consumers can’t easily click through. Ennui, inerita and dislocation result. As examples, see how Doritos failed to add the http:// prefix that would make its web links go live on its “Crash The Superbowl” site. Other major brands fail to add any website URLs in the description box at all, as Burt’s Bees does here


(Source: Doritos YouTube)

The Cures:

  • Add the full URL for your website or microsite (starting with”http://”) so that YouTube translates the web address into live links once you publish your description copy.
  • Insert your website url early enough in your description box copy under the videos so that when the text is in a collapsed view, your YouTube visitor can see the full website address.
  • Don’t just restrict yourself to adding the web address for your site’s home page in descriptor box copy. Better to provide the url for the specific inside website page that matches the content of your video. If your video addresses what dentists should know about your medical office software, the url should take them not to your home page, but to the inside page which addresses the specific needs of dentists.

Is your YouTube channel already feeling energized and infused with new zing – your videos seemingly pumping iron and performing digital bench presses? Then watch for Part II of this blog post, which will contain five more common cures for YouTube channel health. . . coming next week.

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



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Topics: YouTube, SEO, Video

R.I.P. For PR Spin: Ethics, Public Relations and The Imminent Death of “Spin”

Posted by Gwen Chynoweth on Sep 16, 2014 6:51:00 AM


The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has declared this September as "Ethics Awareness Month," complete with "The New Era of Authenticity" as a theme. There’s also a Google+ Hangout on PR ethics, webinars and a #PRethics hashtag. While it saddens me that any profession places a special emphasis for just 30 days on a code of conduct, the PRSA’s declaration does offer an irresistible opportunity to focus on a single word: "Spin."

Every once in a great while, a client will ask our Minneapolis PR agency to "spin" some topic for his or her company. It’s almost always asked innocently, like, "We just won this prestigious award for doing really good work, but we don’t know how to word the press release. Can you put your spin on it?"

No matter how benign a client’s intention might be, however, my skin practically crawls every time I hear the word "spin" if it’s not in the context of a fitness class, silk worms, a child’s top, Hanukkah dreidels, or something to do with yarn. In our profession of public relations, the word "spin" connotes deception, obfuscation, misdirection and other smoke and mirrors tactics to hide the truth. For a terrifically funny example of spin, watch the 2005 movie, "Thank You For Smoking."


Deservedly, the active use of spin has given the PR industry a black eye. Dating as far back as the "public be damned era" of the late-1880s, when ethics-free railroad, banking and oil industry empire builders bought Federal and state legislation to further their stockholders’ profits, publicists would massage the truth to hide the misdeeds of some of their clients.

The trend continued well into our own times, when, in 1991, a Hill & Knowlton agency executive notoriously reminded staff that, "We’d represent Satan if he paid." And just last week it was announced that former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice hired a PR agency to "fix" his damaged reputation.

(Souce: IMDb)

During countless incidents of corporate malfeasance – from the tobacco industry’s attempts to hide the danger of its smoking products, the auto manufacturers’ efforts to camouflage defective mechanisms that led to mass recalls, pharmaceutical companies’ reactions to off-label use and side effects, and corporate polluters’ hopes that citizens would simply dismiss spills, leaks and toxic dumps – PR agencies have figured prominently in spinning unspinnable facts. Someone violated business ethics and did not want the public to fully understand what happened.

Even in my own 20+ years experience in PR, an executive I once worked with demanded that my job was "to make him look good." Considering how he mistreated his direct reports, disrespected and intimidated constituents of the organization, blasted the local news media, and valued bulldozing as his favorite leadership style, I responded, "Then give me something to work with!"

Surprisingly, he didn’t fire me. But he didn’t comply with my request, either. I wound up ending my relationship with the organization shortly afterward.

Will it ever be possible to eliminate spin from our industry? My answer is a qualified "yes."

The good news is that the vast majority of PR people I know would have responded to the incident above in a similar fashion. They don’t lie. In fact, they do everything within their power to tell a client’s story factually and advise clients to always tell the truth, no matter how difficult it may be.

What’s even better is that the proliferation of YouTube, Facebook and other social media channels is forcing corporations, business executives and public figures into greater degrees of transparency, making getting away with spin harder than ever before. While this information democracy era is still in its infancy, its promise of open, honest and ethical marketing and communication is encouraging.


But humans, being who we are, will still let hubris rule at times. Until our species evolves into a science fiction-like creature of altruism and grace, we’ll need tools like the PRSA’s "Ethics Month" to inform and educate PR practitioners of the important role they play in upholding the public trust – and in encouraging their clients to act with honor and honesty, as their best selves.

(Source: PRNewser)

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

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Topics: Corporate Communications


Posted by Paul Maccabee on Sep 3, 2014 6:00:00 AM

Screen_Shot_2014-09-02_at_4.56.38_PMChief marketing officers are in love with the idea of breaking a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® event record and having their brands bask in the seemingly viral eruption of TV, radio, print and online buzz that comes from that honor. So what’s the secret behind your agency or company successfully breaking a world record for maximum social media engagement, traditional media coverage and global brand buzz? In just a few paragraphs from now, you’ll learn behind-the-scenes tips from a public relations executive with GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS, Jamie Antoniou (right).

But first – consider the most prominent example of branded world record smashing, pulled off by Red Bull, which broke multiple records (including the largest audience for a live stream advertisement from GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS) when it sponsored daredevil Felix Baumgartner’s $20 million Stratos Project freefall from a helium balloon at 128,000 feet.

Closer to earth, GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS has worked recently with such brands as:

  • Tang (largest donation of toys in 24 hours),
  • Coca-Cola (longest drink pouring relay)
  • Virgin Mobile (most people crammed into a Mini Cooper),
  • POM Wonderful juice (longest airborne inflatable beach ball relay)
  • Nissan (largest indoor illuminated advertising billboard)
  • Priceline Pharmacy (world’s longest chain of selfies)
  • Italy’s Piazzagrande (world’s largest tiramisu)
  • Domino’s (most pizzas  7,539 pies  made in 24 hours)
  • British Airways (highest performance of the Harlem Shake)
  • Weetabix Breakfast Drinks (world’s fastest milk float)
  • De’Longhi (largest cup of coffee)
  • Smirnoff vodka (largest anamorphic painting)
  • Big League Chew (most people – 721 of them!  blowing a bubble gum bubble simultaneously)

We were reminded of the awe-inspiring PR and social media marketing power of a well-executed world record event this past July. Our agency helped Minnesota-based Kemps Dairy celebrate its 100th Anniversary by setting the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for the Largest Scoop of Ice Cream at the Cedarburg Strawberry Festival in Wisconsin. The 3,010-pound scoop of strawberry ice cream generated 769 TV, radio and other media mentions for $1.7 million worth of media coverage. Local TV segments on Kemps' mammoth scoop aired in 181 out of 210 U.S. DMA markets, climaxed by coverage on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” and online mentions by People magazine and the New York Times.


To give you insight into what makes for a successful, record-breaking PR event, we interviewed Jamie Antoniou, senior public relations manager for GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS North America. “It all starts with which record you decide to break!,” says Antoniou. “If your PR agency or company is planning a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event, I recommend you choose a world record that has four key elements.”

GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS Secret #1: Relevancy 

“The first element is: select a record that’s relevant either to your product or to what’s hot in pop culture now," suggests Antoniou. "For an example of relevance, Colgate came to us to launch its Colgate Total Mouth Wash by breaking the world record for most people (1,142 of them) using mouthwash in New York’s Times Square, an event which was perfectly tailored and relevant to their brand."

GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS Secret #2: Cause Marketing

Secondly, Antoniou advises, tie your GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event to a cause or charity. “Kaiser Permanente has set a series of health-related world records with us, including most people vaccinated in a single venue, most blood pressure readings and most colon cancer screenings,” says Antoniou. “The visuals for these philanthropic events can be great: TV stations can pan along a shot of hundreds of people waiting in line to get their blood pressure taken. We also liked how Colgate tied their mouthwash event to a $1 donation for every participant who gargled to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which Colgate called the program, ‘A Wish For A Swish.’”


The third secret for a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event is clarity of visuals, counsels Antoniou. “The media love to see a strong photo opportunity that shows the record being broken, in action. Smart PR agencies will choreograph their event so the visual image shows the scale of the record – in other words, the TV cameras and photographers can show the traditional side-by-side with the superlative. For example, put a standard ice cream scoop next to the Guinness World Record scoop, the tallest dog next to the smallest dog, or the largest guitar next to a standard guitar.”

“Mass participation activities – particularly fitness-related activities – do very well in attracting morning TV show coverage,” adds Antoniou. “We recently worked with NBC-TV’s ‘Today Show’ when a company produced the largest exercise ball demonstration class on Rockefeller Plaza and we collaborated with a fitness company on the most people jumping on trampolines for ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America.” Not only are there lots of participants who the TV stations can interview, but the broadcast journalists themselves were bouncing on the tramps!”

Good Morning America

(Source: Good Morning America)

At Maccabee, we’d add one more element to the construction of an extraordinary GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event - shamelessly pursue the power of symbolism and metaphor. When our agency helped OfficeMax break the record for the world's largest rubberband ball, the 4,590-pound rubber orb was pushed onto OfficeMax’s digital scale by four stripped-to-the-waist bodybuilders – a tableau that evoked the Greek titan Atlas, who held up the celestial spheres of the world on his back.  But the bodybuilders’ herculean effort with OfficeMax’s giant ball also harkened to the iconic 1945 photo of the four US Marines raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Those Rubberband Ball visuals helped the OfficeMax event generate a staggering 422 TV segments in 127 markets, along with hundreds of newspapers, magazines, blogs mentions and 365,000 downloads of a video at

Office Max

GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS Secret #4: Simplicity

Finally, Antoniou recommends that marketers pay close attention to the fourth element of a winning GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event – simplicity. “You don’t want to overwhelm journalists. Push out one message, one visual, one cause. My biggest peeve is with companies that try to fit too many messages into their record event – which leads to the press sending out an image of your record, but your message gets lost in the clutter. Focus everything for the news media on one shot, one image, one moment.”

So, how obvious should your logo and branding be during a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event?

“The branding of your GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event should look clean – it’s a delicate balance with a company’s logo, because you do NOT want to suffer death by brand,” warns Antoniou. “You don’t want your event to look too commercial or contrived to the press that attend. But if your company does not incorporate its logo into the attempt, the press may broadcast the record-breaking moment and leave out your company’s message entirely. When you did the ice cream scoop with Kemps, the logo was carved right into the ice cream itself, so the branding message was very clear in every photo taken at the event.”

When our PR firm handled OfficeMax’s World’s Largest Rubberband Ball event, we had an advantage – the giant ball itself was OfficeMax’s logo, and the ball was also wrapped with a ribbon proclaiming the OfficeMax brand. But just to make sure no one missed the company behind the world record, we also asked the two adorable children of the Rubberband Ball’s creator to wear headbands with OfficeMax’s logos on them, which literally, and quite shamelessly, branded the foreheads of these two youngsters.   

To Use a Celebrity Or Not?

When Hellmann’s Mayonnaise set the record for world’s largest picnic table (for the record, it was 320-feet long and 8,000 pounds), it employed actress Katie Holmes and celebrity chef Mario Batali to celebrate the brand’s 100th Anniversary and encourage media coverage. More recently, Colgate employed TV actress, model and “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Stacy Keibler (best known for dating George Clooney) to generate media interest for their June 2014 “Most People Using Mouthwash Simultaneously” event with GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS. So how important a marketing/PR tool is a celebrity in all this?


(Source: VidaVibrante)

None of the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS that Maccabee helped clients achieve involved or needed a celebrity hook. “In my opinion, a celebrity is extra to a world record event,” agrees Atoniou. “Essentially, the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS judge becomes the spokesperson or celebrity at your event – celebrity involvement is just icing on the cake.”

What’s more, the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS judge who officiated at Kemps’ giant ice cream scoop event, Phillip Robertson, was something of a celebrity himself. Having officiated at more than 100 Guinness Record events, Robertson has been seen on networks from CNN, CMT, Bravo, ESPN and Fox to NBC, ABC, BBC and CBS. Who needs Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise when you have the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS judge who adjudicated the World’s Largest Hamburger?

What’s the biggest mistake agencies and companies make in producing a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event?

“Lack of organization – to pursue a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS record, you need to be organized and have an understanding of our guidelines,” insists Antoniou.  “Just because your company invests money in an attempt, you will not automatically get the record. Each record category has its own set of guidelines that you must adhere to; we standardize the guidelines so everyone can attempt the record on a level playing field.”

Lightning Round: 4 Tips for GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS Marketers:

Waste Not, Want Not

Official rules from GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS actually require agencies and companies producing food-related events to refrain from throwing out the food once the World Record has been set. So when our agency helped Marshall Field’s (now Macy’s) break the record for World’s Largest Box of Chocolates with a 3,226-pound box of 90,900 Frango mints, we made sure to give away the chocolates to the gathering throng so they would not be thrown out. Similarly, Kemps celebrated its GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event by giving away thousands of mini-scoops from the Largest Ice Cream Scoop to festival-goers surrounding the mammoth sculpture.

Do Pay Attention to the Man Behind The Curtain

You can expand your potential media coverage by inviting media to view the preparation before your GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event. For example, we invited TV stations in Wisconsin to preview the giant ice cream scoop, even before it left its 20-degree-below-zero freezer. And we gave media a sneak preview of OfficeMax’s rubberband ball the day before the event, as its owner painstakingly applied the last of its 185,000 giant rubber bands.

Think Global, Start Local

Although media coverage for your GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event can easily go global, Antoniou advises: “Never be afraid to go local – a single post by a prominent local blogger can generate pick-up globally. And it’s a good idea to hire a local wire service to capture your event on film, and then have them do the syndication for you.” The Maccabee agency often hires local videographers and still photographers to immortalize its national GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS events, so that no matter which network affiliates show up (or don’t show up), we have the visual content ready to distribute ourselves.

Go Online or Go Home

“Ninety percent of the companies that we work with want the video of their Guinness World Record event to ‘go viral’ via YouTube – which makes sense in terms of value of the exposure online,” marvels Antoniou. “The best you could do with a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event eight years ago was NBC’s ‘Today Show’ or ABC’s ‘Good Morning America.’ But today? Marketers would rather get their brand featured on Huffington Post or than in traditional media outlets.”

Intrigued about the value of a Guinness event for your company? Here’s a link to the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS services for brands and corporations:

Or if you just need a lift today, check out the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS “Largest Gathering of Elvis Impersonators,” sponsored by Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina – which climaxed with 895 Elvises crooning The King’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” Now excuse us, but we’ve got a white jumpsuit to pull on, a pompadour to slick back and a chorus of “Blue Suede Shoes” to rehearse. "Yeah, it’s one for the money..."

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




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Topics: Media Relations, Brand Strategy, Event Marketing

Secret Formulas Behind Successful Social Media Posts

Posted by Paul Maccabee on Aug 20, 2014 6:54:39 AM

I recently joined our agency’s VP Jean Hill in delivering a workshop on the data-driven science behind social media before more than 50 marketing executives for a Fortune 100 client. Our #1 goal: we wanted to convince these executives that the best social media marketers think not like marketers at all – but like behavioral scientists.

SocialMediaFormulasBring any three social media marketers together over an all-you-can-eat dinner of Buffalo Wild Wings, and stand back for a furious debate over:

  • What’s the best time and day of the week to post content via Facebook and other social media channels? (Hint: it depends if you want Facebook likes or shares)
  • What’s the optimal length for a tweet? (Spoiler alert: It’s not 140 characters)
  • How will engagement be increased if you put a link closer to the beginning of a tweet rather than at the end? (Best practice? Insert that link a quarter of the way into your tweet)
  • How often should you post new content on LinkedIn or other online channels? (Answer? Way more often than you currently are).

I admit, when our agency first began guiding clients toward more effective use of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn and other online marketing channels – I thought all posts and links were created equal. I figured that 1,000 likes was better than 10, and that 20,000 followers were far better than 200. If 55,000 people watched your video on YouTube, I was happy. Our clients were happy. All I cared about was – did someone, anyone, absorb our client’s content.

But our clients and agency quickly learned that generating followers, likes, video views and downloads was only half the battle.

(Source: University of Georgia)

Screen_Shot_2014-08-19_at_1.33.48_PMBecause a great musician thinks beyond the notes he or she plays and the number of tickets sold in the auditorium, to consider how is the audience coming to their music and how does the musician want the audience to react when that music is delivered?

Similarly, an exceptional social media marketer thinks beyond the mechanics of posting YouTube clips, LinkedIn updates and tweets to consider two vital questions:

  • How did the audience come to see your content - via Google or Facebook? Through a click-thru on a tweet or YouTube link? From a PPC ad online?
  • What specific actions do you want them to take once they connect with your company online?

That last question is critical. As a marketer, your choice of the length, timing and format of your online interaction depends upon the ultimate goal you want your blog, tweeted content or YouTube video to achieve. Possible goals for social media-delivered content are to:

  •       Generate the most possible click-thrus to your own website or other web property
  •       Encourage more social shares to amplify your content among new audiences
  •       Generate the most possible page views and readership
  •       Generate more links back to your website
  •       Spark conversation with comments
  •       Encourage more prospects to download content such as a white paper, e-book or infographic
  •       Improve the findability of your content on search engines like Google

Not surprisingly, our clients tell us they’re hungry for precision in a social media world that can feel chaotic and uncontrollable. We’re often asked: what’s the magical hour at which a Facebook post will compel thousands to “like” your brand, how often should you post a LinkedIn update, or what’s the best length of a video that will reinforce a clip “going viral” on YouTube?  Fair questions; so we first talk about the science of social media, to wit:

1. The best length of a tweet if you desire engagement?

The secret formula of a successful Twitter post is 100 characters or less. Tweets of 100 characters or less receive a 17 percent higher engagement rate than longer tweets.


(Source: TrackSocial)

2. Where should you insert a link in your tweet?

Although the majority of marketers (including, until recently, me) put the link at the end of their tweet, data scientist Dan Zarella analyzed 200,000 tweets and determined that you could do much better. The optimal location for your link to generate click-thrus is 25 percent of the way into your tweet – a location that also ensures if someone retweets you, your link won’t be cut off at the end.


(Source: Dan Zarrella)

3. Best day to generate comments about your blog post?

Blog comments soar on Saturday, and are second highest on Sunday.  But if you want social shares of your post? Thursday is best, with the second best day being Wednesday. The worst day to blog, if you want social shares, is Sunday. (Absorb that statistic: people comment more on weekends, but don’t share as much then.)

4. Best time to post on your blog if you readership and people to link to your post?

Blog posts published around 7 am (EST) generate the most inbound links; and author Dan Zarella confirmed that 80 percent of blog consumers read their blog in the morning – so post before breakfast!

5. How often should you post on Facebook?

Less frequent but higher quality Facebook posts are the way to go. Researchers found that posting one or two times daily on Facebook generated 32 percent higher “like” rates and 73 percent more comments, compared to marketers who posted more frequently.

6. Want to persuade people to share your Facebook post?

Get them to your finish line. found that a person who reads some, but not all, of your content is least likely to share with friends and colleagues. Readers who make it all the way to the very end of your Facebook post are most likely to share with colleagues. Your goal: design your post for maximum suspense, with a climax or teaser so your audience will be compelled to complete it.

7. Want to acquire more links to your blog content?

Just add video. found you can attract nearly three times more ILDs (internet linking domains) if you add a video to your blog post, compared to if your post was limited to text. And if you add video, lists and images to your next blog post, you can generate up to six times more internet linking domain links.

8. What’s the perfect length for a blog post?

Approximately 1,600 words – which comes to about seven minutes read out loud.


(Source: Medium)

But wait! Mastering how to optimize online content for sharing, click-thrus and SEO findability is only half a marketer’s battle – what about the quality of your content? We know that hastily-written, lamely-illustrated content that’s all about your brand rather than all about your brand’s audience will not be shared or downloaded no matter how expertly it’s optimized. Similarly, brilliantly crafted, wildly entertaining and emotionally resonant content such as e-books, videos, white papers, blog posts and infographics won’t be noticed (and generate sales revenue for you) if they’re poorly optimized and weakly distributed on social.

So like those classic Reese’s TV spots of the 1980s, in which a man munching on chocolate crashes into a woman devouring a jar of peanut butter -- their collision creating the eternal miracle of Reese’s Peanut Butter candies – it’s the sweet mash-up of the science of social media optimization with the art of creating quality content that fulfills the promise of marketing for your company. So – how many rules of social media science did this blog post violate? And did this post achieve the level of quality you need to share it with your co-workers, friends and managers? We’ll sit here munching on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups until you decide. . .

Note: MaccaPR blog acknowledges the research and statistics provided above by Buddy Media, Track Social,, Social Fresh, Dan Zarella, Shareaholic, Medium and Upworthy. For more on this science of social media, read Dan Zarella’s astonishing "The Science of Marketing: When to Tweet, What To Post, How to Blog and Other Proven Strategies."

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


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Topics: Social Media, Measurement

9 Reasons Why You Should Celebrate Orkin’s “Bug Wisdom” Ad Campaign

Posted by Paul Maccabee on Jul 30, 2014 6:10:00 AM

How do we love pest control company Orkin’s "Bug Wisdom" marketing campaign from agency The Richards Group? Let us count the ways this 8-video entomological marvel exemplifies what can be accomplished when a client and its marketing firm have the courage to subvert what’s expected of a brand:


(Source: AdWeek)

#1 - The Agency Transformed Orkin’s Prey Into Admirable Foes

Face it, the reason consumers hire Orkin is to kill bugs – smash them, stomp them, poison them, squish them, ravage them. Yet the "Bug Wisdom" campaign actually pays tribute to the genius of web-weaving, leaf-chomping insects. Rather than portraying them as disgusting vermin, the campaign elevates bees, ants, worms, spiders and caterpillars into tiny sages whose work inspires Orkin to honor them with aphorisms like "Every Now and Then, Stop and Eat the Roses." Here's a link to our favorite spot – video footage of a happy-go-lucky dung beetle pushing a ball of what you’d expect as it whistles "Pop Goes The Weasel," with the caption: "When life hands you dung, just roll with it." 

#2 - The Client Agreed To (Temporarily) Bench The Orkin Man

In a bold move for the agency and its client, Atlanta-based Orkin, the "Bug Wisdom" campaign avoids depicting the iconic Orkin Man, that white helmet-attired, bug-obsessed exterminator. First introduced as "Otto the Orkin Man" more than a half century ago, the Orkin Man’s recent appearances in such recent campaigns as "Keeping Pests In Their Place, "Fact or Fake," and "Pest Control Down to a Science" suggest that it might be time for Orkin to terminate its no-longer-that-clever brand character.


(Source: Orkin)

#3 - It’s Got A Kick-Butt Tag

Underscoring Orkin’s marketing position as offering utter mastery of insect behavior, the campaign tag is unbeatable: "Orkin: We Never Stop Learning From Bugs." Compare that gem to rival Terminix’s lame tagline: "Your Strongest Defense Against Pests & Termites."

#4 – The Campaign Repurposes Existing Content

In this age of curated, recycled and shared content, we love how the Orkin campaign also broke with typical agency practice by employing stock footage of bugs as an alternative to shooting new insect imagery. If Orkin wanted to extend "Bug Wisdom" on social, they could invite its 20,000 Facebook fans to adapt other existing bug footage into new "Bug Wisdom" clips. 

#5 - The Campaign Actually Felt Inspired by Bugs

The video featuring a "typewriting" silkworm was, according to art director Brian Thibodeau, inspired when the agency noticed "the way he moved his head back and forth reminded us of a typewriter," while the manner in which a colony of bees moved "made us think of xylophone notes." The organic, bug-driven nature of the campaign feels completely authentic, rather than seeming inspired by a client brief or a desire to mimic another company’s campaign.



#6 - The Typography is Killer

Perhaps it’s because my first (and least favorite) agency job was as a typesetter, but the undulating, hand-sketched typography and graphics in these videos are a quirky delight. "I wanted them [the videos] to feel natural and evoke a sense of timeless wisdom," Thibodeau told AdWeek. "I created the illustrations to loosely represent bug-like antennae, legs and crawly things. I wanted the drawings to accentuate the natural beauty of bugs." Thibodeau succeeded at that; the Richards Group’s attention to typographical detail wins it two ant legs way up.

#7 - Orkin Accelerated The Bug Videos On Social

Although not as fully integrated as the campaign’s idea warranted (why no PR campaign for "Bug Wisdom"?), Orkin and The Richards Group did extend the campaign with a quiz to see "which bug you are most like," a Backyard Explorers Kit giveaway with an Orkin Bugview Bug Catching Tool that was heavily promoted by bloggers such as The Megalomaniac Mommy and well-optimized through YouTube posts with 500,000 to 700,000 views. (The social channel that Orkin falls down on is Twitter – Orkin has only 1,467 followers on Twitter and barely promoted the Bug Wisdom campaign there; thank goodness The Richards Group tweeted the Orkin campaign out to its 9,052 followers).


(Source: Ace and Friends)

#8 - Even the Bug Industry Liked It (Sort Of)

Pest Control Technology magazine quoted AdWeek as calling the new Bug Wisdom campaign "somewhat schizophrenic yet oddly endearing."

#9 - The Sound Effects and Music Are Awesome

From the flamenco guitar-playing spider to the mosquito slurping an arm full of blood (actually, an audio engineer sipping yogurt through a straw) the sound effects for these wordless 30 to 60-second bug spots are divine. That chomping, crunching sound made by the Green Worm? Apparently, it’s a combination of celery and apples being devoured in-studio.



Did Orkin’s "Bug Wisdom" campaign drive homeowners by the thousands to call Orkin’s 800 number and book a visit from their local Orkin Guy or Gal? Although no one’s talking about ROI metrics for "Bug Wisdom," from a creative standpoint, this 'bug idea' is light years ahead of pest control rivals Truly Nolen, BioGuard, Terminix and Presto-X in reinforcing a relatable brand for Orkin.

All we can say is: "Vive Le Orkin!"

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


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13 Visual Content Tips to Break Through Online Clutter

Posted by Christina Milanowski on Jul 23, 2014 6:00:00 AM

Welcome to the age of infobesity in which marketers struggle to separate themselves from online information overload and draw meaningful interest from current and potential customers.

Pair this digital noise, in which YouTube videos are uploaded at the rate of 100 per minute, with our limited ability to stay focused. Did you know the average adult’s attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish? We have just eight seconds of attention versus nine seconds for the fish. So, how do we capture our audiences' attention?


In your upcoming marketing content, consider incorporating more visuals to get noticed. One HubSpot study shows photos on Facebook pages receive 53 percent more likes than the average post. Some commenters tout that visuals are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text. Though there's disagreement on the accuracy of that specific number, we can all agree that telling your brand's story through photos, gifs and videos can be much more engaging than plain text.

In fact, social channels with a laser-focus on visual content are exploding. lnstagram has more than 200 million active monthly users and more than 50 million users have signed up for the social network within the last six months. 

The woman who coined the term "infobesity," social media expert Ekaterina Walter, now speaks frequently on the topic of visual storytelling. Most recently, I saw her at the 2014 Social Media Marketing World, in addition to Australia-based spitfire Donna Moritz, who also spoke about visual content. These visual storytelling insights that follow were inspired by their recent presentations. Take a peek at how images and videos can help us connect with a message much more quickly:

Visual Storytelling Tips 

1. Stay "on brand." Benefit Cosmetics did a fantastic job with its #BeautyBoost campaign that used "on brand" images in response to Twitter fans in need of a pick-me-up. The brand attitude and graphic feel shine through in these social media photos.


(Source: Benefit Cosmetics)

2. Make it original. Skip the cliché stock photography and be unique. A great deal of what's circulated around the internet is someone else's content. In fact, 80 percent of Pinterest pins are shared content (versus original). Be in the 20 percent and create your own imagery.

3. Use video effectively. Video content can bring to life what can’t be shared in text. An epic example is Volvo’s video with Jean-Claude Van Damme, depicting the precision of the dynamic steering in its trucks. Watch it:

4. Leverage Pinterest. Don't forget about Pinterest as part of your online content strategy. Not only is the image-intense Pinterest social channel visual in nature, it’s a great traffic driver. Perpetually popular content on Pinterest is crafts, home decor, food and style, but it can be so much more. For, 30 percent of its referrals from Pinterest are to humorous BuzzFeed articles. 


(Source: BuzzFeed's Pinterest)

5. Find ways to add humor. Speaking of which, explore brand-appropriate approaches to adding humor to your online content calendar. This could involve sharing cartoons or other laugh-inducing graphics. Another example is the meme-like image series created by H&R Block.


(Source: MarketWatch)

6. Ride the trends. Develop visuals that are relevant to current events and consumer taste. One example is the Oreo brand Super Bowl tweet image. Note, though, that relevancy does have a deadline. Even better, check out Expedia's smart retro photo campaign that capitalizes on the recent online phenomenon of recreating childhood snapshots (Example: Then/Now Tumblr). The travel company is helping lucky fans do just that on a weekly basis. Cool!

7. Be snackable. Consumers love short and punchy. Provide a visual snapshot of an idea, concept or story in small, bite-size chunks. Moritz recommends creating and sharing mini-infographics, screengrabs with text, and photos with overlayed text like quotes, stats and facts. Here's an example of how Twitter expert Kim Garst uses simple, easy-to-digest graphics on her social sites. This photo quote not only tells a story, but helps Kim stand out from other social strategists. Her content is very frequently shared in other peoples' newsfeeds.

8. Batch Content. Avoid making one-off graphics for each time you post. When you can, create a series of images all at once.

9. Marry content with context. Don't write one post for all platforms; ensure the sizing and tone of visual content matches each of your channels. Customize, customize, customize.

10. Activate your passionate advocates. Dunkin' Donuts does a stellar job of this by encouraging its social media fans to share their Dunkin' Donuts love, as pictured below, in nail art.


(Source: Dunkin Donuts)

11. Know the rules. Several social sites have rules stipulating the type of photo content you can share. For example, to ensure high-quality content, Facebook stipulates advertisers share photos with no more than 20 percent text in the ad's image.

12. SlideShare is a go-to network for business info. From e-books to infographics and PDF one-pagers to presentation decks, SlideShare is a powerhouse for sharing visual business information and education. If you have a B2B audience, don't overlook SlideShare!

13. Don't forget about the press release. According to a PwR 2013 study, 81 percent of journalists are more likely to cover news that includes an image. Punch up your next press announcement by including a photo or video that tells the story of your news.

Ready to add more visual content to your online arsenal?

If you're not yet convinced to include more visuals in your marketing, read these words from The Visual Marketing Revolution author Stephanie Diamond: “Most businesses that don't make a real commitment to create great content won"t achieve the success they envision for themselves... The Web has trained customers to expect a certain level of visual professionalism. If they don’t find it, they won’t choose you."

If you're ready to get started creating your own images, consider using a photo editor, like Pages for Mac or PhotoShop, or one of the many low-cost graphic design creators, such as Canva. Best yet, consult your graphic designer and always reference your brand style guide! 

Be inspired by Benefit Cosmetics, Kim Garst and Dunkin’ Donuts to come up with your own visual storytelling successes. Ratchet up your social media and online content marketing efforts with visual content today.

We'd love to hear from you - which brands have you seen excel at creating video, gif or photo content?

Michael StelznerChristina Milanowski
 (pictured at left with Mike Stelzner at last year's SMMW conference) is social media director and account supervisor at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

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Topics: Social Media, Blogging, On the Road, Pinterest

Revisiting The Power Of LinkedIn: 4 Etiquette Lessons From A Digital Crisis

Posted by Paul Maccabee on Jul 16, 2014 7:20:45 AM

With LinkedIn now connecting 300 million members worldwide and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman having just published his "The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age" book last week, it's clear to most of our PR agency's clients (particularly those with a business-to-business focus) LinkedIn is far more than a recruitment and job listing site. Whether you're aiming to engage with nanotechnology engineers, addiction medicine experts, electric utility consultants or Asian chefs, LinkedIn is a critical channel for lead-generating inbound marketing and engaging social media efforts.

Yet we continue to see businesspeople misusing and abusing LinkedIn protocols. We thought the time was right to re-visit a post we originally published last March – inspired by a LinkedIn-inspired crisis, but still offering powerful lessons for any marketer determined to leverage LinkedIn as a social channel. Read on, and disregard at your own peril...


Remember those glorious days before Twitter and Facebook, when a marketing executive could be dismissive, casually cruel and outlandishly rude without becoming a viral pariah thanks to social media? Alas, times have changed...

Consider the example of Cleveland-based job bank operator Kelly Blazek, who received an email and LinkedIn request in February from 26-year-old job-seeker Diana Mekota, a recent college graduate who was returning to the Ohio area to seek employment.

Would Blazek allow her to subscribe to her 7,300-member job bank and connect with her via LinkedIn, asked Mekota? Rejecting the invitation, Blazek fired off a lacerating response, which follows:

blazek(Source: Imgur)

Whew! Stunned, Mekota actually sent this apology to Blazek: "I apologize if this came off as arrogant or invasive. I was hoping to join your very impressive job board but I understand your reservations." However, she then shared Blazek’s savage response on social media via Imgur, which flooded through Twitter, Buzzfeed, Reddit and Facebook. The story was picked up by traditional media such as the Cleveland Plain Dealer, New York Daily News and morning radio DJs, then rippled across the globe in stories by Britain’s The Guardian, NBC,, Huffington Post and

FOX_8To her credit, Blazek, previously named "2013 Communicator of the Year" by the Cleveland chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators, shut down her Twitter account and apologized profusely saying: "The note I sent to Diana was rude, unwelcoming, unprofessional and wrong."

But the Pandora’s box of social media sharing is unforgiving – she was even immortalized by a parody Krabby Blazek Twitter account. I expect Google searches for Blazek’s name will highlight her LinkedIn debacle for as long as radioactive plutonium remains lethal.

Of course, there are lessons that both experienced marketing professionals and early-in-career newbies can draw from this situation. What follows are our four LinkedIn etiquette lessons from this digital blow-up.

#1. You Can No Longer Be a Jerk And Expect To Keep It Private

Just as online reviewers are quick to blow the whistle on defective products, shabby service at retail stores, abusive pizza-makers, unthinking rental car clerks and baggage-crushing airlines, businesspeople can no longer expect that inconsiderate behavior of any type will remain private. As demonstrated by the viral sharing of Alec Baldwin’s answering machine message to his daughter (in which the actor called the 11-year-old a "rude thoughtless pig") and the exposure of "secret" emails sent by aides of Gov. Chris Christie about the closing of the George Washington Bridge, if it’s potentially embarrassing to your company and can be shared, forwarded, posted or emailed via a smartphone – it will be. As crisis counselors, we used to advise clients to avoid saying anything to a journalist that "you wouldn’t want to see above the fold on the cover of the New York Times;" today, that’s been replaced by "don’t do or say anything that could become a trending topic on Twitter."

#2. Never Forget You Were Once Young and Naive

I remember how vulnerable I felt while job hunting early in my PR career. I still have vivid memories of the day, more than 21 years ago, when I was turned down after my 40th job interview and convinced that I would never be employed again. So when sweetly naive marketing professionals, or even mid-career marketers freshly terminated from a job they thought was eternally secure, send me a LinkedIn invite today, I often pop them a reply noting that we’re strangers. I add that I’d be happy to talk by phone or meet with them over coffee to answer questions they might have about the Twin Cities marketing scene. After that coffee, we won’t be strangers anymore. . . and then we can connect via LinkedIn. Humility comes hard to all of us, but it helps when I remember the mistakes I made when I was young.


(Source: Mashable)

#3. When In Rome, Do As the Online Romans Do – Etiquette for LinkedIn

The codes of conduct followed by members of social media channels Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and on hundreds of online chatrooms can appear strange, but it only takes a few minutes to learn what is acceptable conduct versus what will get you flagged and de-friended on your chosen social channel. The value of LinkedIn is that it enables you to curate which professionals with whom you want to be publicly associated.

The guiding etiquette of LinkedIn is that you’ll only connect with people you know. Of course, we all make exceptions when the chief marketing officer of a Fortune 100 company invites us to connect with her. Here’s good advice: customize your LinkedIn connection request if you expect your recipient may not recognize you. If you’ve heard them speak or met them at an event, tell them when your paths last crossed. Even better, if you think of a way that you could be of value to them, let them know that too. Don’t risk being a LinkedIn pariah - check out this helpful "Complete Guide to LinkedIn Etiquette," from Mashable.

#4. Indulge in Random Acts Of Gratuitous Kindness

As the great Otis Redding sang, we seasoned marketing pros have to "try a little tenderness" with job seekers who try to navigate the shoals of social media etiquette and occasionally get online egg on their faces.

People do not forget small moments of grace, kindness and forgiveness, especially during moments of crisis in their lives, from joblessness to other losses. Minneapolis-based author Harvey Mackay, of "Swim With The Sharks" fame, wrote that when he attended his father’s funeral, he memorized the faces of every mourner so he’d never forget which people took the time to celebrate his father’s life during that sad time. When I hear that a marketing pro in Minnesota has lost his or her job, I try to be the first person to let them know that my network is now his or her network – and that they’re not alone as they seek new employment. Adman Don Peppers used to tell his clients that if they were ever laid off from their company, he had an empty office at his agency that would be available to them as a free headquarters from which they could seek their new job.

AngieStoneQuote.jpbWriting about Kelly Blazek's LinkedIn rejection incident, England’s Guardian suggested that a smart professional "would have suggested some job leads and likely earned the life-long loyalty of the college grad, something far more powerful than mere online connections." Every suddenly unemployed marketing executive (and there are hundreds now in the Twin Cities) provides an opportunity for the currently employed (that’s you) to share a moment of generosity. If for no other reason, it makes sense to be kind to job-seekers because someday your rock solid job will evaporate, and that young, naive, Facebook-crazed Millennial who asked to connect via LinkedIn with you today will be the Executive Vice President of Marketing and empowered to decide if you should be hired or passed over.

As soul singer Angie Stone says, "What goes around comes around, and karma kicks us all in the butt in the end of the day."

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


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Topics: LinkedIn