Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Talking Shop (Photoshop That Is)

The lines between forms of communication are blurring, and design technology is more accessible than ever with programs like Canva and Photoshop. Consequently, PR and marketing professionals are finding design to become an increasingly necessary skill. Recently, members of our Chicago PR team attended a workshop held by the American Marketing Association which highlighted a few high-level design concepts.
Looking for a design refresher? Here are a few thoughts on design gleaned from the workshop that you can use in everything from digital ads to Facebook posts:
  1. You're Just My Type - The words you write can communicate more than what they say. For example, do you get a different feeling from the Coca-Cola logo than from the FedEx logo? The classic script from Coca-Cola echoes the company's heritage,  while the bold, sturdy FedEx type (along with the hidden arrow - if you don't know what I mean, check it out) shows reliability. Pick the typeface (a family such as Arial) and font (an individual such as Arial Bold Italic) to enhance the visual story you are telling. Pro tip: Less is always more. Two fonts, three at most. And every time you use Comic Sans on anything that is not a comic strip, a designer weeps.
  2. Showing Your True Colors - Why is a smiley face yellow but an angry face is red? Color psychology details the subconscious connections we all have between colors and our lives. Not only can choosing the right color tell your story, but it can also add new meaning to that color by connecting it with your brand. Without thinking about it, viewers can see your materials and identify the content with your brand based on the visual cues alone. To keep the Coke example goingCoca-Cola has their shade of red trademarked (Known as KU Crimson #F40009).
  3. Take Your Pix - Its not only what you share, but how you share it. Bitmap images are made of pixels and commonly see in digital photos, while vector images are composed of shapes and lines allowing them to be scaled up to any size. When working with bitmap images (as they are more common) make sure to only scale within the limits of your desired outputa.k.a. if you are looking to print, make sure you have at least 300 pixels per square inch, or 72 ppi for digital. 
Armed with this newfound design knowledge, go forth and create. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

A Week of Remembrance

 It has been a week of remembering the past while looking toward the future. People have come together in times of crisis, becoming stronger together. Here are a few stories from the past week:
  • Chicago Remembers 9/11 - 17 years after the tragic events in New York City, people around the country have been sharing memories of 9/11. Back in 2001, 500
    Chicagoans traveled to Ground Zero, and this week they recalled some powerful, personal stories. Check out this story about how our city helped our nation in need.
  • Lisa Brennan-Jobs Remembers Her Father, Steve Jobs - This week Apple launched two new phones and a new watch, but another story from Apple is making headlines too. Apple's founder Steve Jobs had a complicated relationship with his family, and his daughter's personal account of the relationship was detailed in her new memoir "Small Fry." Her stories have caused some controversy, with other family members questioning the portrayal of the man they knew.
  • Air BnB Helps Those in Crisis Today - Hurricane Florence continues to threaten the East Coast, but one brand is trying to do its part in helping those in trouble. By activating their "Open Homes" system that has been in place since 2012, Air BnB allows evacuees and relief workers to log in to an Air BnB account and book a new place to stay for free.

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Passport to International PR

Even when you’re a household brand name like Trex, things can get lost in translation. Ove
r the past decade, the leading manufacturer of wood-alternative decking and railing has focused on expanding its global footprint. Today, Trex products are available in more than 40 countries. As the PR agency of record for Trex, the LCWA home PR team has been at the forefront of introducing and driving preference for the brand in these new markets through public relations, specifically by maximizing earned media coverage across priority markets including Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Successfully executing PR on an international level takes strategy, advanced planning and a little local insight. Through our involvement in the Public Relations Global Network, we have had the pleasure to partner with some of the finest independent firms in the world, who act as extensions of our LCWA account team. In essence, we are the central hub for Trex global public relations, providing strategic direction, developing core content, and ensuring brand consistency, while our agency partners serve as in-market experts, offering local insight and customization to ensure our approaches and materials reach and resonate with their intended audiences.

While we aim to promote and deliver one brand everywhere, we have learned that one size does not fit all when it comes to international PR. Here are a few tips and tricks for achieving PR success on a global scale:

1. Be Aware of Brand Awareness. 
In the U.S., Trex has been virtually synonymous with composite decking since the company first invented and introduced the concept back in 1996. While the brand has earned enviable brand awareness domestically, international awareness is a much different story. In fact, the whole idea of wood-plastic composites (WPC) is relatively new to international audiences – thus impacting the direction, tone and focus of our global outreach.

2. Know the Market. 
We learned quickly that expanding internationally would require much more than just expanding our media distribution lists. Each of Trex’s priority markets came with its own unique set of characteristics and challenges. Beyond the anticipated cultural and lingual differences, each market had distinctive distribution channels and product offerings, as well as differing levels of understanding of and receptiveness to WPC products. For example, German consumers are avid DIYers but need proof of product quality and performance, while French consumers value eco-friendly products and prefer to enlist professional contractors to build their decks. These insights influence the focus of our messaging when developing programming and materials for each market.

3. Master the Language. 
While in most of the markets we target for Trex, English is widely understood and used, differences in diction and nuances in enunciation play a key role in communicating and establishing Trex as culturally authentic. Our agency partners lend their local expertise by customizing materials to reflect local trends, expressions and colloquialisms. For instance, where we often compare Trex decking to wood in the U.S., our partners in the UK and Australia refer to “timber” instead. Additionally, a “garden” in the UK can refer to a deck or patio, not just a bed of flowers or vegetables. In Germany, “decking” translates to “outdoor flooring.” But our favorite phraseology by far is the reference to “secret fixings” in the UK when referring to the Trex Hideaway hidden fastening system. It sounds like something straight out of a Sherlock Holmes novel.

4. Appear Authentic. 
It’s not enough to use the right words – the right images are important as well. We learned early on in our international expansion process that pictures of elaborate, multi-tiered Trex decks with vast ocean views did not necessarily resonate with consumers in France, Germany and the UK where backyards are much more modest in size. Landscape, too, has to be considered. For instance, we can’t provide our Australian PR team with outdoor living images that have evergreens or maple trees in the background. This attention to detail allows our international teams to provide media with suitable images, increasing opportunities for coverage. In some cases, we have worked with our agency partners to source local photographers and coordinate market-specific photo shoots to capture imagery that is truly authentic and relatable.

A strong sense of brand combined with attention to cultural distinctions have been the driving forces behind our international expansion efforts for Trex. Through seamless collaboration with our agency partners, we have been able to successfully drive awareness and preference for Trex in all of its key markets. Vive le Trex!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Influence and Controversy

While the week was short, we still had plenty of trending news to keep us busy on social! Here are my top picks from this week:

·         Insta Shopping – Instagram is considering another new app – this time IG Shopping – that would let users browse goods that they would be able to purchase directly from the app. Currently, more than 25 million businesses already have Instagram accounts, and nearly two million advertise on the platform. Additionally, four out of five Instagram users follow at least one business. Instagram has declined to comment on any specifics thus far, but definitely something to watch!

·         Fowl Play – At the U.S. Open this week, a woman was caught dipping her chicken finger into her Coke. This has led to mass controversy on whether this is a “sin” toward the chicken finger or the soda, including some suggesting she should “go to jail” for such an offense. You can decide for yourself after watching the ESPN clip here.

·         College Influencers – The latest way to help with college tuition is by being a social media brand influencer. The New York Times found the number of college students who are also brand influencers is steadily increasing. Victoria Secret, for example, has ambassadors at more than 100 campuses, and Virginia Tech estimates more than 1,000 students are being paid to promote products on campus. That can certainly be a nice resume-builder!

·         Gone Viral – Lindsey Lohan is making waves this week – all the way in Mykonos, Greece. The actress shared a video that an onlooker posted of her dancing, saying #DotheLilo. This has since gone viral with people recreating her dance. Here’s to Lindsey jamming out in Greece, check the video out yourself or even recreate it!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Shorter Name, Bigger Audience

Our client, the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) recently changed its name to the Urgent Care Association (UCA), and the organization is leveraging the rebranding as an opportunity to engage and expand its membership base. Just like its industry, the UCA is evolving, offering education, networking opportunities, advocacy, tools and connections for an ever-growing array of on-demand healthcare providers.

LCWA assisted the organization in communicating the new name and its tagline – “Your Gateway to Better” – by developing targeted key messages, creating thoughtful and innovative news materials, writing informative introductory email announcements and generating media coverage in major trade publications. Showcasing UCA as a nimble association evolving to meet industry needs while reaching new audiences, ongoing PR campaigns will help UCA engage new and existing members and continue positioning the association as the go-to expert for urgent health needs.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

While the first day of fall isn’t until September 22nd, the internet this week was all things fall, from upcoming movie premieres and the return of the PSL to odd fall fashion trends. Also, some fast-food chains are making noise in the news this week. Here are my favorite finds:

Welcome Back #PSL: It may not feel like fall just yet, but that won’t stop the return of the Pumpkin Spiced Latte at Starbucks. According to Vox, within a decade of its launch in 2003, the PSL became Starbucks’ top-selling drink, with more than 200 million of them sold. In 2015, Forbes estimated the PSL brought in around $100 million in revenue over a single season. And, now it’s a cultural phenomenon signifying summer is coming to an end. Cheers to fall!

Fall Movie Season is Here: From Awards bait to reboots, it’s time to map out what to watch and what to skip this fall. Harry Potter fans can rejoice because the most anticipated movie goes to Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. For Lady Gaga admirers, get ready for the reboot of A Star is Born, also starring and directed by Bradley Cooper. And, cue the Halloween theme song… Michael Myers is back in the new installment of Halloween, returning Jamie Lee Curtis. Click links for trailers and read more via Deadline.  

Fall Fashion Trend Alert: Fashion brand Balenciaga this week announced a $9,000 (yes, $9,000) layered, oversized parka, which is literally seven jackets sewn together. The Internet was quick to catch on that the look is very reminiscent of a scene from Friends when Joey wears all of Chandler’s clothes at once. “Could I be wearing anymore clothes?”

KFC’s Latest Marketing Stunt: KFC announced on Wednesday that it will give away $11,000 toward a college education to the first baby named Harland on September 9. Harland is the first name of the fast-food company’s founder, Colonel Sanders, who was born on September 9th, reports The Atlantic. Beginning on that day, parents can submit the name, date and time of their baby Harland’s birth. How far will you go for your kid’s college tuition?

Pizza Wars: In response to a letter Papa John’s Founder John Schnatter issued earlier this week, a special committee of the company's board of directors released an open letter accusing Schnatter of disobeying the board and undermining CEO Steve Ritchie, according to CNN. This is the latest in an increasingly heated exchange between Schnatter and Papa John's current leadership. Food fight!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Bloggers Take on Speed Cleaning With the Rejuvenate Click n Clean

With so many home products on the market, consumers continue to turn to bloggers to find the best products. During the past couple of months, the Rejuvenate home PR team worked with bloggers to coordinate a campaign to show how the Rejuvenate Click n Clean can clean any floor surface in the home – and fast.

To reach our target audience of parents, homeowners and savvy spenders, we searched for lifestyle bloggers who often incorporated cleaning or home content into their posts. All of the bloggers we chose to test the Click n Clean generated positive content. Many highlighted how they could clean their floors with ease, especially when compared to using a mop and bucket!

Tile, laminate, wood and even grout were put to the test and the Click n Clean had the ability to clean them all. The bloggers provided readers with great content from unboxing photos to before and after shots! The grout cleaner stood out to many of the bloggers, who noted how simple it made cleaning those hard to reach spots. Overall the blogger program crushed our goal of 20 placements and 300,000 impressions, ending with 64 blog and social media placements and 1,206,356 total impressions! This campaign was a clean sweep!