Friday, September 28, 2018

Brand Makeovers and PR Pointers

This week featured several major brand makeover announcements as well as some interesting and helpful marketing tips for PR practitioners. Here are some of my favorite finds:

Hello Dunkin', goodbye Donuts – Dunkin’ Donuts made its rebrand official on Tuesday, shrinking its name to just "Dunkin." Fun fact: the brand had been credited with popularizing the word "donut," instead of "doughnut," in the 1950s, according to Business Insider.

Weighing in on WW – Weight Watchers is no more as the company has rebranded as WW. It also is adopting a new tagline, "Wellness That Works," as it responds to changing views on healthy lifestyles. Think it’s a good move?

Say What?! – How do you decide which brand you’ll buy when selecting a new product or service? In a new study from Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin, respondents showed that personal connections matter more than ever when getting a product recommendation, and that younger consumers are especially swayed by word-of-mouth marketing.

Yowza! Scrabble Adds 300 Words – This week, the sixth edition of the Merriam-Webster Official Scrabble Players Dictionary dropped. Brace yourself, Scrabble fiends. More than 300 new words have been adopted, and the compilers have embraced some millennial mainstays like “twerk,” “emoji,” “yowza” and “listicle” and some long awaited gems: “OK” and “ew.”
Under the Influence - Did you know that tweets from influencers and brands combined can increase purchase intent by a factor of more than five? This infographic via PR Daily lists 10 key strategies you should consider to help elevate influencer marketing strategies and activate these influential advocates.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Filtrete Features Oft-Forgotten Handy Home Maintenance Tips

Even the most DIY-savvy homeowners often forget to take care of the tools that help them keep their homes clean, especially vacuums. So our home PR team worked with Filtrete to reach “handy homeowners” with creative influencer, native and display ad content for how to keep their vacuums in tip top shape by changing bags, belts and filters.

Creative and educational storytelling was particularly important piece of the program to ensure messages resonated with consumers. A partnership with DIY influencer and home maintenance pro Cass of the popular home renovation blog Remodelaholic set the stage for engaging, educational content. She developed content for her blog and social channels highlighting 6 Common Cleaning Tasks You Probably Forgot, as well as hosted a Facebook Live event touting brand messages supported by helpful “how-to” product visuals. Her content was further amplified via targeted editorial-style native advertising. Display ads with contextual targeting also helped reach the DIY consumer.

Altogether, the combination of content supported by paid amplification drove more than 4.5 million impressions and over 7,000 engagements to help Filtrete help consumers keep their Fresh Homes Happening.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Take a Sip and Grab a Seat – Class is Back in Session

Back-to-school season is here, and although it’s been a couple years (OK, maybe a bit more than that for some of us…) since we’ve stepped foot in a classroom, there were plenty of lessons to be learned on online this week.

  • Mad about Glad: Chicago restaurant Giant is one of the hottest tickets in town, so when it hosted an invite-only event for media and influencers under the guise of sampling its new fall menu, many took the restaurant up on the offer. As servers delivered the last course of the night – covered in Glad Press N’ Seal – it was revealed that everything they had eaten was prepared three days prior and wrapped in the sealing product. Cameras were on hand to capture the “gotcha” reactions – but instead of surprise or amusement, patrons were angry that they had been lured there under false pretenses. So much for transparency! (get it?)
  • Hit the Books: Looking to avoid a Glad fiasco? Fortunately, there are plenty of fantastic resources out there for brushing up your PR skills. @MuckRack compiled this list of essential “must-read” books for PR pros. Several of our favorites made the list, including the tried-and-true AP Stylebook..
  • All About Me(moji): The latest version of Apple’s iPhone operating system, iOS 12, arrived Monday, with several updates and improvements that are sure to excite users. One of the more interesting features is Screen Time, which allows users to track the amount of time they spend looking at their device, as well as schedule “downtime” to block access to distracting apps. Speaking of distractions, our favorite feature has got to be the “Memoiji,” a personal avatar you can create to look just like you. We couldn’t resist giving it a shot!
  • Shop the Story: Instagram has long been a place where people seek inspiration, but it hasn't always been easy to buy the looks or products you see. Taking a cue from Pinterest, Instagram announced that it is introducing new shopping features, including the ability to shop items via Stories and the Explore page. The features could keep Instagram’s growing user base on the app for longer during each session – which ultimately translates into additional revenue opportunities. It also is a departure from the app making money only through ads or sponsored posts.
  • Pumpkin Spice Overload: From lattes to cereal to dog treats and vodka, there’s no escaping the pumpkin spice craze. One Chicago auto shop got in on the madness by offering fall-loving customers a “Pumpkin Spice Oil Change.” Of course, there’s no such thing, but it’s still been a boon for business. The owner reports that traffic to the shop is up as several customers stop in each day to ask for one.

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.