Is Pinterest the new Christmas List? December 11, 2012 1 Comment

By Jasmine Johnson

As an avid and possibly addicted pinner, the first thing I did after Thanksgiving was start compiling my Christmas list and gift ideas on Pinterest.  The visual bookmarking site seems to be the easiest place to organize everything I want and where to get it all in one place for myself, and hopefully others, to see and keep track of.

I’m not the only one subscribing to this thought process for my 2012 Christmas list, many of my friends and family are also subtly (or not so subtly) pinning their wish lists too. And, with the iPhone app, I can take everyone’s pin boards with me and refer to them while I shop, ensuring I select the perfect gifts.

It gets even better – did you know you can easily email your Pinterest boards to non-users (like maybe your grandmother)? It’s a win-win for me, and about a million other users doing the same thing.

A recent study reports 62 percent of shoppers look to social media for information, and that number is expected to rise after this year’s holiday shopping rush.  Pinterest leads the industry in this respect, as the number one source of inspiration, influence and engagement among shoppers.  Users are about 79 percent more likely to buy based on their Pinterest finds than Facebook.
Pinterest even launched a holiday themed promotion for gift ideas, called 30 Days of Pinspiration, to connect pinners with holiday boards from key users, businesses, nonprofit organizations, celebrities, and more.  You can also find pins with hashtags like #gifts, #Christmas, #Iwant as well as “Christmas List” boards popping up all over the site.Marketers have used this information to their advantage, using Pinterest as an integrative advertising tool.  Pinterest is incredibly viral, with 80 percent of pins being “repins” so as a result, more companies are encouraging site visitors to pin images and are creating boards directed at consumers.

I, for one, am very excited about more businesses getting on Pinterest and using it to engage customers.  The more pins I can waste hours of my day scrolling through, the better.

How will you engage in social gifting this year? Comment below and let us know!

 

The Art of Getting Retweets [infographic] December 6, 2012 No Comments

By Corey Lark

Do you want more retweets? For most, the answer is probably yes. But, it’s not as simple as you might think. There’s actually a science behind it – from the number of characters to the time of day, the art of getting more retweets has several contributing factors.

Note: As I tell our clients, every brand and every company is different and there is no cookie cutter solution that works for all. You will still need to do some testing to see what works best for you and your followers. However, there are some common elements that are found in tweets that get the most retweet action.

The below infographic by Neil Patel of QuickSprout has collected these factors to give us some insight into crafting tweets that will spread far across the Twitterverse.

The Art of Getting Retweets

 

Infographic courtesy of Quick Sprout.

 

5 Ways “The Voice” is Like PR December 3, 2012 2 Comments

By Breanna Standifer

I am a music nut! So, one of my favorite shows on television right now is NBC’s “The Voice.” When I watch TV shows, I always try to look beyond the obvious to find meaning. And, when I relate “The Voice” to the business of PR I realize there are some similarities. There may be more self-proclaimed singers then public relations firms, but both jobs require you to be prepared, informed and confident.

What can PR professionals learn from a show like “The Voice?”

  1. First impressions are everything. During the blind auditions, contestants have a short amount of time to impress the judges, and be chosen. Make sure you always present your best. First impressions set the tone and lay the foundation for relationships with current and future clients.
  2. Build a great team. On “The Voice,” the key to winning is assembling a unique team that will exceed viewers’ expectations. In PR, a dynamic team is necessary to meet the varying needs of each client. Look for individuals that work well together and specialize in key areas. When you combine each person’s ability, you create a blueprint for success. Go #TeamCeelo.
  3. The final performance is what matters. Clips of contestants’ practice sessions are always shown, some great, some not so great. Preparation is very important, but the final performance receives real judgment. Sometimes you only get one real opportunity to impress your client, so go above and beyond to leave a lasting impression.
  4. Accepting constructive criticism will take you far. After every performance, contestants have the opportunity to hear comments from each judge. Those who accept and apply constructive criticism tend to go further. Those who take comments personally will find themselves repeating bad habits without positive results. Give co-workers and clients an opportunity to give input because applying positive criticism will only make you better.
  5. Know your voice. Each judge, Adam Levine, CeeLo Green, Christian Aguilera and Blake Shelton, are established and recognize their roles on the show and in the industry. You cannot best serve clients if you have an identity crisis. Determine who you are as a company, identify the services you can and cannot provide and capitalize on your strengths.

Now that I have found so much meaning in “The Voice” I will spend more time the next couple of weeks rooting for my favorite contestants. “The Voice” comes on Mondays and Tuesdays at 7 p.m. — take a look and let me know if you can find additional similarities in PR or your business. Comment below or tweet me at @bmstandifer (during “The Voice” expect to see plenty of Go #TeamCeelo).

Give thanks, PR style November 21, 2012 1 Comment

By Amoya Edward

Thanksgiving is upon us, and you know what that means – time to eat! And, give thanks of course.

To join in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’ve compiled a list of things that I’m most thankful for, that help me get through the everyday PR grind – and I received a bit of help from a few other OCGers too.

Yes, we might be able to do our jobs without some of these things, but we’re so thankful we don’t have to. Here’s what we’re thankful for:

Google Reader: My day can’t start without a look at my Google Reader. It’s a great organizer for my daily reads, as well as an awesome tool for news monitoring for clients.

Outlook Calendar: Our digital director of communications, Corey Lark says, “I’m thankful that Outlook syncs my email and calendar between my iPhone and computer, it helps keep me organized and plugged 24/7.” I couldn’t agree more!

Fun Atmosphere: Now, I can’t speak for all PR pros and agencies, but here at OCG we have a “work hard, play hard” mantra, which creates a fun and inviting atmosphere. Our second in command, Malizy Scruggs says she’s thankful for, “working with people who like their job.”

Our Clients: Without them, there would be no OCG. We’re very thankful for the amazing companies and organizations that we get to work with on a daily basis. Our president, Tonya Veasey and everyone else at OCG would like to say thank you, we’re so blessed to do work for each of you.

AP Stylebook Online: The AP Stylebook is a PR pro’s BFF, but the ability to access it online? Well, that’s almost soul mate status. As quickly as people head to Google to research something, it’s great to know I can head over to a website to access AP rules quick and easy. I think our whole office is in agreement on this one!

CisionPoint: From our interns, to our senior account executives, we LOVE Cision here at OCG. This media list building savior makes life that much easier.

Social Media Monitoring and Analytics Tools: Second on Corey’s list of thanks – she’s thankful for, “social media monitoring and analytics tools (like SproutSocial and TweetDeck) help make my job easier.”

Wi-Fi: I think this is something all professionals can agree on. OCG account executive and public participation team member, Breanna Standifer says she’s thankful for Wi-Fi and laptops. When she’s working out in the field, she can set up anywhere and actually get work done away from the office.

The “Gift of Gab”: Some of us have it, and some of us wish we had it. I give thanks for the ability to enjoy talking to people – it’s a must in this business.

Sleep! (When we get it): Sometimes we work long hours for our clients, sometimes we stay up at night thinking of our clients and what we can do to keep our company successful. On top of this, we have families and pets to take care of (yes, our furry friends need love too). These sleepless nights make a good night’s rest a luxury. When we get it, it’s wonderful. Hopefully we can do some catching up over the long weekend!

Starbucks runs: These days don’t come often as they should, but when its time, its time. It’s a great thing to know we can go a couple blocks down West 7th to grab our favorite caffeinated beverage to get that extra “va-va-voom” to get through the rest of the day.

What are some things that you’re thankful for you in your everyday routine? Tweet me at @amoyaedwards or comment below!

Are You LinkedIN? November 8, 2012 No Comments

 By Breanna Standifer

In the world of social media, is there such a thing as being “over connected?” With so many social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Linkedin, it’s hard to keep up.

I’m an avid Facebook user, an up-and-coming tweeter and a lover of Pinterest (when I have time), but I’ve been going back and forth trying to decide if I want to join LinkedIn. Keeping up with these social networks is almost a full-time job, so I wondered, if I added another social network, would I use it?

I decided to do a little research. After looking up a couple of blogs and digging a little deeper, I came to the conclusion that LinkedIn would be more beneficial for me personally than the other social networks. I won’t be abandoning my Facebook connections, Twitter trends and Pinterest picture expression, but there are many opportunities to build my professional network on LinkedIn.

According to tips mentioned by Nicole Williams, LinkedIn Blog contributor, there are several ways to create meaningful connections that do not necessarily have to take a lot of time.

  • Quality over quantity, because every status update shared is a reflection of who you are as a professional.
    • Professionals who share articles or content with their LinkedIn network at least once a week are nearly 10 times more likely to be contacted by a recruiter for new opportunities than people who don’t share with their network.
  • Use the mobile and iPad apps to connect on-the-go or share industry stories via LinkedIn Today.
  • Follow companies you admire and who are part of your “dream list,” and follow your own company and share relevant updates.
  • Personalize your profile with a photo; it will make you seven times more likely to have your profile viewed.

They say a new member joins approximately every two seconds – well add me to the 175 million. Do you use LinkedIn? If you do, I would love to hear how you have benefited from its use. Feel free to comment below or tweet me at @bmstandifer.

Four Social Media Lessons From Horror Movies October 31, 2012 2 Comments

By: Corey Lark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I’m being honest, horror movies absolutely terrify me. My husband Michael, on the other hand, can’t get enough of them. So, from time to time when I feel like being an extra awesome wife, we’ll watch them. Believe it or not, as I think back on these nightmare-inducing movies, I realize there are social media lessons we can learn from them. And, with today being Halloween, it seems only fitting to share what I’ve learned about social media from horror movies.

1. Content can be repurposed.

For content to be successful, it doesn’t have to be new. Just ask horror movies like the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” This film first came out in 1974 and was remade in 2003. Apparently, the other two did so well that a third version is being released in January 2013. You may not want to post to your Facebook page about a guy with a chainsaw killing people, but you probably have lots of content at your fingertips that you can repurpose and you didn’t even realize. Things like blog posts, press releases, white papers, infographics, videos, photos, podcasts, etc. that you’ve already spent time creating can make excellent social media content. For example, pull some killer stats from a white paper and turn them into tweets, or post the infographic you created for your annual report to Facebook. While original, timely content is encouraged; all social media content doesn’t have to be new. What content do you have sitting around that you could repurpose?

2. If your first attempt isn’t successful, tweak it and try again.

Not everything you do on social media is going to be a homerun. Sometimes you will think you have a very clever idea that people will really respond to and you barely get one like, if anything. Well, this is where we can learn a thing or two from one of the most famous horror villains, Michael Myers from “Halloween.” In each “Halloween” film, Michael Myers is on a mission and nothing is going to stop him. Throughout the series of movies, he is shot, jailed, burned, decapitated, but he just keeps on coming back. Here’s what you can learn from Michael Myers – you might not hit social media gold every time you post, but that’s OK. Review the post, see if you can determine why it might not have worked – not the right time, not on brand, should you have geotargeted, should you have used a call to action or added a photo, etc. – then tweak your approach for next time and keep posting.

3.     Humanize your brand – be authentic.

Who remembers “The Blair Witch Project?” The 1999 horror film documented three student filmmakers in their search for the local legend, the Blair Witch, through pieced-together footage. People really responded to this documentary-style movie and continue to, as films like “Paranormal Activity” hit it big at the box office. These films have something in common – they feel authentic. The home movie look makes people feel more connected, like they could be in those woods looking for the Blair Witch, or in the house as spirits are wreaking havoc. Brands and companies can capitalize on this feeling, as well. Social media is the perfect platform for you to humanize your brand – show personality, transparency and authenticity. If you’re able to do this successfully, people will feel more connected with your brand, and in turn, more inclined to trust you, engage with you and look to you to when they need your services or products.

4.     Always have a strategy.

Have you ever noticed that when someone is being chased in a horror film, they always run up the stairs? I realize that when you’re being chased by a man with a knife, you’re probably not thinking 100 percent clearly, but they never seem to have a getaway plan in place. This is where we can learn our final lesson – always have a strategy. This includes when, where, why, how and what of your brand or company’s social media efforts. Sure, you can just post whenever and wherever, with no real rhyme or reason to it (and plenty of people do); but to find success in social media, you have to have real goals in place and a plan for how to actively achieve them. From the time of day, to your tone/voice, to the types of content, and what social networks you use, your social media strategy is crucial and is not a step you want to skip.

Hopefully, you found this post thought-provoking and/or educational and not frightening, as that was my goal. But, as long as we’re talking about horror films, I’d really love to know – what’s your favorite one of all time? Comment below or tweet me at @coreylark and let me know. Happy Halloween!

Social Media Sites to Build Your Brand October 23, 2012 No Comments

By Stephen Fashoro

Social media has become a very important part of American culture. Through these sites, users can connect with friends, family and share ideas and information with others around the world. Social media has also become an essential tool for businesses to connect with current and potential customers. While Facebook and Twitter are still two of the most popular social networks, there are others that continue to grow in popularity that can offer businesses a new avenue to reach their audiences.

Here are a few social networks that are rising in popularity and garnering millions of followers.

Visual is taking over and Pinterest is leading the charge. Pinterest is­ a visual bookmarking social network that provides a great avenue for businesses to showcase their brand and company culture. Pinterest allows users to post or “pin” photos of things they like, creating a virtual pin board, and “follow” pin boards created by others. Users can also “re-pin,” comment on and “like” other user’s pins. Pin boards are often centered around hobbies, interests, events, and other brand/industry-related things. Pinterest for companies and brands is all about being creative and figuring out what resonates with your target audience and how to engage them visually. Southwest Airlines is a great example of a company using Pinterest effectively.

 

Instagram is another social network that’s capitalizing on the visual trend. This mobile app allows users to take photos, apply a “cool” digital filter, and then share those photos with their followers on Instagram. The app is also integrated with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr, and Tumblr, so you can share photos on multiple social networks straight from Instagram. And, the best part is you don’t have to be a great photographer, the app does all the work. Companies can use Instagram in a similar fashion to Pinterest – to showcase their brand and company culture.  They can take and share photos of projects, staff, events, and other things that represent their brand. Sharing photos like these can make your company seem much more human and engaging. The more you get people to like your company/brand, the more likely they will want to do business with you. Take a look at Nike’s Webstagram page to get an idea of what they are doing with Instagram.

 Google+ is another social networking tool that companies can use to connect with customers and clients. There are mixed emotions about Google+ and the jury is still out on how widely adopted it will become, but there are some definite advantages to this site. Google+ is built around the concept of circles. You can set up a circle for friends, family, co-workers, customers, business partners, prospects, and communicate with all of your circles or limit your posts to go to just one of your circles. Below are two Google+ features that companies can benefit from:

1. Google+ Pages: businesses can set up their own Google+ page. This provides companies with a great way to showcase themselves in front of general Google search users and their Google+ contacts. A company page is a great way to build a relationship with current and potential customers by sharing links, photos, promotions, and insights into your company. Even if you aren’t going to update your page regularly, it’s a good idea to go ahead and create one – it can help your SEO.

2. Google+ Hangouts: allow users to conduct free video conferences with up to 10 people. Companies can use this feature to hold small meetings with clients and co-workers from the convenience of their desk or home. During the Hangouts, the person talking is highlighted on the screen and other participants show up in a row along the bottom of the screen.  Find out more about Hangouts here.

Check out the social media sites I’ve mentioned above and let me know if you think any of them can help you reach your target audience/customers. And, if you want to find out how your company can leverage these sites or social media in general to reach your audience, Open Channels Group can help. I’d love to hear from you, tweet me at @stephenfashoro or comment below.

 

8 Ways to Build a Powerful Brand October 22, 2012 No Comments

By Larry Powell

You hear a lot these days about branding. But individuals and businesses alike often misunderstand this term. Many think branding is a company’s logo or the products or services it sells. However, a brand is actually something quite different.

Simply put, a brand is what defines you. It is your image and personality – all the tangible and intangible qualities that distinguish a company, a product or an individual from others. Whether it’s a corporate brand, a product brand or an individual’s personal brand, it is the identity that resonates with your audience.

A brand is the total emotional and psychological foundation that is built over time. It is the framework for the customer experience and the promise of what to expect each time someone experiences a product or service. Above all, your brand is the true representation of who and what you are. It should consistently deliver on its product or service promise.

Independence. Freedom. Empowerment. Fun. Innovation. Fierceness. The list goes on and on. A brand is nothing until it makes an emotional connection. So, whether you want to grow your company brand or your individual brand, you MUST stand for something. Build your brand positioning around something that people care about want to rally around.

Take a look at the following companies. Set aside the products they sell and think about what their corporate brand stands for:

 

 

 

 

Now look at the following products and think about what their brand stands for:

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, look at these celebrity brands and consider which products, services and causes they are associated with and what their personal brand stands for:

 

 

 

 

Whether you are a global corporation, a regional company or a local one-man show, branding is essential to your success. What is your company’s brand or your personal brand?

Here are eight ways to build a powerful brand:

1. Use research to find out what customers currently think about you.

2. Identify your true brand personality and stick to it. Authenticity is key.

3. Choose a position and remain consistent with your message and voice.

4. Use a strategically planned mix of communication tactics.

5. Allow two-way dialogue with customers through social media.

6. Make sure your brand is first marketed internally, then externally.

7. Invest in your brand over the long term to create loyalty.

8. Work with an expert (like Open Channels Group) if you need help building your brand.

Find the Scandal in Your Agency October 11, 2012 No Comments

By: Amoya Edwards

The fall season marks the return of a few of the best things in life: the best fashion, the best weather and the best TV shows.

During the fall, ABC has my full attention every Thursday. I’m tuned into Grey’s Anatomy and (most importantly) my new favorite show, “Scandal” – the drama from Emmy-award winning screenwriter Shonda Rhimes, which just started its second season.  Not only does ”Scandal” feature one of my favorite actresses, Kerry Washington, but the riveting plot keeps me on the edge of my couch in anticipation of each character’s next move. This show is the highlight of my week!

As a PR pro at a small agency, I’ve taken note of what an incredible team Kerry Washington’s character, Olivia Pope has. This got me thinking that the roles of Olivia’s team members, or “gladiators” as they’re called on the show, are reminiscent of a small PR agency.

Just like Olivia Pope & Associates, a small agency needs a handful of vital characters to ensure longevity and success. Although Olivia’s team is essentially made up of lawyers – or something like it – their skills and personality traits are necessary in a PR setting.

Meet the gladiators of Olivia Pope & Associates:

  • Olivia PopeThe Fixer. She’s the fearless leader. The woman with the plan. She always has one, no matter what curveballs are thrown her way. She’s incredibly connected within her industry as well as her clients. Olivia Pope works very hard and demands the best from her team. She’s always cool, calm, collected, and fierce.
  • Quinn PerkinsThe Newcomer. Similar to an intern at an agency, Quinn admired the agency’s work for quite some time. She may at times be the last to know information about what’s going on, but she plays a vital role in doing preliminary work, like research and client preps for the big shots at the firm.
  • Harrison WrightThe Salesman. Harrison’s brilliance and charm can warm up just about anyone he comes into contact with. He’s passionate about what he does and believes in the success of his company. Harrison also prides himself on his keen ear and attention to detail, which plays a huge part in the success of the firm’s trials.
  • Abby WhelanThe Investigator.  Abby tells it like it is, and isn’t afraid to confront anyone. She’s liberal in her beliefs and makes her opinion known, even if it isn’t always asked for. Despite the sometimes sassy side of her personality, Abby is very thorough and doesn’t skip a beat when it comes to the business that her team handles. She makes sure that each client is researched adequately to know how the team can fully meet their needs.
  • HuckThe Techie. And, just where would you be without your tech person? Aside from this character’s mysterious and dangerous past, he’s an extremely talented electronics expert and loyal to his team. In this technology-driven world, every good team needs a Huck to be successful.

Now that you’ve met Olivia’s team, do you think their skills meet the requirements to run a successful PR agency? What’s missing? Which one are you? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Tweet me at @amoyaedwards.

 

Movin’ On Up… To The West Side September 13, 2012 1 Comment

By Jasmine Johnson

As a recent graduate in today’s economy, I’d have to say I agree with the media.  Once the excitement of graduation fades and frat parties become a thing of the past, the outlook is pretty bleak.  The economy hasn’t yet rebounded, and the fear of being a jobless college graduate has become a reality for many.  As for me, moving home (with next to no savings), and having many of my friends up to their eyeballs in debt (none for me, thank God for scholarships and parents), I was honestly a little scared of being thrust into such an unforgiving working world.  Determined not to get discouraged, I cast out a wide net and applied to literally every ranked public relations agency in the state, praying someone would bite.  After weeks of interviews, countless rejection letters and phone calls, I finally reeled in an amazing opportunity – an internship at Open Channels Group (OCG).

Even before receiving the job offer, I knew this was the place for me.  There I was, finishing up the interview process with my writing test, when who else but OCG’s president, Tonya Veasey herself walks through the office. Before I even knew who she was, I knew she meant business because she had on a pair of KILLER heels and when I complimented her on them, she mentioned that she literally just read an email from a colleague endorsing me.  However, I like to think it was the shoes compliment that sealed the deal.  As proven by Cinderella, shoes are magic and can bring anyone together.

Almost two weeks later, here I am – on my third day of work and never happier.  Day one went as predicted, learning the ropes and orientation.  Day two was spent in the blistering Texas heat filming a training video for a client at the metal recycling yard, which was unexpectedly awesome.  It looks like no two days are ever the same here, and I honestly can’t wait to see what this year brings.

A little background on me, my name is Jasmine Johnson and I am a DFW native, born and raised in Arlington, Texas.  I just graduated with a communications degree from Trinity University in San Antonio where I held public relations internships at San Antonio Sports and theFund for the Arts – both nonprofits and both incredibly informative and rewarding.  I live with my parents in Arlington and what it lacks in autonomy, it makes up for with a well-stocked kitchen and loving support from my amazing parents.  Some of my hobbies include playing homemaker by cooking and crafting things I’ve found on Pinterest, playing guitar, writing short stories, and performing my duties as a devoted “Doctor Who” fan.

As the end of my first week as an intern comes to a close, I look forward to new adventures with the incredibly talented OCG family.

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