Monday, March 19, 2012

Pinterest and Internet Trends

If we were to personify the collective Internet, it would be comprised of a toddler’s attention span and a teenager’s keen awareness of revolving trends; essentially a virtual hyperactivity disorder with a dash of rebellious competition as to what’s ‘hot’ and what’s ‘not.’ If MySpace is an acid-washed t-shirt, then Pinterest is low-rise skinny jeans.  As a twenty-something male (not denoting my actual age, but rest assured it’s at a number that I’m no longer comfortable listing publicly; think wrong-side of twenty-five) who is an outlier in terms of Pinterest’s target demographic, my knowledge of the burgeoning social media giant is cursory at best, but it’s been impossible to ignore the website’s meteoric ascent. In the rapidly shifting online arena, it’s essential to keep your finger to the wind to maintain a working understanding of the latest trends, whether they immediately apply to you or not.

Five years ago no-one would’ve predicted the world-altering effect Facebook would have on interpersonal interaction. I like to joke that it’s even made high school reunions obsolete (you didn’t want to go anyway, regardless of the open bar). Zuckerberg and Co. have created the up to the second news cycle, and ushered in an unprecedented level of connectedness, forging the way for other social media outlets to follow suit.

Working with Amanda and Lindsay, two dedicated Pinterest disciples (I colloquially refer to the pair as ‘pinheads,’) I’ve gleaned a great amount of knowledge as to the website’s purpose and potential by simply listening to their conversations. This social media incarnation takes a different avenue for connecting others: visual branding. I like to think of it as an online dorm-room corkboard, outfitted with your favorite personality-encompassing Internet graphics; be it memes, recipes or sarcastic quips about waking up on Monday mornings. With its user-base multiplying daily, businesses are clamoring for opportunities to utilize Pinterest much in the way that they use Facebook and Twitter.

In our office we’ve been exploring the benefits and possibilities of adding Pinterest to our own social media cache, although the existing interface and format seem a little outside of our realm of business. Pinterest has carved a unique niche as a visual and graphically-driven outlet which is not immediately applicable to what we provide, but as other social sites have shown, this can change at the drop of a hat. So while we are not adding the Pinterest rung to our ever-increasing social media ladder at the moment, we are keeping our ears to the ground for ways this burgeoning website can benefit PR/PR and our clients.

Staying ahead of the e-growth curve is synonymous with maintaining a stout online footprint, which at times can feel a bit daunting. The whirlwind nature of social media trends can at first seem confusing and make your head spin, like when your teenage son calls you a square for still wearing pleated jeans or colors out of season. When did all of this go out of style? The ‘when’ is unimportant and irrelevant, and in the age of ‘now’ it has never been more imperative to attune yourself to the ever-changing online world and keep ahead of the game.

-Carter Breazeale

PR/PR Public Relations

Monday, March 12, 2012

Konyism: The Power and Peril of Pathos

Emotional appeals are the redheaded stepchild of crafting and supporting an argument. Pathos, the black sheep of Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion (which also include ethos and logos, ethical and logical rhetorical devices), has long been regarded as a slippery slope on which to base a claim, albeit a powerful one. This is not intended to be an intro course in communications; I’ll spare you that brand of drudgery on a spring-ahead-induced sluggish Monday. Still, there is much to be said about the important role emotions play in framing a point, and how they can make or break your audience connection.

By now you’re well aware of the Invisible Children charity and the Kony 2012 video that went viral last week, prompting a social media conversation about the documentary’s effectiveness, the charity’s agenda and the deliberate plucking of the viewer’s heartstrings. An interesting dialogue developed in our office about the pathos devices utilized in the video, with admittedly split opinions as to their worth. Concerns over perceived emotional manipulation via scenes of the documentarian’s young son learning about kidnappings in Africa, and segments blatantly designed to elicit sympathy provided a thought-provoking discourse that dominated our discussion topics on Friday.

Regardless as to what side of the fence you reside concerning Invisible Children, there is no denying that emotional appeals are powerful rhetorical tools. When employed in the correct manner alongside established credibility and logic, they provide a tangible ‘human’ element to any argument. Over-utilized, however, and you run the risk of denigrating your entire point and invalidating yourself.

Many of our clients secure our services for the placement of op-eds, and these often contain personal accounts that have contributed to a concrete opinion. While stories comprised of supportive evidence of the emotional variety have their place, we caution our clientele from overusing them. Unabashed emotive appeals undermine your argument and can potentially alienate your audience. As seen from the rapid (and rabid) responses to the Kony documentary, these types of claims are not always well-received, and can be interpreted as ‘cheap shots’ with purely manipulative intentions.

Providing a layer of humanity to formulate an argument is Communications 101, and is an essential component of supporting a claim. Tread lightly when emphasizing the emotional, however, as you risk the possibility of creating a disconnect with your readers. Invisible Children accomplished their goal of making Joseph Kony famous overnight, but by relying heavily on the emotional spectrum they may suffer a loss of support for their cause.

-Carter Breazeale

PR/PR Public Relations

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Marlins, Branding and Going Local

As the temperature and humidity begin their annual ascent into pressure-cooker territory, in Jupiter, Florida, the Miami Marlins are donning eye-black and dusting off their gloves in preparation for the upcoming season. Hope springs eternal every March, when spring training begins and fans everywhere can rejoice in baseball’s true tabula rasa; where last year’s errors are forgotten, the sting of missed opportunities have long-since softened and excitement surrounds a summer brimming with possibilities. For the Marlins, this involves a monolithic PR and rebranding campaign that began with the shedding of their former ‘Florida’ moniker to assimilate with the local community, and invigorate a lukewarm fan base with historically lethargic leanings regarding the hometown team.

The main focus for the Marlins: get fans in the stands. Sparkling new Marlins Park, the Bentley of ballparks (compared to its ill-equipped predecessor Sun Life Stadium), highlights Miami’s rebranding efforts. Complete with a tropical fish-tank behind home plate and a very ‘Miami’ homerun feature that embodies the art-deco, retro-feel of South Beach, the Marlins are making no bones about their locational roots and culture. Factor in the stadium’s new location in the Miami-Dade area and the ball club has made a long-overdue statement as to their identity: they are not Florida’s team, they are Miami’s team. With 15,000 advance season tickets already sold, the most since 2002, it appears to be working.

Throw into the mix the overhauled uniforms and this past weekend’s FanFest event (which 40,000 attended) and you’ve got extremely overworked public relations and marketing departments. An undertaking this massive requires hardline dedication and leadership, but for Miami, the efforts are already paying off in spades. There is a palpable excitement in the ocean air. Enthusiastic fans are x’ing the days on their calendars until Opening Day. Establishing an identity and motivating the local population has created a feeling of excitement in Miami, and as many fans hope, will translate into marks in the win-column come April.

Local involvement is important in any public relations arena, and speakers, authors and experts will benefit by taking a page out of (pun alert) the Marlins playbook. Engaging with your immediate neighbors and counterparts is one of many steps in generating a backyard-buzz that will create national attention. Immersion in the city’s culture and lifestyle has finally given the South Florida faithful something intrinsically ‘Miami’ to rally behind, and the Marlins’ PR folks have shown the power of utilizing the local identity to their advantage.

-Carter Breazeale

PR/PR Public Relations