Monday, April 30, 2012

CISPA: Where's The Outrage?

Earlier this year, denizens of the cyber-arena defeated the government. On January 18th, in a substantial display of solidarity against perceived threats to Internet rights and freedom of speech, an online blackout was organized that ultimately defeated the proposed SOPA and PIPA bills. Initial sponsors in the House of Representatives retreated in droves, providing palpable evidence that the online-community is a powerful entity, capable of organizing and altering public policy; why then, is the proposed Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a real threat to online privacy, flying under the collective radar?

CISPA is a classic case in shadowy language and political posturing. Superficially, the bill appears fairly innocuous and even beneficial, allowing for accelerated government-to-corporation communication that circumvents legal red-tape should any potential online threats arise. In an age where cyber-terror organizations such as Anonymous are running rampant, this is completely understandable; businesses have to remain vigilant. But with vague amendments that expand the scope (and legal-reach) of the bill to allow the government to access your personal information ‘to protect national security,’ you begin to see where the waters get murkier.

With SOPA and PIPA, the online-response was swift and commanding. #STOPSOPA began trending worldwide on a variety of social media outlets, Internet stalwarts such as Wikipedia and Reddit enacted self-imposed 24 hour blackouts in protest and within hours the bill’s supporters abandoned ship like it had burst into flames. CISPA has received a fraction of the attention as the two previous bills, when the semantics suggest a broader impact on personal privacy and liberties.

From my viewpoint, the lack of response and outrage boils down to a narrow online-attention span and absence of a perceived cause. With the SOPA and PIPA protests, there was a tangible element; there were no ICanHazCheezburger posts that day and college dorm residents were unable track down slightly deficient mini-fridges on Craigslist. The prearranged blackout brought attention to the negative aspects of these bills and the inherent infringement on online-rights; in regards to CISPA, no online organization has taken the reins to lead the charge.

The legalese and political tight-rope-walking jargon contained within CISPA draw distinct parallels to The Patriot Act; where it boils down to selective-interpretation and subjective opinion. There is too much at stake, and the budding implications on individual freedom and global economics are far too great to risk. The trends of the Internet are ever-evolving; and in my opinion, #STOPCISPA should be one of them.

-Carter Breazeale

PR/PR Public Relations

Monday, April 23, 2012

Turning Publicity Into Profits

The publicity process is a marathon and not a sprint. To repeat an important point from previous blogs: your two greatest allies in garnering and maintaining a successful level of promotion are frequency and repetition. Now you’re a seasoned vet of print interviews and your articles have been published in a variety of publications; you can sit on your hands and take a breather, right? Absolutely not. The key to converting those placements into speaking engagements is playing an active role in your own marketing.

Business and trade magazines are typically affiliated with an industry association, and are influential resources in their line of work. How does this apply to you? Those same associations host annual conferences, and those annual conferences require keynote speakers and workshop leaders…Do you see where I’m going here? Actively marketing yourself to the publications that have made you the expert in their pages by publishing your articles is the quickest way to turn a profit from your PR results.

Make no mistake about it; the phone will begin ringing when your name is printed in a trade or association publication, but conducting your own research, contact and follow-up with decision-makers crafts relationships that just may land you onstage at an upcoming event (and land you with a significant check in your pocket as a result.)

The first step is to open up lines of communication with the related association. Fashioning a mailer complete with a speaker-one sheet highlighting your accomplishments and an introductory letter is a fantastic place to start. Begin contacting event planners with these materials in your spare time to ride the wave of the buzz your publications have already given you. Maximize your return on investment and accelerate your phone ringing by creating connections.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Peace, Love and Posting: #Coachella's Facebook Union

Woodstock had the flower generation and Coachella has the Facebook generation. Music festivals are synonymous with roughing it; whether it was mud-covered attendees making the most of a torrential downpour at Yasgur’s Farm in ’69 or tent cities littering the grounds of Lollapalooza in the ‘90’s, you’re expected to substitute comfort and convenience in exchange for cavorting and community. To an avid-social media fanatic this could be anxiety-attack inducing. Not to fear: this past weekend, Coachella had you covered.

So how do you survive a weekend in the desert without your social media accounts? In what strikes me as the most creative usage of social media this year, concert-goers at the Coachella music festival in Southern California were excited to learn that their entry-wristbands were connected to their Facebook profiles. In an attempt to curb ticket-counterfeiting, the brain trust at Coachella utilized unique barcodes to link wristband to user, complete with a registration process that involved syncing with the social media leviathan.

Even without the benefit of a smartphone or laptop, those in attendance could scan their barcodes at various locations on the grounds to check-in on Facebook and broadcast to their friends online that they’re seeing The Refused reunion and you aren’t (if I sound jealous it’s because I am.)

I often wonder if Zuckerberg and Co. even saw these types of innovations on the horizon. You cannot escape Facebook’s influence on everything; be it discounts for geo-tagging yourself at a local eatery or redeemable coupons on corporate accounts. Social media's expansive tentacles are everywhere; and with last weekend’s events in Indio, California, you can now post to your social media cloud without an electronic device. It really mind-blowing to consider the rapid evolution of Facebook, and entirely easy to get excited about the future. 

-Carter Breazeale
PR/PR Public Relations   

Monday, April 9, 2012

YouTube: Not Just for Cat Videos

Still cresting the wave of an Easter Sunday jellybean sugar-high (extended in duration on account of Monday morning coffee consumption), I find myself probing the net and mulling over potential topics for this edition of PR/PR’s blog. The brain is a finicky organ, as much of the time my topics are derived from pacing the hallways or clicking random web-links until something strikes me as blog-worthy. This morning, it was perusing YouTube for Parks and Recreation clips (specifically Ron Swanson) when it hit me: employing YouTube as a viable weapon in a professional speaker’s arsenal, and the immediate spark it can provide to your career.

Contrary to popular opinion, YouTube does not exist merely for viewing videos of cats playing piano. Since Google’s acquisition in 2006, the online broadcast website has undergone an extremely corporate-friendly shift, providing a practical outlet for professional speakers. The ability to immediately post keynotes and workshops to the masses (and simultaneously post the YouTube link across your social media cache) has branded the site as a stout contender in the realm of creating and sustaining business online.

When booking speaking engagements in the past, there was a lot of snail-mailing DVDs of previous speeches, creating a palpable lag in locking down business. With the explosion of YouTube, meeting planners can now access your keynotes with a simple name search or point and click. This means a wider audience, and lack of delay in getting your message in front of the decision makers who will potentially sign your checks.

Like it or not, we are an Internet-driven society, and a distinct presence on every online platform is not just necessary: it’s make or break. Why put in the legwork of crafting relationships and building a network to increase your speaking gigs when a Google search returns no evidence of your keynoting acumen? Your qualifications may look terrific on paper, but this is often trumped by the accessibility of others’ video-evidence on YouTube.

Every professional with visually-driven content should have a YouTube channel. The new HBO film Game Change outlines the McCain campaign’s process of selecting Sarah Palin as the VP candidate in 2008. How did campaign manager Rick Davis begin this endeavor? By viewing Palin’s interviews on YouTube and determining she was a political star in waiting. If candidates are being selected for the second-highest office in the land via online-video, annual corporate meeting keynote speakers are, too.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Opening Day is Thursday! Sort Of...

I make no bones about my affinity for Major League Baseball (specifically the Atlanta Braves; Phillies fans, you’re on notice), so naturally I am counting down the hours until Opening Day this Thursday*. Note the asterisk, as the season is technically underway already. The Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics played a two-game set in Tokyo last week; two official games that went unnoticed by the majority of fans, but meant worlds to baseball fanatics in Japan. MLB has been fostering their Japanese market for many years in an attempt to expand baseball support on the global scale, and it makes for an intriguing case study on audience awareness and client potential.

Above all else, Major League Baseball is a big-money business. Handshaking and cultivating relationships is an integral cog in any corporate landscape, and Bud Selig and MLB’s aim is to increase their market. Rabid baseball enthusiasts such as myself have been chomping at the bit since the last out of the World Series for the ensuing season to begin, so a ‘soft-opening’ overseas with 4 a.m. live broadcasts often goes overlooked and unappreciated. Why would the league’s decision makers tease its base with games that essentially feel and appear as no more than exhibition games? The answer harkens back to my first point: baseball is a business, and developing global connections is a fundamental aspect in its growth.

So how does this apply to your publicity aims? Do I really just enjoy discussing baseball and finding avenues to do so? (Yes, let’s talk playoff predictions, but this is actually PR-centric.) The heart of the matter is that it’s easy to neglect lucrative opportunities because they may not immediately strike you as such. We are living in a global economy, and while it’s important to connect with your base, cognizance of ‘outliers’ and ensuring your message reaches diverse outlets is imperative. We accomplish this goal for our clients with a litany of placements in varied trade and industry publications, some of which may not immediately come to mind, but pay dividends in name recognition and brand-awareness.  

At the expense of a broadcast ratings loss, Major League Baseball chose to play the first official games in a foreign city in an attempt to bolster their global relationships. Down the road, this may mean a larger MLB viewership, beneficial Japanese partnerships and, dare I say, a Major League baseball team overseas. Merely preaching to the choir is a classic exercise in selling yourself short; pursue niche markets and aim for international recognition to maximize your potential for success.