Monday, October 22, 2012

Keep Your Customers Close and Your Competition Closer

You know that old axiom about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? Well it’s cliché, but like most platitudes, it’s because it traditionally rings true. One avenue and strikingly underexplored method of social media marketing is the practice of keeping tabs on the competition; what they’re offering, where they’re excelling and – most importantly – where they’re failing. An example of online-publicity brilliance was executed by the travel agency, and it involved a shared-name, a competitor’s reluctance to honor a lofty request and a free trip to Paris.

Thomas Cook posted this comment on Thomas Cook Travel’s Facebook last year:

“Seeing as I share the exact same name as your huge company, and because of this I have been ridiculed for as long as I can remember. I think it’s only fair that you help compensate for this by giving me one of your lovely holidays.”

Thomas Cook Travel declined, initially chalking up the request as just e-snark. That’s where the PR people at lowcostholidays jumped in with the following reply to Thomas Cook (the person; this is understandably confusing):

Here at we completely sympathize with your suffering and if your name was “” we would certainly have accepted your request to be sent away on a weekend in Paris. So in Thomas Cook’s time of crisis we thought it was about time we stepped in to offer a helping hand to customers like yourself who have found themselves, as we like to say, ‘Thomas Crooked.’ So how about we send you on that weekend in Paris, in fact – why not make it a week for you and a friend?”

And with one message to one stranger sharing a name with a competitor, mastered the art of social media marketing. The story went viral throughout the online world, was a hit on Reddit and brought scores of positive remarks from all angles. The company earned themselves a customer for life and potentially countless others who appreciated the offer they extended to Mr. Cook.

Keeping up with your competitors in the social media world is just as important as maintaining your own online presence. Monitoring those you battle for business allows you to keep your finger to the wind of trends and ensure you’re doing everything you can to sustain your client base. shelled out the expense for a weeklong trip for two to Paris, but earned themselves loads more in free publicity. By watching their competitor’s actions online they have become a household name; keep your customers close and the competition closer.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Stratosphere Skydiving and Sponsorships

Publicity stunts come in varying degrees of absurdity. There’s the 72 hour marriage, the classic drunken meltdown, and the awkwardly filmed and leaked ‘home movie.’ Occasionally an individual will take the ‘stunt’ literally and perform an actual feat worth the press; this weekend, it was Felix Baumgartner, who broke the record for the highest skydive in history. The man jumped out of a helium balloon from the stratosphere and became the first person to break the sound barrier without vehicular propulsion; as someone who can barely ride an escalator without fits of anxiety, the mere thought of this is nausea-inducing.

The event, Red Bull’s Stratos, built on the energy beverage company’s ever-expanding role in extreme sports. From annual events such as Flugtag to mountain-biking and surfing competitions, Red Bull has broadened their brand’s reach via sponsorship and event-promotion. Their web-hits and overall awareness (Monday pun) skyrocketed as Baumgartner took the plunge from 24 miles up (broadcasted live on YouTube), and discussion will continue about the achievement and Red Bull’s association with its completion.

 Sponsorships are just another distinct avenue for generating brand-awareness and name recognition in today’s marketplace. At first glance, many sponsorships may not appear to provide the initial ROI you desire, but the truth of the matter is they create buzz and association that accompanies an event, be it a community outreach program or national stunt like Stratos.

The gospel around the PR/PR offices is that your greatest allies in publicity are frequency and repetition. Along with a stout presence online and in print media, sponsoring an event is a fantastic medium for creating the notoriety you desire. Red Bull will be forever linked to Felix Baumgartner’s leap from Earth’s stratosphere; align yourself with local organizations and events and watch your name-recognition grow.   

Monday, October 8, 2012

Op-Ed Tips!

There’s a little less than one-month until Election Day. We’ve been inundated with talking points and political rhetoric from both sides, and I feel it’s a fair assumption that many Americans are ready to cast their ballot and be done with it. Politics can wreck a dinner or make for awkward water cooler conversation, as we all have strong opinions which may not mesh with the ideals of our families or coworkers. Political discussion is best reserved for an opposite-editorial, and you’re in luck, because today we will outline the three paramount points to crafting an exceptional Op-Ed.

Make a firm point and provide supportive evidence

There’s nothing more frustrating than a fence-walker. When drafting your opposite-editorial, ensure that you make strong assertions; and stick by them. Op-Eds serve to separate you and your opinions from those of your contemporaries, and also aid in establishing you as an expert on your topic. Make sure you provide distinct evidence that supports your argument or claim, as an opinion without corresponding facts will not connect with or sway your audience.

Controversy Sells

Pundits like Keith Olbermann and Anne Coulter have made millions by stirring the proverbial pot. Do not be afraid of backlash to your views; your aim with your Op-Ed is to generate a conversation, not necessarily convert the opposition. Contentious viewpoints provide for intelligent debate, either for or against, and your name will be connected with them. Do not shy away from controversy; make an intelligent argument, complete with support, that may ruffle some feathers.

Connect to a timely topic

Any number of newsworthy issues may provide a platform for you to apply your opinion. Just because you’re not an expert on the Middle East does not mean you do not have an informed take on the situation that is based in your political beliefs. You will rarely find an issue that directly correlates to your area of expertise. Seek out notable stories and provide your two-cents; you never know if your perspective will resonate with an editor who wants your opposite-editorial in their publication.

These three tips have helped our clients when writing an Op-Ed, and provide a steady guideline for drafting one with a high probability of being published. The next time you want to discuss politics, take it to paper and let your voice be heard.
-Carter Breazeale
PR/PR Public Relations

Monday, October 1, 2012

Kara Alongi: Hoax?

On Sunday, Kara Alongi was kidnapped from her home; or was she? The sixteen year old posted this portentous message on her Twitter feed at 6:25 p.m. last night: ‘There is someone in my hour ecall 911’ (There is someone in my house, call 911.) She has been missing since the ominous tweet that set off a social media firestorm as the online-world began spreading the message of her abduction. #HelpFindKara started trending across a breadth of Internet outlets, but the issue also brought its skeptics as to its validity, as well. Was Kara Alongi kidnapped, or was her post a not-so-elaborately-crafted hoax?

On the surface, the social media world’s response to Alongi’s tweet is a gallant one. We’ve all seen how quickly the body-Internet can rally behind a cause, from the Kony 2012 campaign to the SOPA/PIPA organized blackouts. From the moment she updated her Twitter, #HelpFindKara had been re-tweeted over 32,000 times and the local police department flooded with phone calls.
The interesting wrinkle here is with the police department’s response. They have issued press statements citing that there appeared to be no forced entry into Alongi’s residence and that they do not believe she was in ‘any immediate physical danger.’ A local taxi company confirms that a call was received from her address around the time of the tweet and a female matching Alongi’s description was dropped off at a nearby train station. Weighing all the facts, it appears we have a very disturbed young girl with an unfulfilled desire for attention.
It appears Alongi has stepped in the e-hornet’s nest, incensing the hive mind who first supported determining her whereabouts, and now would rather find her personally to give her a piece of their minds. While she garnered over 95,000 new followers overnight, the majority of them are now furious with what appears to be an online stunt.
As long as social media users continue taking the bait in situations such as Alongi’s without properly evaluating the facts first, these stories will persist. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of the ability of news to go viral, and only lends to the ‘boy who cried wolf’ mindset that will be established online when someone is really in need.  
-Carter Breazeale
PR/PR Public Relations