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Text100 Boston #IceBucketChallenge

On Friday August 8th, the Text100 Boston office was challenged by March Communications to undertake the Ice Bucket Challenge, as a part of the ongoing awareness campaign for ALS. We were a few hours late, but certainly made a splash, pun intended.

Monday, August 12, 2014 we took to the streets with our pails and ice  to do our part in raising awareness of this dreadful disease. With overwhelming support in the office, six members will be doused in the ice cold water by six more office members wielding the buckets of ice cold awareness.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has gone viral over the past few weeks and has done its part in making incredible strides in the awareness of ALS. For Text100 to be a part of this is special to us, we would like to make a difference in our community and in this fight in any way possible. What makes it even more gratifying is to be able to show our support for our friends at Lenovo. Along with our awareness challenge and a donation to the ALS foundation, Text100 will be donating to Jeff Whit’s Magnificent Mile, a charity road race in North Carolina, dear to the hearts of our friends at Lenovo. 

The beginnings of the Ice Bucket Challenge have their roots right here in Boston. Beverly, Massachusetts native Pete Frates, former captain of the baseball team at Boston College, has been living with ALS since 2012, and decided people needed to know more about ALS. He has made it his mission to tirelessly spread awareness about his condition and the thousands of others affected. A few weeks ago Pete and his family posted the first video of the challenge, and nominated three friends. The plan was never for this to go viral, just to help out with spreading the awareness. Then it caught like wild fire. Today Health has reported “From July 29 to August 11 of 2013, the ALS Association received $22,000 in donations; from July 29 to August 11 of this year, it received $1.35 million thanks to the challenge. Of that, $1 million came in over the weekend.” This isn’t just awareness anymore, the money is coming in to help research and hope for those who live with ALS.

From all of us here at Text100, we encourage you to continue dousing yourself in the icy water, and more importantly, consider donating. Even the smallest amount moves the world closer to finding a cure! Check out our challenge video link below! And Bite Communications, The OutCast Agency, 463 and PR Week, you’re on the clock! 

http://youtu.be/604H0ZTUtyQ 

- Russ D. 

Best practices for today’s digital PR agency – A PRSA Boston Panel Discussion

Text100 recently attended a panel discussion hosted by PRSA Boston on the evolution of the PR agency into The Digital Agency. Moderated by Peter Panagopoulos, Director of National Marketing at WGBH Educational Foundation, the panel included Kyle LeTellier, Senior Marketer at Boston Globe Media; Terry Lozoff, EVP Social Media & Consumer Engagement at GYK Antler; Mike Proulx, EVP Director of Social Media at Hill Holiday; and George Snell, Senior Vice President, Digital, at Weber Shandwick.

The panelists shared their insights on the role of the PR agency in today’s evolving media landscape. Although each panelist had a different viewpoint on the role of digital media within PR, all agreed on key practices that today’s communications leaders can’t miss.

All Media is Digital (and Social) Media

Gone are the days of a stand-alone print byline placement or snail mailed press releases that result in newspaper coverage. Nearly all of today’s media is digital – even traditional media formats like billboards are moving into the digital world. Digital media is inherently interactive and social, and communications professionals need to create content that’s tailored to this format. That means incorporating videos, images and infographics to meet the demand of the digital consumer.

Substance Matters

While digital communications are increasing the demand for various types of content, the most important thing to keep in mind is the substance of that content. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Your creative digital team shouldn’t create infographics with irrelevant storylines. If Pinterest doesn’t reach your key audience, then don’t include it in your media mix. The content must always be relevant and it’s better to deliver great content through targeted channels than to deliver useless content that doesn’t reach the right audience.

Measure Your Results

We as communicators have to provide quantitative and qualitative metrics to our clients to demonstrate the value of digital campaigns. Agencies must develop strategies and tactics in our campaigns that allow us to measure our success and provide insights about the audiences that are reached through digital communications.

Mix Paid, Earned, Owned and Social Media

Last but not least, an important insight given during the panel was the importance of mixing paid, earned, owned and social media. Paid media is an excellent way of raising awareness and spreading really great content. Organic traffic is not enough anymore, we have to use paid media in a strategic way to succeed in social channels.

As communications leaders, we must remember that PR agencies today can’t rely purely on traditional media tactics. Digital content is changing the face of public relations. Clients must be willing to experiment with content and channels, and agencies must deliver insights and analytics to prove tangible results.

"With @garveycomm at #PRSABos Digital Agency event. Thanks @WeberShandwick

Image credit: John Garvey

- Andrea G. 

Medium or Message? A Look at LeBron’s Return to Cleveland

I was inspired by a LinkedIn post from the Boston office MC Jay Ouellette, I thought I would weigh in LeBron James’ recent news. He is coming home. He is going back to where it all started, and has a plan to bring together a community once again that he walked away from four years ago. In a much anticipated decision, similar to his last one, King James carefully, gracefully, and honestly chose his words when telling the world where he would be dominating next season, one much different from his first free agency announcement. The message he delivered was the same: he is leaving, but the perception of him has changed in a positive way. So what angered people the first time, was it the medium or the message?

What makes this so intriguing is the way he made his announcement to continue his career in Cleveland. His communication tactics and exposure of coverage drastically changed in his four years since he made the move to Miami (As a disclaimer I would like to state that I like LeBron James and the way he plays the game). I will not fault him for his decision to leave Cleveland, honestly, who wouldn’t want to move to Miami with your good friends to play a game you love? Oh, and they make millions while doing it. But, onto what makes this topic a curious one. Four years ago the world watched as the cameras and lights were set up, full ESPN coverage, and the anticipation of where he would take his talents. Cleveland didn’t even know that only minutes into this interview they would be heart broken, vengeful, and full of hate. The legend of the villain was born. LeBron was not considered the world’s best anymore, but a coward, traitor, can’t win on his own, fame hungry menace. And not just by Cleveland fans, but by the entire basketball universe, with the exception of the new look Miami Heat.

The medium  he delivered his message through was questionable to say the least. In this industry, the pros know that the medium is the message. There are many ways to deliver a message, and the medium becomes synonymous, sometimes even more powerful than the message itself. LeBron and his people obviously missed this lesson. To put it another way, LeBron just broke up with you after a long and wonderful relationship with a text message. The message wrote, “I am going to see other people, bye.” Maybe even a smiley emoticon at the end. Cleveland was the woman scorned, and her fury burned his jersey, slandered his name, and wept in the streets as they tried to forget about what they once had.

Fast forward four years and two NBA Championships later and LeBron is coming back to Cleveland. This time he is leaving Miami (the other women) and hoping to win back the love he once had. Where are the Miami fans burning his jersey and where are all the tweets about how he is a traitor and a villain? Silence. LeBron grew up, he learned from his mistake and when announcing his decision, he used the proper medium. A letter was written and published in Sports Illustrated explaining his reasons for leaving in the first place, the reason he is leaving Miami, and the mistakes he had made in his past. He eloquently thanked the Miami organization for all they have done for him, but his heart was at home. It is about more than basketball now, he is resurrecting a community.

The message was the same in both cases, the media different, creating a different response from the basketball world. His flashy and Hollywood like decision with network coverage made him the villain. The letter home makes him a savior. The medium of message delivery is a key component in the understanding and perception of what you are trying to say. It is beneficial to reconsider the medium of sensitive issues to avoid the LeBron James debacle. This is shaping up to be quite the love story. 

- Russ D. 

Analyst relations and how to leverage them in your PR efforts

In the world of communications there is often an important part of the mix either overlooked or sometimes just forgotten - analyst relations. No matter your role within the marketing landscape, engaging with or staying close to industry analysts will help you fine tune your product or service offering, hear what is expected by your customers from vendors within your market and what is needed as your customers and prospects look to tomorrow and their next wave of growth.

We have heard a lot about “disruption” within the B2B world. But sometimes we get lost in that word and think of something completely new, when in reality organizations today are looking for a new approach to solving every day problems within their business. That is one area where the analyst community can help organizations approach their business a bit differently and rise to the top in crowded marketplaces. Digital disruption is all around us, and there are a number of older technologies that are solving new problems today. I’d be willing to bet a good amount of them stem from conversations about what’s next with the analyst community.

How do you leverage the analyst community? Analysts are looking at markets as a whole and trends within them. The organizations that work with analysts the best are the ones that open up and listen. You need to understand that it is their job to provide their thoughts on what they are seeing not only from you and your competitors (and no, they don’t provide specific info on different organizations between vendors) but from people looking to purchase a product or service within a certain market. You need to have thick skin and enter into it with an open mind because sometimes you aren’t going to get the glowing feedback you are expecting. Instead, be completely open and provide them with your own SWOT on where you see your organization and take their feedback. When analysts see you put their advice or guidance into action, that goes a long way.

Who should own this responsibility? It should fall under your external communications, PR or marcomm team. You want to be able to enter into an AR program with insights and views from market influencers, key media and customers. The feedback your AR team garners from their work will benefit your media relations efforts, content engine and marketing programs calendar.

Are you leveraging an analyst relations program in your overall public relations and marketing communications programs? If so, are you leveraging any of these key insights in your external communications efforts? If not, why? Be interested in your thoughts.

- Jay O. 

What can marketers learn from the US Men’s National Soccer Team Performance at World Cup?

Tomorrow between the hours of 12-2 pm ET, many American workers will take a prolonged lunch break and business productivity will be at a crawl at best. You can say that this is for a good reason, as the United States men’s national soccer team has a chance to advance in this year’s World Cup with a win or draw versus Germany. As you may know, there wasn’t much expected of the team this year and its head coach even said they were unlikely to win the World Cup. Unless you have absolutely no interest in sports, you will probably glance over and check out the office TV or check the score online or on your phone during the match –this is more about national pride than athletic superiority or winning and losing a game. And let’s be honest, should the USMNT advance tomorrow, nothing is won – but the story lives on and that is where the opportunity presents itself.

Like the Olympics, the World Cup comes around every four years; during that time, soccer fans are able to show off their sport to the world, and your local neighbors turn into lifelong soccer fans singing for 90 minutes and joining the American Outlaws. They are able to cheer on their beloved sport all while hearing that soccer in the United States is here to stay and that the world’s most popular sport will finally make a dent in the States. But then that buzz goes away. Don’t get me wrong, the attention and respect given to the sport during this time is well deserved, but what gets me as a marketer and communicator is the lack of follow through and programs that should be planned in advance to continue the momentum being gained in Brazil. How are local, regional and national soccer organizations capitalizing on this buzz? What should they be doing and what can other businesses learn from this rise of attention? How does it translate to the world of marketing and public relations?

For marketers of all sized companies, you view a big event or product launch as a milestone in your annual marketing calendar, and plan accordingly. Buildup to the event includes generating momentum to ensure you will not have a one-and-done moment of success. In today’s business world, the brands that are able to ride the wave of momentum throughout the course of a quarter or even throughout the year are the ones that see ultimate success.

In the world of B2B marketing communications and public relations, we’re about three months out from our busy season – when most organizations unveil their big product launch of the year, host their customer events or make their big news splash. We’re preparing a number of earned, owned and shared media strategies to generate opportunities to ride the event’s momentum into the next phase of our programs.

Personally, I am a fan of competition (not necessarily soccer), so I’m watching the World Cup and am rooting for the U.S. because this is a chance for the sport to grab a hold of an opportunity and run with it. Will they? Time will tell, but one thing is for sure: the opportunity is here for soccer, and there is a nation of soccer crazies setting up public viewing parties to cheer them on, so I sure hope they take advantage of the World Cup and the time fans are dedicating to the sport and sustain the soccer momentum long after the World Cup wraps.

- Jay O. 

What does tech have to do with the World Cup? More than you’d think

As everyone knows by now, it’s the World Cup (!!!!) – the one month stretch of nationalism, chaos and drama that culminates with a team being crowned the world’s best. It is the most widely watched sporting event in the world and it’s GREAT. 

That being said, the World Cup comes with a unique set of challenges. Aside from causing a nosedive in global productivity (but not at Text100, of course!), the World Cup puts a significant bandwidth strain on technology. Twitter can tell you – during the 2010 World Cup, Twitter experienced multiple outages, leading GigaOm to speculate (I assume correctly) that the World Cup was literally bringing down Twitter. Soccer isn’t nicknamed “the world’s game” for nothing, and Twitter was overwhelmed by populations of entire countries simultaneously tweeting up a flurry celebrating goals, questioning the referees, and whatnot.

Twitter wasn’t going to be tricked twice – it drastically bolstered its operations in preparation of the World Cup this time around. Twitter expanded its servers and created redundant servers to act as “shock absorbers”, kicking in and handling additional web traffic when the primary servers are overwhelmed. (You can read more on Twitter’s backend operations at Fast Company.)

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I am one of those people. The spastic reactionary tweets during games, the excessive use of #hashflags, and the whole shebang. I’m also one of those people who doesn’t get ESPN at home, so when I need access to ESPN, I rely on its streaming service, WatchESPN, to catch games. ESPN came out with viewership numbers for the U.S. World Cup opener game against nemesis Ghana – 2.7 million devices streamed 191 million minutes. Not bad, WatchESPN, not bad.

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We are now in week two of the World Cup and it seems Twitter and ESPN were fully prepared to handle the World Cup – instead of fail whales, I’m seeing hashflags and some pretty amazing soccer matches instead. Which is exactly how it should be.

- Steph L.

Happy the Horror Meal: How Brand Participation Can Ensure Customers are Laughing with You, Not at You

On May 19 McDonald’s introduced its new mascot “Happy.” Happy, in theory, represents the Happy Meal and all the fun and goodness that comes with it. Unfortunately for McDonald’s, Happy’s design opened a whole new can (or box) of worms. Happy’s overly enthusiastic smile, human teeth and eager eyes apparently represented the innermost fears of the Twitter community. In no time, there was a mass reaction, including images of Happy photo shopped as a horror movie villain. 

The reaction was so sensational an online marketplace called DesignCrowd created a contest asking participants to Photoshop Happy into horror movie posters. There were 58 entries, and the winner the winner walked away with a $200 prize.

Although one could focus on the fact that the McDonald’s creative team took a wrong turn with that Happy Meal box design, what’s more important is the connection between consumers and brands.

Whether or not McDonald’s will address the fact its newest mascot could really scare some young children, it has to acknowledge the massive response from the online community. Years ago the conversation might have been the same, with critics and running jokes about how terrifying Happy is. Today, the empowered consumer takes this a step further and pokes fun at the company, and online businesses seize the opportunity to gain some traffic and consumer interaction of their own. That is what is so exciting about the consumer-brand relationship today. 

Cartoon in NY Daily News.

Earlier in April, Nature Valley had a similar encounter with the online anime community, narrated by Buzzfeed. A teen tweeted a joke about buying Nature Valley granola bars and discussing anime with its nonexistent friends. The Nature Valley account responded by assuring the teen they knew a couple of real anime enthusiasts in the Twitter world and connected them. This is when the anime fans in Twitter caught wind of that and decided to advance the joke. They started asking Nature Valley anime-related questions, and the account started answering. By the end of April, the communication between the granola bar company and anime fans led to the Nature Valley Anime Art Fest. Yes, you read that right. The Nature Valley Anime Art Fest is a real thing. Teens photo shopped granola bars into anime scenes and gifs and Nature Valley started retweeting them. Granola met anime, and the Twitterverse was ecstatic. Some sample tweets, shown below, demonstrate how consumers not only poked fun at a brand, but created content for the company on their own.

McDonald’s hasn’t yet commented on Happy’s potential rise to horror movie stardom, but it should take a look at Nature Valley’s mastery of taking a joke and building strong relationships with consumers as a result. 

- Andrea E.

A Serial Entrepreneur’s View on the Evolving Tech Landscape

Text100 Boston sat down recently with startup veteran and serial entrepreneur Raju Rishi to discuss trends in the technology industry and how companies can stand out in today’s crowded marketplace. Raju shared some valuable insights on everything from content to data analytics that are valuable for both startups and marketers alike. Below are the highlights from our conversation.

The Importance of Analytics

Today’s technology world is all about analytics. Things that were once considered an art (like marketing) are now being approached as science. Marketing tactics and results are more measurable than ever, and analytics capabilities will only improve over time.

So what does this mean for tech companies and marketers? You need to become an expert in analytics. Tech companies that don’t incorporate analytics functionality into their offers will lose out on customers. Marketers that don’t learn how to speak or use analytics so that they can communicate results and direction to the C-suite will fall behind.

Content is King – But It’s Both Quality And Quantity

We all know the phrase “content is king.” It’s partly because the world is increasingly shifting to a pre-buying model where consumers gather most of the information* they need to make a purchasing decision before ever speaking with a sales rep. This means companies need to produce high quality marketing communications to engage and influence customers across various channels – web, social, mobile, etc. Companies today face the challenge of creating compelling, unique, interesting content with regularity. It’s about quality and quantity.

The good news is that there is a host of content services out there to address both quality and quantity challenges. Contently can help organizations (and PR agencies) create content that tells great stories to positively impact their brand by leveraging a network of freelance journalists. On the other end of the quality/quantity spectrum sits Ceros, a marketing service that allows organizations to quickly and affordably create digital content without developers so they can keep up with hungry readers, viewers, etc. The most successful organizations will make content marketing a priority.

 (*We here at Text100 recently surveyed 1,900 B2B IT decision makers on the purchasing process. Our study revealed just how many places there are for prospects to gather their information and make the right decision for their business. Check it out here.)

Don’t Forget To Create Content for Multiple Platforms

Raju shared a really interesting narrative on how humans interact with content on various technology platforms. When you’re watching TV, you tend to lean back. You’re passively being entertained and don’t interact with the content. When you’re on your computer, you tend to lean forward and are heavily engaged with what’s on your screen. Mobile technologies (smartphones and tablets) produce a response that’s somewhere in between.

When companies design content, they need to address each platform uniquely to solicit the best response and engagement. You can’t just repurpose web content for a mobile device with no changes. It doesn’t work that way. Furthermore, with the proliferation of mobile devices, companies need to make sure they’re creating experiences that will come across positively on mobile platforms. In many cases, this means designing for mobile as the primary platform with web becoming a secondary mechanism for interacting with a brand.

Should Your Early Stage Startup Partner with a Big Tech Company?

While this may seem like a great opportunity, the short answer is no. A lot of the big technology companies have venture capital arms and want to partner with promising startups, but startups should be cautious to enter into this type of arrangement early on in their business. Why? They simply don’t know how big their company will grow and what path it will take. Plus, an early partnership can alienate other companies that might be valuable partners down the road. Early stage startups are better off working with neutral parties and should only consider working with the tech giants once they’ve reached series C or D funding rounds.

What Makes a Valuable PR Agency Partner?

The best PR agency will offer a marriage of strategic insights and boots on the ground support, with the real value created at the strategic level. At the end of the day, technology companies are looking for ideas. Agencies should always strive to offer their best ideas, no matter how crazy they may seem. It’s important for agencies to stay on the pulse of their clients’ markets and understand the competition to stay one step ahead of consumers and win.  

Raju is currently a partner at Sigma Prime Ventures, a Boston-based venture capital firm that specializes in identifying early stage technology companies that have the vision and drive to change the world.

What else do you think technology companies should consider if they want to stand out and make their mark?

- Caroline P. 

Wait, March Madness is going on now?

Just kidding. As everyone knows based on the chatter around their offices, March Madness is happening. Office pools are getting competitive, and people are looking for score updates to see which teams will destroy their brackets or take them to a win for some serious bragging rights. Take a look around your office– do you see a lot of productivity going on? Or, are everyone’s brackets too distracting? In a recent survey from one of our clients, Staples Advantage, March Madness was (not surprisingly) identified as a productivity killer by office workers and managers alike.

That’s not the only thing causing a distraction in the office right now. Spring is finally showing signs of its existence with a sunny 50+ degree day, which is yet another reason employees aren’t paying attention to their work. After the weather we’ve been having for the past few months in Boston, who can blame us for getting a little distracted?

What’s interesting is that the survey also revealed that employees and employers alike believe they are more productive today than five years ago, so there is hope. New technology and workplace trends allow us to be more productive anytime, anywhere. 

So, what can help keep productivity levels high during March Madness and Spring weather? Start by equipping your office with the right technology (including mobile technology to allow for telecommuting), ergonomic furniture, and a well-stocked break room. All of these factors help boost productivity throughout the day, as they not only allow workers to comfortably work where they want, when they want, but also encourage them to step away from their desks and refocus. If you’re looking to go outside and feel what it’s like to not be bundled up in a winter coat, take a walk and get away from your computer. In the end, you’ll come back to work recharged and ready to take on new tasks.

There are ways to be productive, even when the NCAA tournament and Spring weather are involved. It’s just a matter of making sure your office is properly equipped to encourage productivity. 

- Ilena R. 

Snapchat: 10 Seconds of Fame, or the Next Big Marketing Platform?

Within the last few years a countless number of social platforms have been released that allow users to communicate with each other in new and innovative ways. Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter were originally created for user-to-user communication, but are now used as marketing tools by prominent businesses.

Businesses use social platforms to reach a broader audience, more consistently and often at a lower cost. As a result, we can expect to see businesses continue to use these platforms to market their products in the future.    

Facebook and Twitter have long been the leaders in social media marketing. But it may come as a surprise to some that Snapchat is making a strong push to be the next big thing in social media marketing. When people think of Snapchat, they typically think of goofy photos of themselves or their friends that disappear after just 10 seconds. Well now Snapchat is adding new features that allow it to be used as a more effective marketing tool.

In early October of 2013, Snapchat released an update allowing for “stories” to be created. Snapchat “stories” compile users’ snaps together to create a narrative of their experiences. These narratives last for 24 hours before they are deleted, just like regular snaps.  This update could prove beneficial for businesses that are attempting to use Snapchat as a potential tool for marketing. 

One company leading the way and integrating Snapchat into their marketing plan is 16 Handles, a self-serve yogurt chain.  One promotion from 16 Handles allowed you to receive store credit if you snapped them a picture of you eating their product.  Once the picture was sent, you would then receive an automated snap back from the 16 Handles account. To take advantage of the promotion, you would open the snap the next time you were at the store and receive a coupon   (see below) with anywhere from 16% to 100% off of that order. This is a great example of how a social app can be effective for marketing.

Other companies that have started using Snapchat are Taco Bell, Audi, Acura, Karmaloop and Grubhub. It will be exciting to see how these companies come up with different ways to use Snapchat to promote their brands. 

Since the release of Snapchat in 2011, it has become one of the most popular apps downloadable for smart phones and tablets. Snapchat is popular mainly because of how simple and fast it is to use.  Messages can be created and consumed in just the matter of seconds, which is probably why it is so addicting to many of us.  A staggering 350 million images are sent per day! With numbers like that, it should come as no surprise that companies are looking into ways to take advantage.   Who would have thought that Snapchat could turn 10 seconds into a long-term marketing platform? I for one did not, but I am looking forward to seeing where this new social tool can go. 

- Ryan M. 

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