Content Marketing and the PR Renaissance

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Remember PR? You know, public relations? Remember when companies paid for that stuff instead of just having an intern tweet it? It’s okay. We barely do, either. In our post-content marketing revolution world, PR seems like an ancient beast tiptoeing its way to extinction. Many industry insiders say, however, that could be changing. 

As a recent panel, BuzzFeed’s Jonathan Perlman optimistically stated, “I think PR is bound for a renaissance.” The panel also featured Matthew Browher of Ketchum and Digiday’s Josh Sternberg. Sternberg agreed that the explosion of content marketing hasn’t killed PR. Rather, it’s brought it back to life.

“At the end of the day, all people care about is good content. PR people have the skills to create that content. There’s going to be a big push in the PR agency world in the next 12-18 months toward this, especially as media agencies and ad agencies are getting squeezed,” Sternberg said.

Not only do PR firms have the writing skills, distribution is sort of what they do best. PR geniuses become that way because they have a talent for getting the right stories to right media channels. A great story becomes a forgettable one if no one knows about it.

“Content is king, but distribution is queen and she wears the pants. It’s not nearly enough to create a good piece of content. You have to understand how content spreads across the web,” Perlman concurred. 

Personally, we’ve seen the small business PR trend explode because of content marketing. Motivated business owners get a crash-course in PR when they’re stuck with great, original content and pushed to find new ways to distribute it. Thanks to social media, blogging and more online media options than ever before, folks are feeling empowered to take on the PR reigns for themselves.

Readers, do you agree? And are you a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to PR, or do you use an agency? Tell us in the comments section!

5 Things For July 19: Sharknado 2, Cheerios & PBS

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Not to pat ourselves on the back, but this week’s collection of online marketing news stories that you might have missed is totally rocking. Don’t believe us? Then by all means, read for yourself — and feel free to post your favorite stories of the week in the comments section, too!

1.) Cheering for Cheerios: The biggest non-troversy of 2013 might be the Cheerios ad which featured a mixed race family (and drew criticism from, well, morons). The comments got so out of control on YouTube that the video was removed by Cheerios. Cheerios fired back by essentially keeping the ad the way it was and defend its casting choices. Now a viral video featuring kids’ response to the commercial has single-handedly shut the whole controversy down with brilliant wisdom like “Some people just fall in love like that” and “Underneath it, you’re literally the same. You have organs and a heart.” Score? Kids: 1, Bigots: 0.

2.) Shanghai Surprises: TimeOut’s Shanghai edition actually wanted to have its cellphones stolen. The magazine placed cellphones all over the city and the lucky thief who swiped the phone got a first-class tour of Shanghai. From fancy dinners to crazy old jazz hotels, these lucky thieves scored more than just a lame phone, while TimeOut got to show off its legendary tour guide skills. 

3.) Bring on the Clam Kings: A reality show about a family who tans together? Another about Long Island gardeners? What’s this world coming to? Fortunately, those shows are spoofs. A series of very funny fake commercials for Clam Kings, Meet the Tanners and Long Island Landscapers are part of an online campaign cooked up a New York PBS station. These videos are done just right and almost convince you these horrible shows might exist. 

4.) Follower Frauds: Ever wonder how small companies wind up with hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers seemingly overnight? This interesting post by PCWorld has all the dirt on the folks who buy and sell Twitter popularity. A must-read for Twitter marking specialists. 

5.) Sharknado, Sharknado, Sharknado: This beyond awful, made-for-television movie, which aired on July 11, has us all still yammering about Sharknado. An instant camp classic (thanks in large part to social media), Sharknado will now have a sequel to be released in 2014 and SyFy channel is asking viewers to help name it via Twitter. Our faves so far? “The Wizard of Jaws,” “Sharkpocalypse” and, of course, “Sharknado 2: Sharkalanche.”

True Confessions: Can the Viral Video Confessional Work for Your Brand?

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In an era rich with fake body parts and CGI effects, who would have thought that the biggest trend to come along in online video creation would be the truth? That’s right — we, the YouTube watching public, can’t get enough of folks venting their problems, telling off their boyfriends, confronting celebrities and generally speaking their minds in confessional viral videos. The recipe for these videos is a simple one: Add one YouTube poster with a chip on his/her shoulder, place in front of a video camera, stir and enjoy. The simplicity is almost embarrassing, but clearly it’s effective and incredibly popular. So we wondered, would folks actually watch branded confessional videos or does having a company behind them sort of defeat the whole purpose?

The power of the confessional video hit a fever pitch a few weeks ago when the world discovered a little video affectionately known as “It’s too damn hot.” The video features a woman who is fed up with summer’s insufferable heat and is filled with one liners now popping up all over your friend’s Facebook feeds. This world-class rant was removed from YouTube due to language, but lives on in social media infamy. It isn’t hard to see why. We responded to the video because the woman said what many were thinking and because she was talking about something timely. Without using expletives involving the Devil’s nether regions, every brand can tap into this kind of frank and funny talk as long as it is timely and stays true to the brand’s general messaging. Confessional videos are also widely used to talk directly to a celebrity or organization like this viral hit from Jim Parsons of television’s The Big Bang Theory. Brands can use this style of confessional video to talk directly to consumers and followers about new products or exciting news happening at the company. 

Like all successful viral videos, confessional videos resonate because they feature content we relate to. Speaking the truth and speaking directly to viewers is an incredibly powerful way to deliver messages of all varieties. Popular confessional videos do share some commonality that is helpful for brands to remember. Keeping these videos under 3 minutes (1 minute and 30 seconds seems to be the real sweet spot) helps keeps viewers engaged. Also, while the confessional should be spontaneous and real, make sure you have a general plan of what you want to talk about before you sit down in front of the camera. Finally, remember that you can be real and honest without offending or blabbing on incoherently. Nothing turns viewers off faster than a brand that doesn’t know when to shut up.

5 Things for July 5: Kitty Video Awards, the Sugar Rush of Candy Crush and a Toast Like No Other

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It’s a long weekend for some lucky folks. And for the rest of us? Not so much. Either way, our five things you might have missed list will help you stay informed and entertained on the latest happenings from the world of content marketing

1. We Have No Lives: File this study under “D” for “Duh.” A new eMarketer report finds that Americans spend a whopping 23 hours a week emailing, texting and using social media. According to Mashable, the study found that “more than 75 percent of users checked email, texts, Facebook and Instagram at least one time a day.” The study found email to be the biggest time consumer, with respondents admitting they spend up to 8 hours a day checking and sending email. So by all means, if you’re considering email marketing, go for it. Go ahead. Yes, now. We’ll wait.

2. The Rest of Our Time is Spent Watching Cat Videos: Cat food and treat maker Friskies has taken the planet’s cat video obsession one step further and created an awards ceremony. Think of it as the Oscars of cat videos, The Friskies look to award viral videos that feature our furry friends. It’s a brilliant campaign that not only creates new viral content but traction for a brand cat lovers already know. 

3. Blogging the Demise: Usually, we see brands employing blog creation to get folks excited about their company. But this anonymous blogger is chronicling the failure of his startup company in a Tumblr entitled “My Startup Has 30 Days to Live.” The author’s name checking of Silicon Valley bigwigs coupled with the intimate details of a collapsing Internet company have blog readers and the media fascinated. 

4. Sweet Success: On the other end of the startup spectrum is Candy Crush, that crazy game everyone everywhere seems to be playing. This profile of the smash hit from ReadWrite.com is sure to inspire mobile game developers and amateur branding experts everywhere. 

5. That’s a Rap: We thought we’d close out our list this week with a video currently blowing up YouTube. Here’s that bridesmaid who shows off mad rapping skills in her toast to the bride and groom to the tune of Eminem’s “Without You.” Just because.

4 Great Viral Videos for the 4th

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Happy 4th of July! This holiday, we celebrate independence from bad online video creation and crappy video content marketing. No brand should have to put up with a lame video. After all, how do you think our founding fathers would feel if they knew the freedoms they fought for were being wasted on a horrible viral marketing campaign? So in the spirit of freedom and creativity, we’ve rounded up a foursome of fantastic videos to inspire you to make some viral fireworks of your own.

Google Chrome: The most genius thing about this series of ads for Google Chrome? The length! These ultra short and very clever videos feature “Chrome: For Your Cat,” “Chrome: For Finding Directions” and “Chrome: For Your Pizzeria,” among others. This incredibly popular series proves that concise and entertaining videos can also be viral smash hits.

Cumberland Farms: In the world of viral commercials, sometimes nothing beats the WTF factor. And this music video featuring David Hasselhoff singing about iced coffee for a chain of convenience stores has that in spades. While the Hoff’s vocal stylings might not be your cup of tea, you certainly won’t forget the spot anytime soon. 

Dove: Other times, a softer, less ridiculous touch is needed, and no company does that kind of thing better than Dove. “Camera Shy” is the latest video from the company’s campaign to bring issues of women’s self-esteem and beauty to the forefront. With a fun song and great camera work, the viewer has a good time while getting a deeper message.

Virgin Atlantic: Videos that show real-life branded installations or pranks are incredibly popular on YouTube, and this one for Virgin Atlantic airlines is no exception. Virgin transformed a New York park bench into a luxury experience like you’d find on-board Virgin’s planes. New Yorkers who sat on the bench were treated to fancy meals, champagne and service by flight attendants.

5 Things for June 28: Skittles Gets Interactive, Zimmer Gets Crazy and America Gets Married

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If it’s Friday, it must mean that it’s time for our weekly collection of online marketing news, social media wonders, branding blunders and awesome online video creation!

1.) Brands Salute Equality: Given the Supreme Court’s historic decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, it was only a matter of time until brands showed their support — in fact, most of them did so in a matter of hours. Google, Facebook and Apple each released social media and video campaigns in support of the ruling. 

2.) Chuck, Meet Hack: To celebrate the release of its new Google+ page, Converse invited ad agencies from around the globe to come up with viral video campaigns for a “creative hack” contest. The results are incredibly creative, fun to watch and inspiring. 

3.) I Guarantee it: In lieu of the Paula Deen debacle, you might have missed another big branding meltdown happening over at Men’s Warehouse. Not only was commercial spokesperson and executive chairman George Zimmer fired, he resigned from the board and then rattled off a series of juicy and angry letters. Zimmer’s zingers are already being heavily quoted on Twitter and, although fired, we don’t think we’ve seen the last of him yet.

4.) What the !@#$: Since Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” ads, 12-year-old boy humor has taken over online videos. And we admit, we like it. Like this one from cleaning product CLR which uses cleverly-placed bleeps where obscenities should be. 

5.) Skittle Smash: Rounding out our list is an excellent time killing video from Skittles. The spot features Tommy, a kid who smashes his grandmother’s unicorn figurine to find it filled with Skittles. But don’t worry. We get to smash, too. By clicking on other figurines in the video, viewers help Tommy smash more stuff — and crave more Skittles.