Blog moving to www.blog.jamesmignano.com

Friends,

I’ve been blogging here on Millennial’s Marketing for a number of years. It’s changed and grown with me over time, and it’s been a big part of my professional development.

I won’t be posting any new content here, though, from now on. Instead, I’ll be writing at Jamesmignano.com.

I urge you to head to Jamesmignano.com and sign up to receive email updates each time I focus or save the URL to your reading list. I will be posting essentially the same kind of things that you’ve been used to reading here on Millennial’s Marketing!

Thanks!

James

PR Struggle: Internships and Diversity

According to a recent report, PR professionals are among the worst offenders for exploiting interns. In our field, it is not uncommon for unpaid interns to perform job functions that could be performed by paid staff, meaning that they could be entitled to at least minimum wage.

Interns Wanted

For organizations offering unpaid internships, this functions as a double-edged sword: yes, short-term bottom lines benefit by the assistance that interns can provide for free, but the organizations could also be limiting the pool of talent to only include those able to work without financial compensation, potentially cutting out many qualified and talented individuals – after all, most students have college loans and monthly utility bills to worry about.

The catch-22 of the situation, of course, is that it’s hard to imagine a college graduate trying to break into the highly competitive field of Public Relations without completing a minimum of one or two internships. Soon to be enter the job market myself, I am all too familiar with the expectations and pressure that go along with being in this line of work. It isn’t uncommon to hear that a PR student’s GPA is not as significant as his or her experience, or that a decent portfolio is mandatory when walking into an interview.

The effects of this dynamic can be dangerous to the field as a whole. In fact, just this evening, a major question raised at the Rochester PRSA event was why the industry wasn’t becoming more diverse at a pace similar to that of society as a whole. According to David Grome, there were “several comments about the event’s location (Brooks Landing) being “difficult to find” or “near some sketchy areas,” which might be part of the challenge to unite people behind the issue of diversity. We tend not to go, literally and figuratively, where we’re not familiar.”

Is it too far a stretch to correlate the low amount of diversity in PR to the frequently unpaid internships that are all but a necessity to those trying to join the field?

Though I think there is definitely merit to that question and that it deserves to be discussed, I don’t necessarily think that all internships should be paid.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have completed five internships during my undergraduate career. Of them, two have been unpaid and three have been paid – giving me a unique perspective on this issue.

I learned an insane amount during one of my unpaid internships and built a relationship with one of the best PR professionals in the area – someone I am still lucky enough to consider a mentor today. Looking back, the experience proved to be worth every dollar of financial sacrifice that was associated with it. To those who would argue that they can’t afford to work for free despite the potential value in the experience, I would challenge them to reconsider.

The fact of the matter is that most unpaid internships are part-time (mine was only about 12 hours per week) and during normal business office hours, meaning that there is still plenty of time to have a part-time, paid job during nights and weekends. Not only that, but I also know that it is very possible to excel academically during a semester including both paid jobs and unpaid internships.

Unpaid internships are not limited to financially stable individuals. They are limited to individuals with professional priorities and excellent time-management skills.

I wonder what Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson would think.

The Internship

Jello hijacks #FML: Fun My Life!

Jello LogoYesterday, a friend of mine filled me in on a social media promotion being run by Jello (thanks, Sarah!). Before I say too much, I have to preface this post by revealing that I grew up and went to high school in Leroy, NY – birthplace of Jello. I remember taking school field trips to the Jello Museum throughout grade school, the local McDonald’s features historic images of Jello production on the walls and the Jello factory still stands in town.

While I’ll probably always look at Jello as practically pre-historic, the company is showing that it’s still relevant in the Internet Era and becoming very active on social media. Currently, Jello is attempting to hijack the commonly used acronym FML. Most recognize this as “f*ck my life,” but Jello is turning a frown upside down, using the phrase to express “Fun My Life” instead.

My initial reaction to hearing about this was one of extreme skepticism. FML is an incredibly recognized phrase used both online and offline. Not only did I think that re-defining the acronym would be near impossible, I was also concerned because of its vulgar nature. Why would Jello want to associate itself with that? In short, I expected this to completely backfire in a similar fashion to McDonald’s infamous faux pas, #McDStories. 

My skepticism began turning around once I learned that Jello was very actively responding to FML tweets. The truth of the matter is that when people are frustrated and say “f*ck my life,” they really are in need of a pick-me-up of some kind – and that’s exactly what Jello is aiming to provide.

But I still wasn’t convinced that this would be a good promotion for Jello. I didn’t really see where the connection to their product was. Sure, they’re trying to connect Jello with happiness and fun times, but would anyone else make that association?

To my surprise, the answer is yes. People who have tweets replied to by Jello have no choice but to make the connection because of the illustration images that are being sent along with the reply. Check these out:

Jello-3

Jello-4

Jello-2

Jello-1

It took me a minute to realize it at first, but each illustration includes a pack of Jello! They’re even subtly branded with the Jello logo on the right side of the packaging.

After taking a look at some of these, I think Jello turned me around. I think this campaign totally rocks. The images are:

  • easily share-able to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest;
  • social and engaging;
  • able to legitimately associate Jello with fun;
  • able to give a much better, more positive meaning to #FML.

What do you think – Can Jello pull this off?

King Arthur Flour Utilizes Digital Gatekeepers for SEO

I’m going to reveal a bit about myself to all of you today: I am not very good at cooking. Or even baking, for that matter. I think it takes too long, there is too much room for error, and requires too much clean-up for my tastes. I tend to blame all of this on my Italian roots and my mother who, as my childhood friends will remember, loved making food at all times during the day.

King Arthur FlourNevertheless, I recently learned about King Arthur Flour. That’s weird, I know, since the preparation of frozen pizza and macaroni and cheese does not require flour. So I’ll admit, I haven’t actually purchased any products from the Norwich, Vermont based company. Nor do I intend to, to be honest. I heard about the company as a result of its annual Blog & Bake program, and it inspired me to write this post on the topic of gatekeepers, and how important they are in the field of public relations.

We work at great companies who make great products and do great things. It’s simply our job to make sure as many great people are aware of them as possible. But it’s hard to tell that many people, so we go about it in different ways. That’s where traditional media relations came in: we tell a few well-respected journalists at widely-read publications about our greatness, and he or she passes the information along to a lot of other people.

Journalists are many things – like employees, writers and story-tellers. Most importantly, though – they’re gatekeepers. They act as a filter, separating the bad from the good and the great. Each one represents a much larger population – if we can just tell the right journalist about how great we are, he can tell everyone else!

In the digital age, though, the landscape is changing as fewer individuals read print newspapers and magazines, and essentially anyone with an Internet connection has the ability to produce and share content on a personal blog like the one you’re all reading right now. Especially in less mainstream niches, like baking, different people are the truly influential ones.

King Arthur Flour fully utilizes gatekeepers through its Blog & Bake program. Each year, a dozen of the most influential baking-bloggers are invited for an all-expenses paid weekend in Vermont, learning new baking techniques and baking new foods. The coverage rate after the event is incredibly high, with at least 11 of 12 writers in 2013 writing at least one post on their blogs this year.

This kind of coverage of an event has a number of effects:

  • Basic communication of King Arthur Flour’s great product to a huge but very targeted population.
  • Individuals who read baking blogs are, obviously, passionate about baking and look up to the writers of the blogs as role models. If their baking-heroes are using King Arthur Flour, why wouldn’t they follow suit?
  • Each blog post is loaded with a ton of high-resolution images from the weekend-long event. King Arthur Flour is seen as a tourist attraction among those that care about baking, and this kind of coverage can persuade people to visit the Vermont campus in addition to simply buying the flour.
  • Last but not least – this event has King Arthur Flour buzzing. It’s referenced countless times in each blog post. It’s linked to in each blog post. It’s even in the majority of the posts’ titles! Can we recognize the search-engine-optimization results that this event is responsible for?

I know it’s hard to quantify and attribute SEO results to any individual act of promotion, but you would have to think Blog & Bake has helped King Arthur Flour rise to the top of Google. Currently, Googling “blog bake” yields King Arthur Flour’s blog on page one. Furthermore, Googling “flour bake” yields King Arthur Flour as the top two results.

King Arthur Flour - Google Search

As less people receive solutions to their problems by reading newspapers and Google plays a more prevalent role, SEO becomes significantly more important and that changes who the gatekeepers are.

On the off chance that I one day decide to begin baking (and care about my cakes & cookies enough to buy premium flour), can anyone guess where I’ll be ordering from?

Criteria for Successful Leaders

www.linkedin.com/in/joannlinder

I spent most of the last year as an intern with Carestream Health, and those close to me know exactly how positive of an experience I had there. From the beginning to the end of my time in Worldwide Marketing Communications, I was a fully integrated member of the team and was able to learn from some of the best in the business. My manager at Carestream, JoAnn Linder, was one that I enjoyed working for very much, and I think she is an excellent leader of individuals.

One fear that many interns have when joining an organization is that they will serve the stereotypical internship experience retrieving coffee and organizing the office space. Fortunately for me, JoAnn operates under the mantra that people should take on as many projects and experiences as they are comfortable with and ask for.

In other words, her rope extends as far as one can take it.

This mindset allowed me to become involved in a wide variety of work at Carestream, meet as many individuals as possible and learn about everything from corporate communications to social media to Salesforce.com.

Part of getting so much experience at a relatively high level, as an intern, is the possibility of failure from time to time. That was never an issue for JoAnn, though. In fact, letting people fail is something that JoAnn embraces.

Once, for example, putting a new graphical design on Carestream’s iPad app led to an issue where users could not access content properly. While it was stressful and I was worried that it would lead to negativity, I found that I was energized and simply worked as hard as I could to find a solution. JoAnn was, of course, calm and did whatever she could to help.

JoAnn believes that the way individuals recover from issues is much more significant than the issue itself. 

Another thing that I enjoyed while at Carestream was an environment of continuous education, both internally and externally. JoAnn takes professional development very seriously and took advantage of every opportunity to allow team members to grow. Attendance to community events and involvement in professional organizations outside of the office were always encouraged.

Internally, on the other hand, team members frequently shared relevant articles to help others understand their responsibilities within the organization. Training sessions were also held regularly for other employees on topics like effective blog writing and web analytics. Throughout my time with the company, a number of “Lunch & Learn” sessions were held, and I even authored a number of “Tips & Tricks” documents to help the team’s adoption rate of iPads.

At Carestream, sharing expertise is simply one component of having expertise.

I learned a lot at Carestream. But the most important lesson to learn was one that took the better part of a year to fully understand:

Empowerment + Failure + Development = Success.

Student Engagement: Lessons From David Meerman Scott

Foreword: I’m a “Junior – and – a – half” (graduating in December) at The College at Brockport, State University of New York. I’m often discouraged and even amazed at the levels of student engagement and excitement among not only students at my school, but all colleges. I hope the following post does not offend anyone, as it is somewhat strongly worded. The topic is simply one that I am very passionate about.

As a college student, I recognized that myself and my classmates are a part of something bigger. We are not always going to be students and we will not always be entry-level professionals. Rather, we are the future. We are the next generation – one that will be responsible for continuing growth and development of our community, our country and our world.

That is a scary thought to me because I know what the typical college student looks like and what their abilities are.

I’m not talking about grades. College courses are difficult and it’s perfectly fine to not be a 4.0 student. What concerns me, though, is the level of student engagement that I see across college campuses.

Student Engagement

I love college because I literally view my campus as my playground. There are opportunities for me everywhere. Between the clubs (Brockport PR Club) and honor societies (Lambda Pi Eta) that I am a member of, room for independent studies, and the support from faculty and administration to find internships with organizations in the area I am able to design and craft my own undergraduate education specifically tailored to my interests and skill set. Nobody will ever go to school and have the same education as I have had – how cool is that?

College is my playground because I can join clubs and decide what I really want to do. Then, I can make it happen with my peers. Faculty doesn’t have the ideas, nor do professors guide me through the process. In short – I really can do anything I put my mind to.

But college isn’t a day-care program. Nobody has ever offered me the opportunities I have had. Instead, the responsibility to have an outstanding college experience is on each and every individual. And quite frankly, not enough people take that responsibility seriously enough.

If you’re a student, what do you say when someone asks you, “what are you doing at school this semester?” If your first instinct is to tell them what courses you are taking, you’re doing college wrong. No, really, trust me – you were mis-informed somewhere along the way. Classes are important, sure, but aren’t you bored? I’m willing to bet your grades aren’t spectacular, either… because you aren’t engaged.

How many students are studying the same thing as you at your school? Or even in this country? What makes you any better than the rest of them? It certainly is not the .1 difference in GPA that you boast on your resume that will get you hired after graduation. Instead of looking at your campus like a classroom, look at it like a playground. What are you doing that sets you apart? What are you doing that you truly enjoy that will be the difference between you and everyone else? Ask yourself each and every day, “why would someone hire me?”

Until yesterday, I was afraid to graduate from college because I thought I would miss having the ability to look at my life like a playground and having the ability to really experience and do all of the things that I wanted.

David Meerman Scott, Author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR

Then, I met David Meerman Scott.

If I look at my college campus as my playground, this guy looks at the globe as his. Just like calling me a student doesn’t capture everything that I do at school, calling Scott an author doesn’t capture everything that he does in his career. He’s an author, sure. But he is also an internationally recognized speaker (soon to have spoken on all 7 continents), a blogger, a marketing strategist, and even an actor among other things.

David Meerman Scott is in the position to pick and choose the experiences that he has and the people that he works with each and every day, just like I can. The difference is that he does it on a world-wide scale.

Everyone needs to ask themselves where they want to go in their lives. If you think about your destination in this world as a cubicle on the third floor of an office down the street, working for a company you don’t love, performing a task that essentially anyone could do – please continue skipping half of your classes, getting mediocre grades, and not doing anything that sets you apart from anyone else.

But – if you have ambition and aspiration, if you want to look at the country or the world as your personal playground – the time to start that journey is right now. Join clubs, plan events, meet professionals, learn new things, start a blog, read books, teach others, and never stop.

Playground

If it sounds like more fun than work to you, then you have found your playground.

 

 

 

Creating Viral Campaigns With Twibbon

REDCrossheader-copy

 

On behalf of the American Red Cross, I’ve been using Twibbon for the first time to rally support for a series of blood drives that will (hopefully) set new records and cumulatively collect over 1003 units of blood – one more than Theo, from Buffalo, NY, needed to save his life in March of 2011.

If you haven’t used (or heard of) Twibbon before, it’s a social platform that allows individuals to show their support for specific organizations, causes and points of view.

Twibbon

For example, check out this Twibbon for Special Needs, or this one for the Boston Red Sox.

There are a number of features that Twibbon offers that we in the world of digital marketing need to know about:

  • The actual “Twibbon” is a mark that is laid on top of supporter’s profile pictures on Facebook and/or Twitter.
  • Give users multiple Facebook Cover Photos to choose from for their own profiles.
  • Direct visitors to your campaign page to any website you want – use this link space to boost attendance, donations or sales.
  • Create copy for Tweets and Facebook posts for individuals to publish on their profiles when they support your campaign.

I think my favorite part of using Twibbon was the design support we received by upgrading to a Pro account. For a one-time fee of $99, the Twibbon team provided our Campaign Header, Twibbon image, and Facebook Cover Photos – and they did so surprisingly quickly.

This tool is under-utilized and there’s a lot of room for organizations to leverage it to create viral campaigns that result in brand visibility and consumer action. Think about some of these possible uses of Twibbon:

  • Colleges could invite incoming freshman to use Twibbon during orientation to be able to quickly recognize each other as part of the same class.
  • Professional organizations, like the PRSA or AMA could invite members to use their Twibbon to display their loyalty to the group and encourage others to join.
  • An organization with a strong brand, like Starbucks, could use Twibbon to let their brand ambassadors show off their love for Starbucks coffee!

How do you think Twibbon could help your organization?

Discussing the Butler/Till Family with Tracy Till and Laurin Fox

On Monday, I was fortunate enough to visit Butler/Till – a four-time top 50 fastest growing women-owned business. I was able to learn a lot about the agency and really get a feel for how it operates on a daily basis. Co-CEO Tracy Till was generous enough to extend the opportunity to me, and even gave me some time to blast her with questions that I anticipated being more difficult for her to answer.

Butler Till

I met Tracy after her participation in the PRSA’s YPRP Mentorship event. This is an important detail because it shows how open she is to giving back to the community – something that we will discuss in more depth shortly. Speaking at that event was not a rarity for her. She is very visible and active in the Rochester area, and I think that sets a tone for the rest of the agency’s employees about attitudes and values.

I hope you can gain some insight into Tracy Till and her company through the interview that I conducted with her and Laurin Fox, Account Executive.

What kind of atmosphere do you strive to portray at Butler/Till?

Tracy TillTracy: I wanted it to be a family atmosphere; a place where people could feel comfortable, protected, inspired, and participatory. Your culture is your brand, and ours is our family. It’s about being incredible, striving, and doing. It’s collaborative and it’s human. 

To me, I want people to walk in to our office and see us for who we are. At the same time, I want us to walk into other people’s offices and still see us for who we are. We are what you get, and that culture is very alive.

Tracy admits to not being very “corporate.” Whereas her partner, Sue Butler, is very detail and process oriented, she is more creative. They make a great duo, because they can balance each other out and provide the best of both types of leadership.

Rank the following in terms of their priority, in your opinion:

Clients, employees, Butler/Till, and the Rochester community

I think that you should treat your employees just as well as your customers, so I think they share a similar platform. Butler/Till would be third, and Rochester community is fourth.

My product is my employees and their skills. From a customer’s perspective, if I don’t have the right talent and I don’t train my employees, they can’t deliver what they need to. I need to be able to service customers who have unique needs. So caring for my employees directly influences the satisfaction of clients. We wouldn’t maintain our clients if we didn’t have great employees.

If employees and clients are treated well and they are in love with Butler/Till, it becomes clear that the agency and the community simply fall into place. The agency thrives, which in turn allows it to continue supporting the community. I was previously unaware that Butler/Till chooses one charity or local non-profit organization each month. A series of fundraisers throughout the month contributes to a donation to that charity.

The best part, in my opinion, is that the organizations are chosen by the employees of the agency. It gives individuals the chance to propose something that they are passionate about, and it’s fantastic that co-workers can provide support and get behind the cause.

Can you speak about the different ways that employees are able to grow and develop professionally at Butler/Till?

Laurin: One of the great things when I was starting out was that it was completely dependent on what I was interested. Everyone helped me learn about the things that I wanted to learn about. For me, it was being involved in digital media. As I grew, it became more about media buying and eventually account service. I’ve been able to do it all while I have been here. The agency has allowed me to grow the way that I wanted to grow.

Butler/Till University is set up similarly to a college curriculum in that you can take whatever courses you choose. Whatever you want to learn, there is someone here that is able to lead that class.

I want people to feel like they have an opportunity here. So growing and expanding their minds keeps employees invested and interested. Diversity of accounts and roles is what prevents us from getting stagnant.

Why should a young professional choose Butler/Till as their “dream job” instead of another agency?

First and foremost, our culture. Second, it’s the opportunities provided here from an account perspective and from an education perspective.

In large agencies, people can really learn the fundamentals of marketing. In smaller agencies, people can learn how to be nimble and be involved in the entire process. Butler/Till essentially combines those, and we can offer the best of both worlds.

Culture for me was really important. Everyone always said that Butler/Till was like a family, and why wouldn’t you want to be a part of a family? This is where we spend so much of our time, so it’s great when it doesn’t even feel like work.

The other part was that I wanted to be able to touch different things. There’s the ability at Butler/Till to master something and then move on to something else and constantly continue your development.

What are the top three characteristics you look for in an interviewing process?

I can really see Sparkle. I do well with finding talent that is eager and interested.

The passion in young professionals is what is important, and that’s what I like to see come out in an interview. And then, of course, knowing our business and knowing what we do is an important part of it. You would be surprised about the lack of preparation that sometimes exists.

Inside Butler/Till, it’s clear that “being remarkable” is more than a phrase written on the all. It’s an agency filled with movers and shakers that strive to create a an environment that embodies success, growth, and family.

Does it sound like your dream job?

 

 

Constitutive Rhetoric to Recruit Faith

Palm SundayWhile enjoying a particularly meaningful church service on this Palm Sunday, I had a bright moment of clarity that presented itself to me in almost tangible form. I did not see God, though. On the contrary, my realization is one that the pastor who was speaking and my parents would be a bit less thrilled with (though my Rhetoric professors at school would be pretty happy with me).

Speaking in generalities – something that I’ll admit can’t be done by someone trying to actually convince someone else of any kind of factual truth – the churches that I have always attended use inclusion and exclusion in their dialogue. Religious messages are often based on assumption that essentially works to recruit individuals to join the faith.

Example: these are all actual quotes copied from this morning’s service, given by Pastor Tom Stroup at Brockport Free Methodist Church. In bold are the portions of the sentences that were left in the sermon notes as blank lines, intended for the audience to fill in.

  • “Sometimes I think God has forgotten about me BUT God never forgets me!”
  • “Even when it seems life is hopeless, hope is what I have in Christ!”
  • “Caiphas would Kill Jesus to save Israel from Rome, BUT Jesus died to save us from our own sinfulness.

It’s subtle, but do you see what they did, there?

Churches frequently use words like I, WE, and US to formulate an in-group and out-group. The in-group are those that believe in God, have hope in Christ, etc. The out-group, obviously, are those that do not. If you had attended church this morning at BFMC, you never had the chance to decide which of those groups you belonged to. They actually decided for you. Even more – you wrote the words on the blanks, participating in the process.

It’s a fallacy of assumption, and it works.

Let’s brainstorm a few individuals who could have been in the pews this morning.

  • A child too young to completely understand religion, too young to have made any of his or her own decisions in regard to what he or she believes in.
  • A recovering alcoholic who was urged to pick a church and find God by a friend of his that goes to his Alcoholics Anonymous classes.
  • An atheist who believes in seeing both sides of an issue and therefore attends different churches from time to time.

Would we consider any of those individuals to be part of the in-group? I would not.

This is the point in the blog post at which I need to give readers notice of two things:

  1. Though it may seem like I am writing in a tone of disapproval of this inclusive language and rhetorical technique, that is not true.
  2. This is a Marketing blog. Occasionally, I am inspired to write things that are more religious, political, or cultural in nature, and when I do I usually have them posted on Trova101 (Thanks, Mark Trova!). This one, though, is here on Millennial’s Marketing. That’s because there is some marketing insight quickly approaching.

Not to take any sanctity out of religion, but… by engaging in this practice, churches are only  tapping into widely used marketing techniques.

In the fields of persuasion, like advertising and public relations, marketers are selling something. It might be an ideology, a product, a service, a human-being, or a cause, but they are selling something just the same. When you tell someone something about them-self, it is only a matter of time until they begin to believe it and use it to construct their own identity. I believe that participation in the message itself only accelerates that process, which can be seen in this morning’s church example. The equivalent, in marketing rather than religion, are social media channels.

Don DraperDon Draper once famously said, “People want to be told what to do so badly that they will listen to anyone.” Is your church and religion as a whole led by an incredibly faithful individual, or an expert marketer?

Probably both.