The School of Gaga – 5 PR lessons we can learn from Lady Gaga


Credit: Flickr User John Robert Charlton

Mouths agape, my sister and I watched as a man sporting a pair of meticulously crafted angel wings with a six-foot wingspan nearly knocked out a security guard with his left wing and was escorted out of the concert venue. At that moment we knew we had come to a special place.

For my 18-year-old sister, our first Lady Gaga concert last weekend was a thing of dreams, but for me it was a fascinating window into Gaga’s methodically constructed public relations and brand strategy. Love her or hate her, you have to admit that Gaga knows a thing or two about building and executing a hugely successful business.

If you need convincing, just check out last year’s FORBES Celebrity 100 power list where Gaga was named World’s Most Powerful Musician of 2013, or the TIME online poll where readers voted her Second Most Influential Icon of the Decade. Her rank may have fallen slightly this year, but her 41.6 million Twitter followers suggest that she’s not fading into oblivion anytime soon.

Start taking notes. Here are 5 PR…

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True Belief vs. Longstanding Convention

618_tech_apple_first_iphoneLast week, a colleague and I were working on a project for a client, when the topic of longstanding conventions came up. It was a small part of our nearly three-hour strategy session, but stood out to both of us as one of the most important parts of our work that day. The topic came up because we were pondering how a business can come to a new standard of operating, when so much of the models out there are based on longstanding, ingrained category conventions. The client in question was looking for a new and better way of doing things, not only for their own business, but for their industry as a whole.

It’s a large challenge to say the least, and one that we face every day. When we’re looking for a completely new model, one that better suits a client (or ourselves) than anything they have found to exist already in the world, how do we make sure we are striving to forge new ground rather than falling back on the things we already know?

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 9.57.29 AMWe’d do well…

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Choosing a Winner in a World Cup Brand Battlefield

infographicBy now everyone across the planet is aware of the thrilling World Cup festivities. With many eyes and conversations focused on the ball, another discussion is proliferating the marketing world about the competition taking place off the field, starring two athletic-apparel titans – Nike and Adidas.

Having historically sponsored FIFA since 1970, Adidas has theoretically owned a big piece of the World Cup until now. The company claims, “This is where we put our stake in the ground and prove our domination in the market.” But, despite this official title and category exclusivity to the World Cup rights, Adidas is seeing its competitor take a piece of its pie.

In only the last few years, companies have become decidedly daring, taking leaps to harness real-time events to promote their brands. Take some favorite instances like Oreo at the Super Bowl or Arby’s and the famous Pharrell Grammys hat. Out of these examples came skyrocketing share of voice numbers and awareness levels. And they cost nothing.

bloombergSo, is the $280 million that Adidas is going to spend until the end of its…

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Are You Recall Ready?

Food Recall

A quick scan of FDA’s Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts is enough to make you put down your lunch. While the majority of incidences tend to include undeclared ingredients, you do not need to look far to find multiple references to listeria, salmonella and E coli.

My colleague recently posted 5 Tips to prepare for a crisis, and while prevention is always the most important step you can take, how you handle a recall could make or break your brand. If not handled properly, you could at best experience a lack of consumer confidence and at worse face criminal prosecution from resulting deaths as families in the egg and cantaloupe industries recently discovered.

The FDA was granted authority for mandatory recalls under new rules in the Food Safety Modernization Act. However, this change was largely symbolic since the food industry traditionally honored voluntary recalls. This week the Center for Science in the Public Interest filed suit against USDA over their handling of salmonella in the meat supply. And as the GAO noted in 2012, communications of recalls does need to…

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5 Lessons in Brand Journalism from Ragan’s Content Summit

brand journalism

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In opening Ragan’s Content Summit last week at the Nascar Hall of Fame, Mark Ragan stated, “We need to stop begging the media, and become the media instead!” Powerful words, especially coming from a reporter turned publisher and CEO. But he hit the nail on the head; no longer are pitches and press releases enough. With media companies downsizing, there are now less people to cover more stories, making it even harder to get our messages heard… unless we write about them ourselves. Brand journalism provides us, as marketing and public relations professionals, the forum to give our audiences the information they want while bolstering our brands’ credibility and influence. Here are my top five brand journalism takeaways from the conference:

1. Tell a Story:

At the heart of brand journalism is storytelling. We must learn to think like journalists and tell stories that excite emotion in our readers. Brand journalism, also called content marketing, talks about the audience, their needs and desires, not the product or company. Rather than writing the story we want to tell, we need to write they story…

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Last Hospital Standing: 5 Tips for Communicating to Support Successful Mergers & Acquisitions



“There isn’t an independent hospital out there that is not thinking about this. At the top of the list is the question, Who should I merge with?” – Gary Ahlquist, Strategy& (from presentation by Susan Alcorn, Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, at the Forum for Healthcare Strategists’ Marketing and Physician Strategies Summit)

I recently attended the Forum for Healthcare Strategists’ Marketing and Physician Strategies Summit.  The three-day Summit was jam-packed with excellent speakers and content.  A number of the sessions that I attended touched on the topic of affiliations.  It’s no wonder that it remains a hot topic at most healthcare conferences.  Susan Alcorn helped quantify the size of the issue as part of her “Branding & Communication for New Affiliations” session:

  • “Hospitals across the nation are being swept up in the biggest wave of mergers since the 1990s, a development that is creating giant hospital systems.” (New York Times)
  • Number of transactions: 1,430 in 2012; 977 in 2013 (Modern Healthcare)
  • Value of transactions: $123.6 billion in 2012; $135.3 billion in 2013 +9% (Modern Healthcare)

These numbers are not surprising, as independent hospitals struggle with rising costs and lower reimbursement.  What is somewhat more surprising is…

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What We Can Learn About Creativity from ‘Mad Men’

Seven years into its run, the critics are turning against “Mad Men.” Harpers’ Jenny Diski says “Mad Men” is “rather stiff in its groping for authenticity,” and The New Republic’s Marc Tracy cites the show’s “trying-too-hard brand of seriousness.” Others have joined the chorus, saying “Mad Men” has never quite adjusted to the 60s.

Not many people are still around who worked in the world depicted at Sterling Cooper. But some who did say “Mad Men” misses a huge part of that world, which was how much fun it was back then to work in advertising. Agencies weren’t as research-dependent as they are today and took more risks. For a good glimpse into what it was like, find a copy of A Big Life (in Advertising), the thoroughly enjoyable autobiography of Mary Wells Lawrence. Mary Wells, who changed her name when she married an airlines big shot, was a copywriter for Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1966 when she opened Wells Rich Green.

Suddenly eager to associate their brands with the “youth culture,” companies wanted “big breakthrough ideas,” Lawrence writes. Even if “uncool themselves,” clients wanted to think they were, and in this “era of the miniskirt and…

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Small Business Branding Dos and Don’ts

When you think about great branding, large corporations probably come to mind like Starbucks, Pepsi or Nike. But branding is just as important for small businesses and most understand that it is essential to their business. Small businesses see that branding makes strong connections, and understand that branding is not just a logo or how their business is perceived. Still, less realize that branding starts at the heart of the business. In fact, there are about 29 million small businesses in the U.S., 93 percent of which have four employees or less. While these companies may be small, they have real branding needs – the market size is estimated at $50 billion. Here are some tips of the trade, as well as some common mistakes to avoid.

small-businessDO: Understand your brand’s power. 

Branding is a way of defining your business – your identity – which embodies your business values. Start by defining your brand. The benefits of a defined brand encourage customers to emotionally connect to the same values, which leads to loyalty and advocacy. In order to build meaningful relationships, get to know your audience – their needs, desires, struggles and…

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6 Tips for Designing Killer Infographics

Remember when we talked about the 7 Tips to Creating a Perfect Infographic for your PR Campaign? You’ve got your story, you’ve got your stats and you’re excited to start sharing them on Facebook and Pinterest…right? How do you take all of this amazing information and display it in a way that is so visually amazing, that everyone will want to share it with their coworkers and friends?

Here’s how to take that info from drab to fab!



Download the graphic!

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5 Tips to Ensure Digital Marketing Success in 2014

ClickZ-Live-Logo-NewIn early April I had a great experience at the ClickZ Live Digital Marketing Conference in New York. During the three-day event I was bombarded with glorious amounts of information, stats, “aha” moments, head scratchers and confirmation that what I’ve been reading hasn’t been a bunch of malarkey. It’s impossible to synthesize all the information I ingested into one blog post, but I hope this synopsis provides some high-level insight into and provokes thought about how brands and marketers currently utilize the digital environment.

The State of Digital Marketing

zettabyteThere is no magic marketing bullet: I’ve spoken about integrated marketing in past posts, but this conference really confirmed that success in the online world will rely on a multitude of tactics, strategies, devices and channels to ensure that marketers reach their target audience. In a landscape where 2.7 zettabytes of digital data exists, campaigns that solely focus on paid, earned or owned media will easily get lost in the noise created by this continual and exponential growth of digital data.

Ensuring Digital Success in 2014

To cut through those zettabytes of digital noise, great content needs…

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