Category: Social Media

Starbucks Ad—BMW product placement

Since the Federal Trade Commission has been talking about “cracking down” on brands, ad agencies and PR firms in the social media space, I thought I’d take a better look at the FTC’s actual language.

In a nutshell, the FTC wants social media “influencers” to clearly attribute posts as being an ad, sponsorship or endorsement if they show or mention a product in which the influencer has had some engagement with the brand or its agency. Back in April, the FTC actually sent out letters to 90 celebrities they believe have been some of the “worst” offenders on social media. I think this move is starting to get attention now that the FTC is serious. The FTC has also taken action against a brand or two directly.

While I believe in truth-in-advertising principles, the FTC’s new rules, compared to the product placement rules in TV shows and movies, don’t seem fair to brands and agencies that rely heavily on brand ambassadors and influencers. Why? Mainly because the FTC wants influencers to “clearly disclose” a “material connection” in the first 3 lines of an Instagram post. Ugly, right? Have you ever seen a TV show put “#ProductPlacement” text directly on screen when a character or reality star is drinking a #paidplacement coffee or driving a #paidplacement car? No, you haven’t. But they want it to happen in social media.

The FTC has essentially given two options:

1. Use a hashtag like #Ad or #Sponsored in the beginning of your post, separate from the other hashtags at the end (and apparently #Partner is not good enough).

2. Use a disclosure like “Company X gave me this product to try…” or “Company X gave me [name of product], and I think it’s ______.” This is very similar to the FTC’s guidelines they developed for blogs, back in 2011.

I think option two is a fair enough solution by the FTC, especially for people like the Kardashians who literally speak like a brand’s paid actor on their social media channels. But what if an influencer didn’t plan on writing anything about the product in the post? Many influencers merely wear, or show, a product in their image and hashtag the brand (because it’s often harder to see logos on mobile’s small screens), which to me, is exactly the same as product placement in a TV show or movie. So what is the FTC’s position on product placement in TV or movies?

The FTC has expressed the opinion that under the FTC Act, product placement (merely showing products or brands in third-party entertainment content – as distinguished from sponsored content or disguised commercials) doesn’t require a disclosure that the advertiser paid for the placement.

Great. Let’s follow the stated FTC Act for social media then, right? Not so fast. Because this is how the FTC answers a make-believe influencer question on their official site:

Q: If I post a picture of myself to Instagram and tag the brand of dress I’m wearing, but don’t say anything about the brand in my description of the picture, is that an endorsement? And, even if it is an endorsement, wouldn’t my followers understand that I only tag the brands of my sponsors?

A: Tagging a brand you are wearing is an endorsement of the brand and, just like any other endorsement, could require a disclosure if you have a relationship with that brand.

Because the FTC uses the word “could”, I feel they have allowed an opening for interpretation and that everyone should follow the FTC Act on brands in third-party entertainment. After all, don’t we as consumers go to social media for entertainment and news? Why, in this respect, should social media be treated differently? And remember, these are the same social media platforms where political ads don’t have any disclosure mandatories. (But I’m no lawyer and my agency will defer to what our clients’ lawyers decide.)

No matter how you decide to treat social media influencers, it’s worth reading these two documents from the FTC. I would love to know your opinions on all of this.

FTC Endorsement Guides

FTC Brand Disclosure

Lastly, if you want a good laugh and you are not easily offended or mind the F-word, watch HBO’s John Oliver have a little fun mocking all of Starbuck’s paid placement this month:

FTC’s social media “Product Placement” rules vs. TV/Movie product placements

If you Google “content strategy”, you’ll find more than 23,000 page results. It’s undoubtedly been a hot topic over the past few years and if you have a marketing role, you are probably asked continuously about the best content strategy and approach. For PR professionals, content strategy isn’t new, but instead another term for planning and executing a brand’s narrative.

There’s a lot of research and compelling reasons why content marketing is essential to the success of your marketing efforts. These benefits should help you understand the importance of a strong content marketing strategy, especially as you plan for 2018.

  1. Build Once, Use Multiple Times: As internal teams get stretched and budgets tighten, marketing departments are constantly being asked to do more with less resources. With a strong content marketing strategy, you can build content that will not only live on your main point of communications (your website as an example), but can also be cross-promoted through other key marketing channels. For example, our kayak manufacturing client recently introduced a product that was cross-promoted using multiple touch points, utilizing consistent visuals and messaging: PR to secure editorial coverage, digital advertising, search, social, print and email marketing.Vibe Kayak Yellowfin 130T Content
  2. Ensures Consistency: By simply going through the motions of content planning, you’ll begin to ensure consistency in your communications. What I’ve found helpful is when my agency develops a master calendar that highlights the content strategy, social calendar, product introductions, and initiatives all in one central location. For this master document, we also highlight the overarching message and proof points that ensure consistency in these marketing activations.
  3. Helps with SEO: A strong content marketing strategy goes hand in hand with improving SEO. After a company has developed positioning that defines what the brand stands for, what its unique differentiator is, what it wants to be known for and what its key messages are, a similar process can be taken with SEO. Identify the language (keywords, or more appropriately key phrases) that people use to research your company’s category, industry, products, services or competitors and then write content relevant to these. The more often you use these keywords on your site, the higher it’ll rank for SEO purposes. Google ranks sites with consistent keywords and fresh keyword content as more relevant sites for their users. Start mapping out your content strategy for the year and drive people to your site, based on these keywords.
  4. Keeps the Discussion Going: Similar to the monthly approach we take to build content calendars for our brands’ social channels, we also broadly map times of year for specific topics to develop content around. If you manage a consumer brand, you can use seasonal moments in time to connect with audiences in relevant ways. If your company is B2B focused, map out the industry and customer events you’ll be participating in and drive the narrative to time with these key events. Remember, the content should be relevant and timely to engage consumers in a way that is appropriate to their current interests or needs.
  5. Helps Target your Audience: In any given week, your team may be talking to a host of different stakeholders and influencers for your organization or brand. From customers to partners to media influencers and brand ambassadors, it’s important to tailor the message and tone to the appropriate person. A targeted content marketing strategy will help that approach and ensure you aren’t leaving anyone out of the conversations.
  6. Builds Credibility and Influence: This may seem like the most obvious reason but it’s worth stating. When a company and/or brand shares their POV on applicable and timely topics, the larger following and credibility they will build. For B2B, focusing on quality, educationally driven content will help position your company as a thought leader or expert in the respective category. For example, we work with the largest ladder manufacturer in the world and we partner with them to consistently build a narrative around our agreed upon key message. From contributed articles to in-person training sessions to national initiatives, this key message is at the beginning, middle and end of every discussion. What makes us successful is the credibility this company has built in their industry and how they keep the conversation going. It’s become an ownable platform they want to be known for and that key attribute comes through in the messaging for the majority of their news coverage.


Six Benefits of a Content Marketing Strategy

NYT_Werner Ladder

We’ve had the opportunity to work with Werner Co. for more than three years now and today received news that a recent campaign won the FIRST place prize in Ragan’s 2015 PR Daily Awards for best Product Launch. Exciting news!

As background, Werner introduced an entirely new type of ladder to the market and through a collaboration with their team, ours and other partners, we kicked off an endeavor to introduce this new product through a multi-channel marketing approach. We were tasked with creating brand awareness and product preference with consumer home enthusiasts/DIYers. We also needed to demonstrate a clear product benefit in a simple, memorable way that provides an entertaining connection.

The huge success of this product launch has led to a product line expansion and the creation of a new ladder category. If you missed the link above that summarizes the elements of the campaign, click here.

Werner Co. Wins PR Daily Award!

Here’s Part 2 of how to make a memorable video that is highly viewed. These tips will get you more views and help build your brand. Don’t forget to review steps 1-5 below this post.

6. Be weirder than weird. It’s always fascinating to watch weirdness and try to figure out why someone did something so odd. YouTube is a great place to do this and people love to share these “freaky weird” videos. If your brand is brave enough to go this route, it can pay off significantly because viewers will appreciate the risk your brand took to entertain them. Maverick brands that create this type of content can attract some of the strongest, most die-hard advocates on earth. Just remember to make sure that in all of its video weirdness, you understand who your audience is, you have an underlying brand message, or you’re willing to have the weirdness “sponsored” by your brand. As brands become facilitators of entertainment, it’s ok to simply be a curator or sponsor of content.

7. Put a prank or stunt in it. If you can pull off an amazing stunt or prank that people believe is real, or it looks so cool they excuse the slight of hand used to seam it together you can get major views as debates ignite over if it was real or not.

8. Put babies or really cute kids in it. Especially if the target audience is female, or better yet, mothers, your brand will win going this route. But again, it needs to feel honest, sweet or just captured as a sincere moment of life. If you can’t pull honest, sweet or sincere off perfectly, go with funny and still put babies in it.

9. Make it Beautiful. Get out your brand-building wallet and support a visually stunning, cinematic masterpiece with an amazing music score that explains what your brand stands for. No matter how busy and fast-paced our corner-cutting society becomes, people will take notice. There is something so eloquent in a great piece of film that has been crafted to show the world in a different, more beautiful light; Something that gets people to slow down, watch, appreciate and share (hint: sometimes that “thing” is the beauty of seeing the world in slow-motion).

10. Advertise and Promote your Video. Yes, that’s right, you can actually do a paid YouTube media buy for your video. And you can be very specific with who it’s served to and where they are geographically. How dare I suggest that you do a media buy for your video on YouTube? After all, it’s supposed to be this place where your video just gets all these free impression from people dying to watch what you created. But even with all the outlined video strategies, there’s no guarantee that any video you do will go viral. Remember your video will be competing against all the great video content that doesn’t have a brand message or any standards to uphold. These videos are the ones that often go viral and get millions of views because they really don’t have any other motive than to entertain. So why not, as a brand, pay to have your video shown “pre-roll” to another video? Or have it show up in Recommended Videos sidebar. And what might be the best deal around is that with a YouTube media buy, you can pick up thousands of brand impressions for nothing. Think of it as a sort of “value-add” to your media by if you set it up right.

As for promoting your video, you’ll want to do more than post it to your company Facebook page. You’ll want to dedicate a budget to a true PR effort aimed at blogs in your industry. If you can get a few good blogs to pay attention and push it out to their subscribers, you can gain 30,000 views overnight. And if your video has mainstream appeal or something unique and funny in it, then you need to put the effort into having it picked up by mainstream entertainment and news sites like Buzzfeed and Digg.

Whatever type of video you end up creating, chances are it won’t go viral on its own. It has to be good, and it has to be promoted.


Branded Video Content Ideas, Part 2

Here’s an example of how a simple insight can lead to a strong campaign. It connects with users on an emotional level because it shows the company understands the culture and helps women indulge in their product without being taboo.

Smart insights create human connections

We are firm believers that there’s never a bad time for coffee. And lucky for us, our agency just happens to be located close to some of Atlanta’s best coffee shops. Here is a list of some of our favorite local spots to get you through the day.

West Side

Revelator – This is our in-house coffee-connoisseur’s go to shop. He swears the pourover brew is the best in the city. The absolutely gorgeous interior, paired with great coffee, keeps us going back.


Brash – Located across the street from the Revelator and housed in an overhauled shipping container, Brash brews up some mean espresso drinks. The small shop is perfect for a quick stop-in and the atmosphere provides a great backdrop to hang out and sip your brew.


Chattahoochee Coffee Company –  Another Westside shop with delicious espresso is Chattahoochee. Along with great coffee drinks, it has an awesome view of the skyline from west midtown.

Octane – One doesn’t talk coffee in Atlanta without mentioning Octane. They’ve been keeping Atlanta caffeinated (with good coffee) for more than 12 years now.


Star Provisions – This awesome little shop is tucked away and serves the Atlanta roasted Batdorf and Bronson coffee, and have an incredible selection of house-made pastries. Make sure to grab one of the coffee cakes too, they’re huge!


Other Locations

Chrome Yellow Trading Co. – Located on Edgewood, they brew delicious coffee in a gorgeous, well lit space. There’s also a trendy shop full of clothing and other goods in the back.

Taproom – Kirkwood’s hybrid coffee bar, Taproom serves fine coffee drinks and beers. They even feature a hop infused nitro cold brew they call the “beerspresso”.

Spiller Park – Spiller Park is located in the center of Ponce City Market. They have an awesome list of coffees for various roasters across the globe, and the selection is always changing. Go here for one of the best pourovers you’ve ever had and grab a Sublime donut while there.

Condesa – Another hybrid coffee bar, Condesa has been around for a while. With a location in downtown and one in Old Fourth Ward, they make great pour-overs and have a nice, chill atmosphere for getting work done.

Dancing Goats – Another shop serving Batdorf and Bronson coffee, Dancing Goats on North Avenue, is situated right behind Ponce City Market. What we love most is their killer patio – seriously, you could spend an entire afternoon there. They’re definitely a favorite for hanging out on nice spring days.


Top 10 Best Coffee Shops in Atlanta

Not sure who your true brand ambassadors are? Or when I say to start with the brand ambassadors you have, did you immediately think about how many “fans” your company has on Facebook? But what if I said I want you to start with your brand ambassadors that aren’t just your Facebook fans? Would you know who your true ambassadors are? How many employees does your company have? Now how many family members does all of your management team combined have? And how many distributors and partners do you have? Now maybe you’re getting the idea of at least how many brand ambassadors you should have.

But that’s the thing; many of these people might not know they are your brand ambassadors and that’s why you need to start building your brand with the ambassadors you have. You should create a plan to communicate with your current employees, that they are more than employees, they are brand ambassadors of the company.

How do you do that? One simple first step is to make it part of the job description—a positive, outgoing attitude about the company they work for is a critical part in the long-term success of the company and therefore will contribute to their position and growth within the company. Employees should understand that everything they say about the company and every customer interaction they have is either building the brand or deteriorating the brand value. Make sure to communicate what the brand’s essence is, what the company ideology is—the reason the company exists beyond making a profit, and what the core values of the company are.

Questions to consider before implementing an internal and external brand ambassador program:

  • Do your employees and partners know what the company’s brand personality is?
  • Do you know what the company’s brand personality is?
  • What is the brand position of the company?
  • How do you effectively communicate your companies brand value, personality, tone, product or service offering, etc.?

All of these things should be shared with your potential brand ambassadors. The message and amount of information delivered should be tailored based on the audience you are speaking to.

If your company doesn’t know what its brand essence, ideology, values, personality and positioning is, you can partner with a brand-building agency to figure that out. But in the mean time, open the communication channels with the perhaps dormant brand ambassadors you have in your own employees. Family, distributors, vendors and partners are easier to rally as ambassadors because they will understand the financial implications their ambassadorship will have. Begin these discussions and you’ll be amazed at the power of your brand ambassadors and the impact they have on a company’s reputation.

Want more brand ambassadors? Start with the ones you have.

With social media, healthcare providers now have greater insight into the patient experience than ever before. With patients going online to research their health and talk about their concerns, it’s essential for marketers to have a plan in place for monitoring social media conversations. Doing so enables you to:

Become an Online Health Educator: Pay attention to posts about specific diseases and conditions or general health and wellness questions. This provides an opportunity to join conversations and talk about medical treatments and procedures or to serve up clinical expertise from your physicians. Providing valuable and interesting information lends credibility and establishes your organization as a thought leader.
Find Your Brand Evangelists: Monitoring can reveal those patients who voluntarily compliment your organization and its staff. Reach out to these advocates and keep an authentic connection and dialogue with them. Enable them to serve as ambassadors for your facility—many patients want to extend their gratitude and are receptive to telling their stories across multiple communications platforms.
Manage Your Facility’s Reputation: Uncovering conversations from patients who are frustrated can prevent a PR crisis and preserve your organization’s reputation. A monitoring service coupled with a plan for managing misinformation and negative comments enables you to quickly repair disparaging remarks before they escalate.
Tap into Market Research: While you can always pose questions, listening to natural conversations helps you better understand community needs and perhaps discover opportunities to serve patients’ unmet healthcare needs.
Keep Tabs on Competitors: Not only can you keep an eye on industry trends, you can keep an eye on your competition. What are their patients saying about them? What services and programs are they launching? This can be invaluable business intelligence for strategic planning.
Follow your Brand’s Health: A social listening platform helps you understand your brand over time and looks for trends related to your marketing efforts, buzz lifecycles and your share of voice.


There are numerous monitoring tools (Klout, HootSuite, Google Alerts, Facebook Insights, to name a few) and many others with varying degrees of analytics and functionality. To help you get started on your research to the perfect monitoring service, we’ve listed a few others below:

Trackur: Trackur offers customizable social media insights and monitoring tools at affordable prices for individuals, small companies, large corporations and agencies.
Social Studio: Salesforce launched Social Studio, which is a combination of Radian6 and Buddy Media. It combines a social media monitoring platform with content publishing capabilities.
Brandwatch: Brandwatch has a social media monitoring tool with some of the best reports in the industry. The tool offers brands the ability to get in depth market research while also measuring campaign impact and the social conversation..
Mention: Mention combines social monitoring, analytics and competitor updates. The real-time dashboard also sorts by social authority, accounts with the most reach and negative mentions. This tool will help you to better reach and engage with your advocates.
Keyhole: Keyhole allows brands to become thought leaders by tracking specific industry keywords and hashtags, for real time or future engagement. The platform also allows brands to monitor both their own and competitors posts to help optimize content strategy.
Sentiment Metrics: Sentiment Metrics does similar monitoring to all of these other services, with a focus on Sentiment; allowing brands to engage with consumers to maintain positive perception and reputation quickly and efficiently.

How Healthcare Providers Can Benefit From Monitoring and Listening to Social Media Channels

How can brands successfully connect with and continue to highlight relevant content for their audiences? One way is to not abandon a traditional communications approach and weight all of your efforts on social media platforms that are continually changing. It is important to maintain a balanced mix. Companies should not rely too heavily on Facebook, Twitter or even the new Vine platform to tell their brand and product stories. While it may seem like an urgent priority to have a strong social media strategy in place— it’s also important to not disregard the traditional channels that consumers turn to when making purchasing decisions. Print outlets, TV and online blogs that drive consumers to your owned channels are still very relevant.

For a holistic approach, brands should strategically plan and execute on a multi-channel practice that includes leveraging earned, paid and owned media channels in the right way and at the right time. And for those owned media channels — your Flickr page, Twitter feed and Pinterest board— don’t solely rely on a junior person to manage this content because it seems cost-effective. These platforms should be professionally managed by someone that understands the audience, message and purpose, keeping the content relevant and meaningful to support the brand position. It’s the same rules that apply for traditional pr channels. Relevancy, timeliness and motivating content is key.

We’ve listed below definitions for paid, earned and owned media channels as a refresher if you are looking for additional ways to influence a variety of stakeholders, including customers, partners, employees, investors and the media.


Like the name denotes, this type of media is paid for— it’s your print, tv, radio and online digital advertising campaigns that you pay for space in a publication, on a broadcast station or through an online digital advertising buy. Companies usually leverage paid media to launch a new product or service or to continue building a brand image with its target audience. With paid, you control 100% of the brand messaging. This channel is still tried and true— don’t think that just because you have an earned and owned media plan in place that you can get away without paid media. The best brands in the world still rely on paid channels to establish their company and connect with the consumer. Because you are pushing a communications agenda, often earned and owned channels do not drive enough engagement without a paid component to increase views. For example, even if you have a YouTube channel (which is technically an owned channel), you are not guaranteed to get the views you want without putting some budget dollars into a paid campaign. In fact, it can be very cost effective to use paid media to push your owned channels.


Earned media is considered the most influential because it is from a neutral third-party, such as a reporter who has written a story on your company or a customer who has shared your video through their personal channels. Earned media may highlight your company and/or product in a newspaper story, television clip, radio feature or blog post. An earned media placement is so valuable because of its reach through circulation (level of influence based on the publication’s audience) and impression value of that particular story. What makes earned media highly credible is that the company doesn’t control the message, even though there are certainly ways to influence it greatly.


Owned media includes a company’s website, blog, microsite and the multitude of social media platforms, including Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Vine and more. The traditional owned channels— including a website or microsite— usually provide a person’s first impression when connecting with a company. Owned social media channels provide an informal way to connect with your audience who can connect with a company in a variety of ways, from sharing, commenting, liking and tagging. When disseminating material through an owned channel, it helps if the content isn’t blatantly self-promotional but instead informative, entertaining and/or educational. You have to always ask yourself what the benefit is to your audience when you are creating content for your owned channels.

Through a combination of paid, earned and owned media channels, companies can connect with customers on a continual basis to stay relevant in today’s ever-changing media landscape. It’s striking the right balance, tone and timing that encourages the most engagement and ultimately a connection with today’s consumer.

Earned, Owned or Paid Media Channels. Also Known as: PR, Social Media or Advertising.