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posted by Kelly Davis Jun 22,2016 @ 01:56PM

The Story Behind the Story

I recently read an article on AdWeek.com titled, “How Social Media Could Have Changed the O.J. Simpson Trial.” Inspired by the recent FX mini-series, “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” the author, Josh Rosenberg, points to the trial’s role in the rise of the 24-hour news cycle, reality television and participatory journalism. Rosenberg also raises the specter of what the trial experience would have been like for both the viewer and the people in that courtroom in 1994 “if the world had been watching in real time with a mobile phone in hand.”

Certainly, we now live in an “always on” world – a world in which it is difficult to hide from the onslaught of speculation, opinion and commentary. It’s a world very different from 1994.



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As Rosenberg writes, “Today, all of us have a very loud microphone in the palms of our hands, and every time we share a thought, use a hashtag, communicate with a like-minded individual or get through to someone who doesn’t share our own belief, we are harnessing a power no one could have dreamed of in 1994.”

I would contend that not only could we never have dreamed of today’s technology twenty two years ago, neither could we have dreamed of the ability that technology provides us to share with the world a comment, observation or criticism of the actions of those around us – sometimes thoughtfully, sometimes carelessly. Generally speaking, while advances in communications technology have opened up a world of human connection and interaction, they have also closed our minds and hardened our perspective on the events and actions taking place around us.

How often have we seen – or posted ourselves – a video of something we’ve observed in a public place, or a video of a complete stranger? From concerts and parties to interactions with store employees, these slice of life videos seem to be permeating our society and generating opinion and commentary on a daily basis. We have to assume that there is always a camera present.

The challenge is that the very moment in time you captured is just that – a quick snapshot often shared without any further context. We may not know what happened before or after, or from a different angle, or behind the scenes. All we have are those few seconds and perhaps the commentary of the person who filmed the event. However, the instinct to post and share every moment now means that individuals who weren’t present form a perception of the event based on those few seconds of shared video – and not on the full reality of the experience.

While social media and our “always on” world certainly create opportunities, they also create great disconnects when it comes to human interaction and compassion. It has become so easy for us to handle our dissatisfaction with a negative customer experience with harsh words and a stealthily filmed video – shared not with a person who could have helped improve our experience, but with a random group of people who were not present and who are only seeing the event through our narrow lens.

What if instead we slowed down, put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, and thought before we posted? What if we quietly ask to speak to someone in charge to express our concerns? What if we ask how we can help? I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t call out a company when your experience doesn’t meet your expectation. I do believe that there is a better way to find a resolution.

Brand marketers instinctively look for the story behind the story. The next time you’re faced with an opportunity to “film and post,” try to do the same. While your instincts may tell you to jump to judgment, perhaps the better course of action is to dig a little deeper. We hold in our hands a little piece of technology that has the power to impact human interactions and to influence others’ perceptions of people and brands. The onus is on each one of us to approach this responsibility with compassion and discernment.

Kelly Davis, APR is the Public Relations Director at Riggs Partners. Read the AdWeek story referenced here.

This article originally appeared in the May 21-June 19 issue of Columbia Regional Business Report.

posted by Michael Powelson Jun 13,2016 @ 09:24AM

Boxed in? The stakes of commercial activism in local business

As I type this, the internet radio says they’re burying Muhammad Ali.

For twenty years, some of the fiercest men on earth failed to put Ali on the ground, and now a handful of heartsick ones will put him in it. Time is, indeed, the conqueror.

It’s been decades since time and illness scored their first victory over the former heavyweight. Parkinson’s disease, doing what opponents, critics and even the United States government could not, silenced him in the mid nineties. And this is perhaps the larger shame. After all, so much has been made of the fighter’s verbal brilliance, his unique ability to speak truth to power and an unflinching will when his principles demanded great risk.

Call it another crown in time’s trophy case: the ironic twist that all the things which made Ali a pariah in the mid sixties — the unapologetic autonomy, social activism and conscientious objection — are precisely the reasons he’s now one of the most inspirational sports figures in history.

But it’s not the sporting, or even the cultural context of these triumphs that interests me here. It’s the professional one. You see, in 1966, Muhammad Ali wasn’t just a prizefighter or folk hero. He was also a business. Big business.

 

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Behind the championship belts and mesmerizing interviews, there was an enterprise. It employed people. It supported families. It provided a living that soared beyond the wildest expectations of a black man from the Jim Crow south who barely graduated high school.

And yet Ali proved willing to lose it all for his convictions.

In response to the Justice Department denying his conscientious objector status and sentencing him to five years in prison, Ali said, “I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars…So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

I can not think of a contemporary parallel.

Yes, we live in an age of greater corporate social responsibility. Today, firms all around the world, including my own, believe it’s imperative to do good in addition to doing well. And this is clearly a positive evolution in what it means to be a decent business. But risking everything it is not.

Yes, Target, Starbucks, General Mills and many other national brands have enacted internal policies or consumer facing communications to promote a more charitable, tolerant and just society. Some have even faced resistance from the fringes of their customer bases. Still, I’m doubtful that any such actions were taken before cost/benefit analyses and public opinion polling showed the reward outweighed the risk.

Please don’t mistake this for criticism. I don’t believe good works are any less good when they also happen to be good business. I’m simply curious about the times they’re not. What do smaller organizations in markets like ours do when they feel compelled to right a perceived wrong, but lack the scale to weather a backlash?

Recent history has offered no shortage of cultural flashpoints. Flags. Bathrooms. Background checks and marriage licenses.

What business are these of our businesses? And, regardless of your stance on any of them, where is the actionable tipping point for you? When does something become important enough to risk everything?

I like to think I have an answer, but I’d be lying if I told you I was one hundred percent certain.

What I am certain of, however, is the hope that you and I and every other businessperson never have to find out. That we’ve learned to respect one another and work together to find equitable solutions to the differences we face. I hope no one reading this is ever forced to risk everything for the ability to live with themselves afterward.

But I also hope that those who were, and did — “The Greatest” among us you might say — are forever championed.

Time the conqueror be damned.

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This piece first appeared in the June 13th edition of the Columbia Regional Business Review

posted by Julie Turner Jun 08,2016 @ 10:17AM

Why Advertising isn't Dead

I’ve worked in this industry for 28 years. In a business that thrives on what happens five minutes from now, there are times I feel like a relic. Especially when I see alarmist predictions about the demise of this crazy business that I love.

I can remember almost the very moment I fell in love with advertising. As the managing editor for the now-defunct student newspaper at my high school, The Viking Shield, advertising was my responsibility. In addition to writing stories for the paper, I had to ensure the right ads made it into the right issues, create ads that didn’t exist, and then put the paid-for foundation together for the editorial. I could create my own Absolut vodka-style campaigns with a smaller palette of yogurt stores, card shops and pizza restaurants. At 16 years old, I was already all in to my future.

 

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Then

 

I could sit here and let you think it was that easy. That my work on the high school paper led me to where I am today: writing for clients. But it wasn’t simple. Nor was it easy. So much happened in the middle. I started as a designer, became an art director, and even enjoyed stints in the paper industry and as a nonprofit marketing director before finally settling into the life of a word wrangler. Fun fact, I have worked almost everywhere I worked, twice.

What’s been central in these 28 years is not the art directing or writing; it’s the ideating. What I love most is the brainstorming. When I was 16, it was creating a small space ad campaign to honor the sponsor of our journalism lab: Pepsi. Then studying at USC and later working in the business, it meant coming up with varied concepts for campaigns that clients would use in the holy trinity of pre-Internet media: TV, print and direct mail. Idea after idea. Bought and sold. Every now and then one of those ideas would bloom into a huge success. I have to say, it’s been a great way to earn a living.

But the real beauty of what we do is often confined to the brainstorming sessions. Of course the output of brainstorming was reliably good — a kernel of a campaign concept that we could thresh into something bigger. But the fifty or hundred other ideas we dreamed up had bountiful possibility, too. Even better, I’d say because they were a little more out of the media-driven box. For every kernel created, there were also a few great ideas custom-tailored to support it.

Things that weren’t in the budget. Things we weren’t asked to do. Things that were never presented to the client. Little things, big things. Things the client could do, things their customers could wear. Things that had the real potential to make a mark in our media-cluttered world.

 

Yes, the three-headed print campaign king has been toppled and for some time. But the new king isn’t the latest CMS platform or even a keyword. It’s bigger than character counts and Snapchat.

At least for the next five minutes in marketing history, what’s king is the interesting extra ideas that for years were idled on the sidelines. The strategic anthems built to rally empassioned people together. The funny t-shirt that boosts brand recall and spreads the gospel. The targeted event that puts a product in exactly the right place and time for sonic impact. The “wouldn’t-it-be-great-if-we-could”s.

 

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I, for one, am happy the other ideas are finally getting their era in the sun. And, even though I am squarely from the Spraymount and press type generation, I believe I have a lot more ideas in me.

Yes, the industry is different, but the work that goes into even the newest fangled digital campaign is decidedly old school. It’s built on an idea. And as long as there are people like me — and hopefully you too — there will always be ideas.

When the ideas are gone, that’s when we’ll really be in trouble.

 

So with my 28 years of experience I’m going to tell everyone to just settle down and relax. Advertising isn’t dead. It will exist as long as there is commerce. And as for us being relics? That’s not true either. If you’re a dreamer or a thinker, there’s business to be had.

 

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By the numbers

youtube is 2nd largest search engine