Entries in ND&P (198)

Tuesday
May312011

When You Feel Newsworthy: Helpful Tips for Writing a Press Release

Press releases are the tool of some – and enemy of many. Their fundamental purpose is to announce something that is “newsworthy,” a term so subjective it could make your head spin. A better working definition of a press release is an announcement you send to people you hope are interested. 

Gone are the days where the press release was the leading source of information. In fact, don’t be surprised if you receive a press release urging you to check out a company’s latest website, blog post, or Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter page.

But we now live in the instant notification/gratification age where news goes from gossip, to hard news, to old news in a matter of tweets. What used to require a page of content and quotes is now 140 characters and a link away.

Here are a few ways to keep your press releases relevant, read and out of the recycle bin:

  • Identify your audience – The language and tone of your release should be catered to your specific audience. Vagueness can drive even the most dedicated editor to apathy.
  • Accurate information – No one will come to your party if you tell them the wrong date and time. Eliminate having to read between the lines and searching for answers as much as possible.
  • To quote or not to quote – If used properly, a quote can add depth, relevance and credibility to your release. If used improperly it can make your release a jumbled mess of “he said, she said,” the opposite of credible.
  • Timely – A press release is part of a communication plan, meaning you must plan to send out your release. Sending it too late or too early can greatly decrease your chances of being read.
  • Length – It’s not the end of the world if your release happens to be longer than normal but please keep in mind the majority of them will be read on an electronic device.  Scrolling makes people tired.
  • Bold and Beautiful – Don’t be afraid to bold the words or sentences that are the most important. Not only are you guiding your reader, you’re saving them some time as well. It’s a win/win situation.
  • Make new friends – If your release isn’t getting the love (and press) it deserves, find new places to send it. The world is no longer paper-based so use your online resources as much as possible. Be visible.

These are just a few things to keep in mind the next time you are feeling worthy of making some news.

(Janae Johnson)

Tuesday
May312011

News You May Have Missed 5/31/11:Twitter Encounters Privacy Issues in UK, Starbucks Goes Gaga and More!

ND&P intern Lindsay Wade shares a few recent news items you may have missed...

Twitter Enters Privacy Conflict in UK
Earlier this week the British High Court ordered Twitter to reveal the identity of thousands of users.  The users in question tweeted about an affair between a famous soccer player and a reality TV star. The problem? The British High Court granted the soccer player a highly controversial super injunction, which prohibits the media from covering or mentioning the story. This bizarre legal measure not only denies coverage of the supposed affair, but also the court order itself. Talk about having an elephant in the room!

Starbucks Goes Gaga
Starbucks Coffee announced last week that it will be launching an online Lady Gaga-inspired scavenger hunt across sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Gaga, who has experience promoting various forms of protein (see meat dress and egg costume) should have no problem promoting other food groups. The partnership targets a shared demographic who will be eager to win both Starbucks-related prizes and the grand prize of special access during an upcoming Lady Gaga concert.

Cars Possibly the Future in Mobile Health Monitoring
More people are using mobile devices to keep tabs on day-to-day health. Ford Motors says that the next machine taking your pulse will be your car. Representatives state that with technology like Bluetooth and USB ports, drivers could sync medical devices with the car’s computer. The vehicle could then give alerts about allergies, glucose, and stress levels back to the driver.  

Talk to Your Toyota
In more car-related news, Toyota wants you to start thinking of your car as a friend. Improved technology will allow future Toyota cars to communicate directly with their drivers through social networking sites when it’s time for the car to receive routine maintenance or a battery charge. No time to schedule an appointment? No sweat. Your car will do that for you, too. This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

(Lindsay Wade)

Wednesday
May182011

A Baby Named "Like," A Flip Goodbye and More

Baby Named After a Facebook Button

News outlets are reporting today that a couple in Israel have named their daughter “Like,” supposedly inspired by the Facebook button. I have to wonder about  all the other button-named children there may be running around out there now …DELETE… SHARE… NUMLOCK… BOOKMARK… HOME… BACKSPACE… and what about poor little UNDO and CANCEL?

A Flip Goodbye

In April parent company Cisco announced an end to the Flip video camera. Diminutive in size but not necessarily in popularity, the announcement came as a surprise to many. As most digital cameras now offer the ability to capture video, and the quality of smartphone video capture has improved, some argue mini video recorders are on the road to becoming obsolete without some form of product adaptation (such as adding in wireless communication features).

Our own Flip encounters have captured everything from on-the-spot interviews and practical jokes to giant eyeballs…even feet! (here are a few of the hardworking feet at ND&P).

 

Airline Envy

Thanks to 15,000 readers who rated experiences on 10 airlines, Consumer Reports released a best and worst ranking for major airlines. Topping the list for BEST were Southwest and JetBlue, respectively. Flight quality factors included things like ease of check-in, seating comfort and cabin cleanliness. Read more from Consumer Reports.

YouTube Joins the Rental Circus

On Monday, May 9, 2011, Google’s YouTube added online movie rentals to its video services. The launch includes an initial library of classics and recent hot picks (ie The King’s Speech, Inception, etc.). Rentals can be watched through your YouTube account on any computer.  Will be interesting to see how this service fares when compared to well-established online rental services like Netflix.

(Shaun Amanda Herrmann)

Thursday
May122011

Friday the 13th: Superstitions in Marketing and Advertising

Tomorrow is Friday the 13th of May, 2011. (I am focusing on that “Friday the 13th” part, in case you missed the title of this post.) I think we’re going to celebrate the auspicious day with some sort of festivities here at the office, whether it’s putting out a few more salt shakers or handing out some mutant clovers.

But the concept of superstitions in general gave me brief pause and cause to ponder…what about superstitions in advertising?

MAKING THEM WORK FOR YOU
There’s a gem of a TV spot making the rounds right now that capitalizes on the many common (and odd) good-luck rituals sports fans have – the “Superstitions” spot for Nike. I admit there are several featured in the spot (taping a baseball bat to the ceiling?) that I’m not familiar with, but I suspect you’ll find more than one that will make you smile.

That’s certainly one way to use superstitions to your advantage. And if you’d like to take that one step further, there’s the case of Stockholm’s AIK soccer club that developed an entire public campaign in late 2010 that focused on superstitions to jinx an upcoming opponent into losing the game. "Jinx Gothenburg" included a dedicated microsite and texting campaign, and culminated in a visit to Gothenburg two weeks before the big game. A team of people decorated the city with symbols of bad luck - like ladders. (Alas, it didn’t work, as AIK lost the game, but the campaign certainly garnered a lot of attention!). The video recap is a gem:

WORKING WITH THEM 
Cultural superstitions can also play a more serious role in developing marketing and advertising efforts – right down to the price your put on your product. For example, in China the number 8 is considered by many to be lucky/signify prosperity, while oft-neglected number 4 is associated with death. In 2003 The Journal of International Marketing published an abstract titled “Cultural Superstitions and the Price Endings Used in Chinese Advertising.They found a “distinct tendency to favor the digit 8 and avoid the digit 4.” Beyond the obvious pricing issue, the paper demonstrates and calls out the critical need for international companies - ANY companies - to truly understand the cultural beliefs, ideologies, and yes – superstitions, of their consumers.

So enjoy venturing out on your own Friday the 13th, whether you opt to stride purposefully under every ladder or conspicuously avoid handling any mirrors. Just step with a little care while navigating the superstitions of your audience.

(Shaun Amanda Herrmann)

Wednesday
May112011

Easy to Read, Hard to Recall? Fonts and Message Retention

File under: Everything you know is wrong, (with a tip of the credit line to Firesign Theater).

There is a general line of thought in communications and advertising—dare I say logic?—that ad copy should be displayed using a type font and size that is “easy on the eyes.” (You're likely reading this in 12-point Verdana).

Standard Ad Think 101: Let’s use dynamic visual elements and ideas to pull them into the message, then “close the deal” with body copy that appears inviting to read, and succinctly delineates our benefits. This reasoning follows that, in general, small, sanserif fonts may often be abandoned mid-ad or ignored, and larger, cursive fonts will more frequently be read to conclusion, and a happy intersecting with the coveted CTA (call to action).

As an aside, many modern graphic designers contemplate many standard serif fonts as your average twelve year-old might consider an evening at the opera—a little on the reticent side.   

BIGGER=BETTER?
Well, then there’s this: Font size has no effect on memory, even though most people (read: copywriters, clients) might assume bigger is better. New research indicates that retention is better when the content is not just in an unfamiliar font, but actually hard to read. (The study, as referenced in The New York Times here, deals substantively with our misconceptions about learning and retention: ).

But wait, before the din of cutting-edge graphic designers and art directors standing on their Aerons® and cheering threatens to deafen us all, we should note that this study focused on academics—large quantities of unfamiliar data being studied for near-total retention and testing.

The real dilemma as it relates to advertising would seem to be how, if at all, can the basic findings be assimilated into the practice of specifying type without dramatically reducing overall, casual readership?

In other words, let’s say we want to assure that anyone who does read the ad has higher recall of the information for a very long time. That might lead to something like this:

 


Agreed: That’s hard to read, but I won’t soon forget it!

I would suppose the theory goes: If the mind has to work harder (focus more intently) on the information, retention will rise— if you actually complete the material—even though it could take considerably longer. And for the advertiser, therein lies the rub: How many readers would you sacrifice? Would you rather have 3 percent of those who encounter the ad read it completely and remember it forever? Or, achieve a 50 percent rate, but with recall of only a few weeks?

We would contend, of course, that any sane, and even marginally busy, consumer would look at an entire block of body copy in that “funkified” font (Bourdeaux Roman Bold LET) and immediately move on—sock drawer re-org,  Lady GaGa’s twitter feed. Overseeding the yard. Whatever.

Shall we just say the mind works in mysterious ways and leave it at that?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sometime soon: let’s tackle more conventional wisdom:

  • Nobody reads anymore.
  • Mass communications should be written to the level of a seventh grader.
  • The postscript is the magic bullet of direct marketing.
  • Television is dead.

I know you’ll anticipate these topics just like, well, a lot.

(Doug Cook)