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The Interesting Expert of the Week column spotlights experts from within the ProfNet Connect community that we think readers and reporters will find interesting and timely. With nearly 50,000 profiles, ProfNet Connect offers journalists a vast database of experts and influencers on virtually every topic imaginable. In addition, reporters can also submit a ProfNet query to request experts on a specific topic.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner (quick, get those last-minute gifts in!). And with roses as popular a Valentine's Day gift as ever, we chose to mark the occasion with flowers -- or, more specifically, with an expert on flowers.
Celebrity florist Michael Gaffney certainly knows this topic. Gaffney founded the School of Flower Design, which has eight locations throughout the U.S.; authored "Design Star,” in which he shares tips and instructions for great floral design; and has appeared on numerous local and national TV shows to discuss tips, tricks and trends.
Gaffney recently took some time out of his busy schedule to tell us a little more about what he does and how he does it:
When and how did you know you wanted to take this from a part-time job to a full-time career?
I decided to take this full-time when I realized there was a definite structure and science to the design work, and that I, with my Wall Street background, could make a good profit in the industry. I was not that interested in sitting in a cubicle for the rest of my life. I would much rather be making the world a beautiful place.
What interests you most about floral design?
I love the design aspect. I love making women happy, making sad occasions less sad, first dates more successful, and parties more joyous. I like that it’s an ethereal art form -- the best pieces I ever made vanished within two weeks. It’s never permanent, like life itself. I like to spread joy with my medium, which happens to be flowers.
When you design, what are some of the things you consider? It obviously has to involve more than just color, right?
I consider the event and the client, and then I choose the style, followed by color, and then the flowers.I think about what the piece will convey, what my client wants the floral piece to express.
I'm a commercial flower designer turning flowers into billboards for my clients. I make a woman feel more beautiful on her wedding day than ever before, and I style according to her likes, dislikes and personal style.
Where do you get your inspiration? Do you go through a process, or does something just come to your mind right away?
I’m influenced by fashion magazines, architecture, art, women.I choose a style, then I embellish that style.
I did this headpiece [pictured, right] in 20 minutes for the runway. I’m influenced by graphic design. I like my designs to "read" well and be easy on the eyes.
You teach at the School of Flower Design. What do you cover in your classes?
We cover all aspects of the floral design business, from design styles and flower choices, to how to make a profit and marketing sales. We cover what top designers do with flowers to always achieve “the look” a client loves. We teach how to walk and talk like a designer, how to sell a client, how to cater to them and create beyond their expectations.
You are also a floral stylist for festivals, weddings and even Hollywood films. What can you tell us about that?
I’ve worked with filmmakers, creating flowers for the sets. I've been asked to do flowers for films with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jennifer Aniston, Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”), and many designers. I’ve created chokers made of orchids for runway models and wedding sets for film directors, and interpreted paintings in flowers for art museums. There are many places to use flowers. Fashion designers have found they can’t live without my flower accessories.
What has been the most memorable floral experience of your career thus far?
There are two: the opening Macy’s Flower Show in New York, and designing for a young bride who was crying when she came in, had very little money and was sad that no other florist could handle her desire for pretty flowers on her budget. I made her a star on her wedding day.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love a bride on her wedding day. She's like a Buddhist cloud of love, so beautiful and happy. It’s a really pure experience, and all the world feels peaceful at the moment.
What’s your favorite flower and/or flower combination?
Casablanca lilies, because they make brides happy and make the bouquets look so good.
No company is immune from a crisis – it can happen at any time to any brand. How the company handles the crisis will dictate whether the brand survives.
For our next #ConnectChat, branding expert Karen Post (@BrandingDiva) will share the strategies that will protect your brand against a crisis, and how a “brand gone bad” can rally in the face of disaster.
The chat will take place Tuesday, Feb. 14, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. EST on Twitter. To join the chat, just follow the #ConnectChat hashtag to view all updates from @BrandingDiva, @ProfNet and the rest of the chat participants. We'll start off the chat with a few questions to get the conversation going, but feel free to jump in at any time.
If you do not have a Twitter account or won’t be able to make it to the chat, you can find a recap on ProfNet Connect the following day. To view past #ConnectChat recaps, click here.
About Karen Post
Known as the “The Branding Diva,” Karen is the author of two books, “Brand Turnaround: How Brands Go Bad and Return to Glory” (McGraw-Hill 2011) and “Brain Tattoos: Creating Unique Brands That Stick to Customers’ Minds” (AMACOM 2004).
Since 2000, Karen has led Brain Tattoo Branding, a firm that provides creative and strategic services to start, grow and manage brands. She is also a sought-after speaker who addresses global audiences, and was the first female American speaker to address the Saudi Arabian Airlines national conference in 2011.
Karen started her first business at age 22, and built two successful companies -- an award-winning ad agency and a legal communications firm specializing in high-stakes litigation. Throughout her career, her work has benefited diverse industries, from startups to Fortune 500 companies, including Albemarle, ACNielsen, Choice International, Cox Cable and Media, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Chevron, Johnson & Johnson, Bank of America, Xerox, Sara Lee, Pepsi, and Procter & Gamble, along with many emerging businesses, trade associations, professional athletes, entertainers and politicians.
Karen is a regular branding commentator on FOX TV and has been featured in other business and marketing outlets, including FOX, NBC, Bloomberg TV, CBS’s “Early Show,” New York Times, New York Post, Fast Company, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, Financial Times, Entrepreneur, Success Magazine and NPR.
Welcome to Freelance Focus, dedicated to helping answer your questions about the freelance life. If you would like to submit a question about any aspect of freelancing -- from getting assignments and connecting with editors, to freelance contracts and tax issues for small businesses -- let me know. I’ll reach out to our network of writers and experts to find you the best answer.
This week’s question comes from a freelance writer who wants to know what kinds of skills today’s writers need to make it in the new media world:
“I’m interested in expanding the markets I write for. What types of skills should I have, now that so much writing involves a digital component?”
“More than ever, I think today's freelance writers have to master the basics: AP Style, grammar, spelling and punctuation are vital skills that have fallen by the wayside as more and more journalists and journalism programs focus more on the technology and less on the story. The technology is just a vehicle for delivery; it's still the story that media consumers want. Once those skills are mastered, work on developing a signature voice and personal style that delivers that story in a compelling way.
“That being said, technical skills are still important. A 2009 Mashable blog, 8 Must-Have Traits of Tomorrow's Journalist, remains relevant three years later. You have to be able to tell the story, but you need to be technically savvy enough to tell that story through a variety of formats. As a freelancer, you also have to have the entrepreneurial experience to market yourself through a variety of platforms.
“Every [journalism] student today should take courses in computer science and art, particularly courses that will provide them skills to develop and design interactive graphics. If available, a course in good photography techniques is valuable. And, of course, with today's multimedia and video expectations, get some experience in public speaking, either through a speech course or a theater course. You need to develop a presence that will hold up on-camera and behind the microphone.”
A few weeks ago, ProfNet hosted a #ConnectChat about “Online Tools for Journalists,” featuring Mike Reilley, founder of the Society of Professional Journalists’ research site, The Journalist’s Toolbox.
Among the questions Reilly answered: What multimedia tools do today’s journalism students need to be equipped with when they walk out the door? Here’s Reilly’s answer, which also offers some insight into all the skills journalists – whether they’re on staff or freelancing – need to master:
“They need to be able to write a basic news story, single-topic blog, edit video (Final Cut), edit audio (Garage Band/Audacity), build audio slideshows (Soundslides), podcast and use social media. Most good journalism schools teach software and tools in reporting/editing classes. Some students may take digital media outside. If your schools don't teach social media and technology, ask them to!”
I hope this helps answer your question. Good luck!
Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a ProfNet query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, or search the more than 50,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect by keyword, institution type and geographic location. Both are free!
ProfNet has been helping journalists and experts connect for 20 years(!). In that time, we have seen queries from just about every type of outlet imaginable – from newspapers and magazines, to radio shows and bloggers.
And while the media times are a-changin’, there are still a great many stories being written, and writers still need expert sources. Here is just a sampling of the media outlets that used ProfNet in January 2012:
A&E Biography Network AARP Bulletin
AARP The Magazine About.com
Advertising Age Advance Newsmagazines
All You American Baby
American Medical News Associated Press
Baltimore Sun Banker & Tradesman
Best’s Review Bing Travel
BioPharm Insight Boston Business Journal
Boston Globe BusinessNewsDaily
Canadian Living CareerBuilder.com
Chicago Tribune Chief Executive
Christian Science Monitor Clinical Psychiatry News
College Times CollegeBound Network
Compliance Week Computerworld
Conference Board Review Construction Today
Consumer Reports Cooking Light
Corporate Compliance Insights Crain’s Chicago Business
Crain’s New York Business Credit Union Times
Dallas Morning News Departures
Dow Jones Newswires E! Online
E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
First for Women Fiscal Times
Florida Times-Union Forbes
Fort Worth Star-Telegram FOX Business Network
FOXNews.com Franklin Prosperity Report
Funworld Magazine Gannett Washington Bureau
Global Finance Magazine Health Magazine
HealthDay.com Hedge Fund Law Report
HGTV Hispanic Career World
History Channel Hollywood Reporter
HouseLogic.com Houston Chronicle
HRWire/Thomson West Huffington Post
Human Resource Executive Inc. magazine
InsideCounsel International Business Times
InternetEvolution.com Investor’s Business Daily
iVillage Jewish Daily Forward
Jewish Exponent JobWeek
La Opinion Law360
Los Angeles Business Journal Los Angeles Times
Managed Healthcare Executive Management Today
Manufacturing Engineering MarketWatch
Medical Office Today Medill News Service
Miami Herald Military Officer
Military Times Edge Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Minneapolis Star Tribune Minority Engineer
Mobility Magazine Monster.com
MSN Business on Main MSN Money
MyNationwide National Geographic News
National Law Journal National Notary Magazine
National Underwriter NBC Universal
Networld Alliance New Nutrition Business
New York Times Newsday
Newsmax Next Avenue
Nonprofit Business Advisor North Jersey Media Group
NurseZone Orlando Sentinel
Palm Beach Post Parade
Parenting magazine Parents magazine
Pediatric News Pet Age Magazine
Pharmalive.com Philadelphia Business Journal
Philadelphia Inquirer Physician’s Money Digest
PIA Magazine Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
PR News PRWeek
Pure Contemporary QuinStreet
Reuters Reuters Wealth
Resource Investing News Restaurant Business Magazine
San Diego Union Tribune Scripps Howard News Service
Seattle Times SheKnows.com
SmartMoney magazine Spry Magazine
St. Paul Pioneer Press Star-Ledger
Sunday Times of London Supermarket News
Tax Notes Today Telemundo
The Telegraph The Writer
TheStreet.com Thomson Reuters
Times Higher Education Today’s Dietitian
Toronto Star Transaction World
Treasury and Risk Magazine Tribune Media Services
Univision US News & World Report
USA Today Voice of America
Vows Magazine Wall Street Journal
Washington Times WeightWatchers.com
Woman’s World Women’s Health
Workforce Diversity World Trade 100
Want to find out how you can receive ProfNet queries? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact info, and we’ll send you details on how you can become a ProfNet member and get publicity for your experts.
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If you haven’t checked out the Blogs section of ProfNet Connect lately, you’re missing out on some really great posts. Here’s a link to some of last week’s most popular blog posts:
In Dear Gracie: Crisis Communications Tips for Colleges, seven experts from the ProfNet Connect community weighed in on how communicators can handle crises at colleges and universities, including how to prepare for potential crises, what to do when the storm hits, how to respond to constituents, and the consequences of a crisis.
Promoted hashtags are a popular way for companies to gain momentum for a campaign, but there are downsides. McDonald's fell into some hot water recently when the company's foray into promoted hashtags was met with negativity, as did Walgreen's with a similar campaign. In The Downside of Promoted Hashtags, Jenni Izzo of Costa Devault, takes a look at companies' use of promoted hashtags -- and how they can go wrong.
The conversation about promoted hashtags continued with Thwarting the Hashtag Pirates, by Liz Stanley, digital community manager for UBM Built Environment. Stanley discusses what brands can do when they become the victims of hashtag hijacking.
As manager of blogger relations for PR Newswire, Thomas Hynes routinely comes across great blogs that cover a wide variety of subject matters and interests. In Education Blogs: Head of the Class, Hynes shares brief profiles of a few education blogs that offer good pitching opportunities for PR professionals.
Chief marketing officers at technology, media or telecom companies must adapt to the needs of today's forward-thinking interactive online marketing environment if they want to survive. So says David H. Deans, principal consultant for GeoActive Group USA, in Reasons Why a Chief Marketing Officer is Obsolete. According to Deans, CMOs need to contribute to substantive business strategy, but many need to raise their marketing technology IQ first, so that they can become more credible as leaders in their organization and clearly demonstrate that they're not obsolete.
Each week, ProfNet Senior Editor Jason Hahn rounds up 10 of the most interesting PR- and media-related stories he found online the previous week. In his latest, Weekly Roundup: PR vs. Journalism, McDonald’s Twitter fail, FTC Guidelines and PR, Hahn shares links to stories on how the PR/journalism rivalry hurts both sides; how the FTC guidelines affect PR; social networks for writers; guidelines for writing press materials; how journalists are using FrontlineSMS; and more.
We regularly update our calendar to include events we think will be of interest to PR and media professionals. In Upcoming PR/Media Events, we shared the details on events from the Independent Public Relations Alliance, UBM TechWeb, Ragan Communications, Bulldog Reporter’s PR University, New York Women in Communications, and PR Newswire.
Twice a month, on Tuesday afternoons, we host a Twitter-based Q&A with a featured speaker on topics related to communications and media. In ConnectChat Recap: How to Increase Brand Influence on Social Media, we posted a recap of our latest chat, with Shelly Lucas, senior marketing manager and social media strategist at Hoover’s. Lucas shared her advice for social media and branding professionals on how to measure and control influence, generate interest in target markets, create brand personas, expand brands into new social media territory, and more.
PR Newswire’s audience research department produces a free monthly newsletter, MEDIAware, that provides updates on what’s new at various media outlets across the U.S. In this month’s issue, February MEDIAware, we hear about updates at Univision, HGTV Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Time.com and more.
What were some of your favorite blog posts this week? Which ones did you find most helpful, interesting?
I’m not a huge sports fan, but I do like to watch the "big" games: the World Series, the World Cup, and, of course, the Super Bowl.
And while I'm able to follow most of the action on the gridiron, the part I most look forward to is the action off the field -- namely, the commercials.
Every year, our expectations for Super Bowl ads gets bigger and bigger. With an average cost of $3.5 million for a 30-second spot, the ads are not cheap, and some are more successful than others. Here’s a list of my favorites from Super Bowl XLVI:
10. Doritos: Man’s Best Friend. First rule of Super Bowl commercials: You can’t go wrong with dogs, especially ones who get one up on humans.
9. Honda CRV: Matthew’s Day Off. “Broderick. Broderick.”
8. Acura: Transactions. “I’ll throw in the Soup Nazi… I’ll recap last week’s episode of Jersey Gangland for you with sock puppets… I’ll give you access to my personal network of Manhattan ziplines.” Very funny.
7: Skechers: Go Run, Mr. Quiggly. A French bulldog moonwalks across the finish line to Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing.” Again, you can’t go wrong with dogs.
6. Fiat: The Fiat 500 Abarth. Not your typical “look at the hot woman” ad.
5. Volkswagen: The Dog Strikes Back. We’ve all felt like that dog at some point.
4. Dannon Oikos: The Tease. Greek yogurt more delicious than John Stamos? I don’t know about that, but it was amusing.
3. Chrysler: Halftime in America. I’m a sucker for Clint Eastwood, patriotic images and underdogs. Almost makes me want to go out and buy a Chrysler.
2. M&M’s: It’s That Kind of Party. Naked M&M singing “I’m sexy and I know it.” This definitely got the biggest laugh at the party.
1. Bud Light, Rescue Dog. “Here, Weego!” As a mom of a rescue dog, this ad really touches me and makes me want to support Budweiser. There are so many great Weegos out there. We should all be lucky enough to find our Weego!
Honorable mention: H&M: David Beckham Bodywear. Just because.
What did you think of this year’s ads? Which were your favorite?
The Interesting Expert of the Week column spotlights experts from within the ProfNet Connect community that we think readers and reporters will find interesting and timely. With nearly 50,000 profiles, ProfNet Connect offers journalists a vast database of experts and influencers on virtually every topic imaginable.
Being a military spouse has its own unique set of challenges. Just ask Beth Mahoney.
Mahoney, our Interesting Expert of the Week, is a military brat turned military wife. She has three young children, one of whom has Autism, depression and anxiety. In 2009, she published “Robby the C-130,” the first in a series of books that help children cope with military family separations.
In 2008, Mahoney founded KOAH - Kids of America’s Heroes, a non-profit organization for military children. In 2009, she was a guest speaker for Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe on military family issues. She was awarded the 2009 LRAFB Volunteer of the Quarter, was the founding committee chair for Month of the Military Child, and was nominated National Military Spouse of the Year by CINCHouse and Military.com. She is also a military family advocate for Military Family Network Radio, and works closely with military officials, school principals, and counselors to provide better communication between schools and military families.
We asked Mahoney to answer a few questions about the issues faced by military families:
Can you tell us a bit about Kids of America's Heroes? How did that start, and what the does the organization do?
Kids of America’s Heroes (KOAH) is a non-profit (503c) started as a method of preventing, identifying, and acknowledging mental health and communication issues with military children in schools. KOAH provides a fun, interactive, and socially connected group for military children in a positive and encouraging environment. KOAH provides activities, arts, crafts, and entertainment for military children in an educational setting while providing workshops and resources for the military and dependent parents. Our program works with school principals and counselors to help ensure an emotionally secure and balanced lifestyle for military children in an educational environment. Currently we do not have enough funding or staffing to fulfill the request of the program in all schools, so we are very selective on which schools will be eligible for the program.
You authored "Robby the C-130," a series of books for military children. What led you to write the book, and what has the reaction been like?
“Robby the C-130” was a visual representation of my own children's emotional setbacks during times of deployments and military family separations. The C-130 was named after my oldest son, who copes with Autism, depression and anxiety. My husband is a C-130 flight engineer and is gone quite often. After learning from professional counselors and educators that visuals play an important role in childhood development, it allowed my children to explain their feelings through a cartoon character and makes it easier for me to connect appropriately with them.
After the book was published and read to the military children in the classrooms, the children began to open up their feelings and discuss what their parents did and how they felt when they were away. It was like opening a toy box of surprises and I was Santa Claus! All of the children wanted a “Robby the C-130” book and stuffed animal. I never smiled so much in my life, seeing the immediate interaction of the children and how even the most quiet child wanted to tell me their story.
Any plans for more children’s books?
I'm currently working on two more books for “Robby the C-130,” but my goal is to establish a Robby the C-130 product line for the children. As mentioned earlier, the children have been asking about a Robby the C-130 stuffed animal to sleep with, as they find comfort in his relationship with their deployed parent. I am looking for sponsors who would be interested in investing in the military community. I also have a few other children's projects underway, one for which my Autistic son is doing the drawings.
Tell us about the Military Spouse of the Year award. How did that come about?
The Military Spouse of the Year Award is recognition to a military spouse who goes above and beyond her duty as a spouse. There are so many wonderful spouses who support and dedicate themselves to providing a better place for their family during times of crisis and family separations. It is never an easy task having to juggle parenting, work, and daily routines while also trying to keep your own emotions on the backburner. I happened to be nominated by my husband, who also nominated me for the Little Rock AFB Volunteer of the Quarter in 2009. He is as supportive of me as I am of him, and he understands I sacrifice a lot to allow him to be the soldier he needs to be. I believe this type of relationship is what makes a solid marriage in any situation and has allowed us to stay married for 20 years.
What do you think is the No. 1 issue facing military families right now -- and specifically military children?
It's a close call between communication and money.
Communication is probably top of the list. As I discussed with Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe at his Military Mental Health Conference and the Trauma of War Workshop, this issue needs to be addressed and acknowledged more than it has been. This starts and ends with the communication between the spouses, the children and the educators. Most of the younger military couples that get married have rushed into it due to deployments or separations, without any planning. The soldier gets deployed and the spouse is left behind to find her own way among the healthcare, education, finances, relocation and employment; by herself, with no family or friends around. There is a lot of help available from military family support groups, but many of these spouses do not know about them or they fail to attend the seminars. As women, it's in our nature to wait until the last minute to ask for help, as we like to appear independent and in control, so many of the spouses refuse to pick up the phone to call for help when they need it. However, that puts stress on us, which in turn puts an emotional drain on the children. These children are then forced into having to grow up faster than they should, and their emotional stress begins to show in their attitudes and education. When education plays a part, the educators and counselors immediately begin to assume mental health issues without realizing deployments may be the cause of a child's revolt or poor academics. The children are referred for psychological or physical evaluations, and doctors are quick to provide medication. All of this can be controlled when the issue of communication starts at home, is positively reflected on the children, and works its way around to the schools, educators and counselors.
Money also plays a part. Many civilians do not realize exactly how much a soldier really gets paid. Setting the superior ranks aside, a majority of soldiers are not college graduates and their pay can be as little as $400 a month! These soldiers qualify for WIC, food stamps, and other programs that assist the poor. When you have a family where the spouse cannot work due to deployments, or when child care is just as much as, if not more than, what she would earn to work a part-time job, then those issues become extremely stressful. Many of the families are not even prepared to deal with the financial aspect of military life. Planning, budgeting, and saving are not a class the military is required to give as preparation for soldiers before they get married. Therefore, not only does a spouse struggle with the daily routines and trying to keep her household together while the soldier is gone, but she also struggles with financial security and trying to keep herself emotional stable in the meantime.
What advice would you give to other military spouses?
Iwas raised a military brat for 18 years, and have been a military spouse for 20 years. I have seen my mother suffer, my friends suffer, and my own sanity tested. However, I would not change that in any way, shape or form. Due to deployments, relocations, and family separations, I have struggles with anxiety panic disorder, depression, and a slew of health problems from the stress. It has drained me and my children on several occasions, but, as I have learned throughout the years, it takes a strong special person to be a military spouse. I have had the opportunity to see the world, learn different cultures and traditions, get a college education in Hawaii, and hold different careers before finding out what I really wanted to do. As a military spouse, I actually found who I really was, discovering my strengths and weaknesses, and making more of myself being in this lifestyle than anything else.
The single piece of advice I would give to other spouses regarding the military lifestyle is to find who you are. The only way you will be strong enough to support your soldier is to respect and love yourself first. When you are happy, nothing can stand in your way and your marriage will only grow stronger.
If you are a military supporter, I would recommend showing support for the spouse just as much as the soldier. We see a lot of "Support Our Troops" signs, but we really need to also support the spouses. Any help and assistance a company, church, or family can give to a military spouse is doing just as much, if not more, for the troops.
If you haven’t checked out the Blogs section of ProfNet Connect lately, you’re missing out on some really great posts. Here’s a link to some of last week’s most popular blog posts:
In Dear Gracie: Why Small Business Needs PR, 13 experts from the ProfNet Connect community weigh in on whether small-business owners should consider hiring a PR agency; the advantages and disadvantages of working with a small vs. large firm; what to expect from the partnership; and more.
Ernst & Young put out a Call for Entries for the 2012 Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards, recognized as one of the most prestigious business award programs in the country. Nominations are being accepted from Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Northern California, Portland, Seattle and Utah.
Our new column, Freelance Focus, answers reader questions about the freelance life, from getting assignments to tax issues for freelancers. In the inaugural column, Getting Started in Freelancing, two experienced freelancers answered a reader question on how to get started in a career in freelance writing if you’re coming from another field.
Sarah Skerik, vice president of social media for PR Newswire, contributed two of the most popular blog posts this week. In Formatting Press Releases for Maximum Effectiveness, she shares some of the key aspects you should always consider when building a template for your web site or formatting a release for the wire. In Pinning the Future of Communications on Visuals, Skerik takes an interesting look at what the popular new site Pinterest means in terms of opportunities for marketers and communicators.
This is the fourth week on the list for 33 Signs That You Work in PR, an early favorite for top blog post of the year. The article, by Beth Monaghan, principal and co-founder of InkHouse Media + Marketing, humorously looks at some of the characteristics of those who work in PR.
Each week, Jason Hahn roundups up 10 interesting PR/media-related stories he finds online. In his latest Weekly Roundup, he shared links to stories on where to find good news online; six ways PR flacks anger journalists; contracompetitive timing for tweets; the top 100 PR experts to follow on Twitter; five tips for PR pros who reach out to bloggers; and more.
The Interesting Expert of the Week column spotlights experts from within the ProfNet Connect community that we think readers and reporters will find interesting and timely. With nearly 50,000 profiles, ProfNet Connect offers journalists a vast database of experts on virtually every topic imaginable.
For many of us, the most exciting part of the Super Bowl is the advertising. From commercials that make us laugh (e.g., Snickers’ Betty White ad), to those that make us cringe (e.g., any GoDaddy ad), more people will be talking about the ads the next day than the game itself.
So, for our Super Bowl edition, who better to feature than Super Bowl advertising expert John Antil.
Antil, associate professor of marketing at the University of Delaware, has tracked Super Bowl advertising trends for more than 20 years. He has been extensively quoted in articles about the value of Super Bowl commercials, controversial ads, the ads as a driver to “new media,” and more.
Antil was kind enough to answer a few questions about Super Bowl commercials and what we can expect from this year’s broadcast:
Super Bowl ads are among the most hyped ads of the year. Do they usually live up to the hype?
In more recent years, viewers -- and especially ad critics -- have expressed some level of disappointment. Expectations created by all the hype are so high that it becomes very difficult to meet these exaggerated expectations. Disappointment tends to be most common right after the broadcast. But it is interesting that, after further discussion and more viewing, the level of disappointment diminishes and several Super Bowl ads make it into the list of favorite ads of the year. People are still talking about last year’s favorite ads – Volkswagen’s Mini Darth Vader and Chrysler’s two-minute Imported from Detroit.
Over the past 30 years, many Super Bowl ads have shown they can stand the test of time, with many being recognized as excellent examples of truly outstanding and memorable ads. No other TV broadcast can come close to accomplishing this, and it’s no doubt why the Super Bowl has, and will continue to be, the showcase for some of the ad industry’s greatest advertising.
With the average cost of a Super Bowl ad reportedly at $3.5 million for a 30-second spot, is it worth it for brands?
This is the most frequently asked question. The glib answer is that they must be worth whatever the cost, since they almost always sell out by the broadcast. The actual answer to this gets very complicated for several reasons.
One problem is that the actual cost of ads varies widely. The price the networks like to publicize is normally at the highest end of what someone actually pays. Much of the ad time sold is part of a larger package of ad time that crosses over into other network broadcasts – often other sports programming. When the network combines Super Bowl time with the other buys, it is easy for them to set just about any “price” they like for the Super Bowl ad. There is also price variation due to how much time one buys, as well as in what quarter the ad appears, position in the ad pod, and category exclusivity. Experience with the negotiation process also makes a difference in the final cost.
A major problem is the ability to measure the worth or value of an ad, especially in terms of ROI. What one company might have for objectives for their Super Bowl ad(s) is often very different than those of others, so how you measure “value” will depend on the objectives.
For example, a new and relatively small company like HomeAway is most likely looking for a substantial increase in brand awareness. EDS, well-known for its cat herding ad in 2001, wanted to be seen as a much larger company that was worthy of consideration along with their much larger rivals -- an objective they believe was met. Well-known consumer packaged goods often seek no more than a temporary brand lift (which has been shown to increase sales).
Some would argue it is much easier for Web-based businesses to estimate the return on their ads. These companies can simply compare their average customer acquisition cost (to visit their website, register, make a commitment, etc.) to the near-term results due to their Super Bowl ad(s). This may help to explain why so many Web-based businesses have been frequent Super Bowl advertisers – GoDaddy.com, Cars.com, E-trade.com, Careerbuilder.com, Monster.com, HotJobs.com have been in multiple Super Bowls.
There is a relatively standard measure that can be used to compare the cost of ads shown on different broadcasts/programs: CPM, or cost per thousand exposures. The Super Bowl has a CPM of about $20 to $25, while the CPM for other popular TV shows, such as “American Idol” and “Sunday Night Football,” have very similar CPMs. If you factor in the additional online views, buzz, free media, viewer attention to the ads, as well as many other unique characteristics of the Super Bowl, it can be seen as a relative bargain.
What unique characteristics differentiate the Super Bowl from other TV programs or broadcasts?
By far, the most distinguishing feature contributing to the value of Super Bowl ads is consumer engagement with the ads. It is difficult to over-emphasize the importance of this. As many as one-half of viewers have more or equal interest in the ads vs. the game itself. This is the only media outlet that the viewers actually look forward to viewing the ads. Commonly, viewers will rate and discuss them during the broadcast, resulting in a level of engagement nonexistent in any other broadcast. In addition, the Internet has provided an opportunity to leverage the purchase by permitting far more interaction with the ads and other people. It is almost standard for advertisers to develop an online strategy that often includes websites specifically designed for their ad(s). No longer does a sponsor need to rely on media and watercooler talk to stimulate added interest in their ads. Social media is now among the most important ways that viewers can further their engagement with sponsors and most important, with other consumers.
For some, being in the Super Bowl has value that goes beyond influencing consumers. Being a sponsor offers companies a major networking event that includes lavish and expensive parties. Entertaining key clients, retailers, dealers, salesforce, etc., is of considerable value to many sponsors. Simply having a Super Bowl ad can provide added influence with retailers. Sponsors can gain in-store promotions and preferred product placement that would not be possible without having the influence of running a Super Bowl ad.
With media fragmentation, the Super Bowl is now the only way a company can reach a truly mass audience. With over 150 million viewers, the reach of the Super Bowl far outpaces any other single communication option. For example, the highest-rated prime-time TV show will reach about 25 million viewers. Add to that a diverse demographic audience, very little channel-changing during the ads, little recording for later viewing (when ads are very often zapped), fewer bathroom and kitchen breaks during ads, and additional online viewing, the result is vastly larger exposure than possible elsewhere. If you add in the attention from media and all the ad-related discussion during and after the broadcast, the number of ad-induced impressions becomes extremely large.
The Internet has become one of the best ways for companies to leverage their Super Bowl purchase. Since more and more consumers are using the Web to help with their purchases, for entertainment, and social interaction, most sponsors are adding a website address to their ad or even creating a “microsite” specifically for their Super Bowl ad. One very popular site was for the highly controversial ad for Snickers candy bar that included alternate endings. The fact that so many people actually want to see a company’s ad over and over is obviously very valuable. Several media companies set up special sites just so people can watch their favorite Super Bowl commercials.
AOL’s site (superbowlads.fanhouse.com) had more than 15 million ad views in only three days after last year’s Super Bowl. The most popular site for viewing ads is YouTube, where it is easy to view many years of Super Bowl ads. On this site alone, the popular 2011 Mini Darth Vader VW ad has had over 40 million views.
What was the most expensive Super Bowl ad ever, and was it worth it?
Up until last year, this would have been a hard question to answer. If you consider production costs, as well as the cost to purchase the time slot, last year’s Chrysler’s Imported from Detroit is easily the most expensive ad ever shown on TV. The total cost would likely be in excess of $13 million. It was an expensive ad to produce and, by adding the other costs associated with having a Super Bowl ad, it could be much higher.
There is little doubt that Chrysler believes it was worth the investment and risk they assumed. They knew that the first-ever two-minute ad on the Super Bowl would draw attention, and the content itself caused some controversy. A major criticism was that the ad seemed to promote the entire U.S. auto industry, not just Chrysler. The ad, however, was a breakaway in terms of creative, message, and appeal. In large part due to the success of this ad, many experts believe that we will see more ads that are longer (e.g., 60 seconds), that try to tell a story and will actually contain relevant, brand-related content. The ad seems to have gained popularity with viewers over time and has been used in shortened versions by Chrysler over the entire year. Response from consumers was immediate. Moments after the ad ran, auto shopping sites saw a huge increase in searches. Edmunds.com reported a 328 percent increase, and searches on AOL Autos for Chrysler 200 the next day were 685 percent higher than normal. Even requests for price quotes skyrocketed with 839 by midnight of Super Sunday.
Will the economy affect the messages companies will convey in their ads this year?
There is often considerable discussion and speculation of how the economic environment would affect what companies might say and even if a company should spend that much money on a single 30-second ad. The nature of discussion has been very similar each year since 2009 and very evident again this year. But it is difficult to conclude just how much effect the economic environment has had on who buys and the nature of the messages. Perhaps surprising to most, the cost of ads has actually increased almost every year. The cost decreased slightly in 2010, but prices have showed exceptional strength last year and especially this year, with NBC able to impose one of the largest increases in prices for each spot (up about $500,000).Though selling the entire inventory of ads during 2009 and 2010 was more challenging for NBC and CBS, it almost seemed easy for FOX and NBC to sell out during this and last year. Overall, for many companies, the perceived benefits of being on the Super Bowl seem to be greater than the challenges they face from a weak economy.
In terms of the messages sponsors use during poor economic times, companies normally place relatively little emphasis on value pricing or other economic appeals that would seem to resonate with consumers worried about disposable income or job security. The primary reason is likely related to what viewers expect and want to see in the ads during the Super Bowl. They want to be entertained and look for ads that are uplifting, and most often have showed a strong preference for humorous ads. This is a major part of what makes the Super Bowl a unique environment for advertising, and sponsors have to take the viewer expectations and the viewing environment into consideration when developing creative for this special broadcast.
Over the past 15 years, about 60 percent of the ads contain at least some level of humor. While there is still considerable opportunity for being more serious, sponsors have to be careful to consider how their ads will resonate with viewers who are more likely to view the event as a party. In general, viewers do not want to have to think very much about the ads and are not particularly receptive to overly informative or “hard sell” ads.
But this does not mean that there is not an opportunity here for some to consider. Often, Super Bowl ads are criticized for lacking a clear brand message or a “call to action,” and appealing to economic uncertainty could well provide a compelling message. There have been a few successes following this approach. Denny’s offer of free Grand Slam breakfasts not only brought in many new customers but also received considerable press and social media coverage. The Hyundai Buyer Assurance Program announced during the 2009 Super Bowl, which allowed buyers to return their car if they lost their jobs, was highly regarded as an excellent strategy to use to bring in reluctant car buyers. The opportunity is there, and with 150 million viewers, you would think more companies would take advantage of this venue to offer economic incentives.
The most significant socioeconomic influence over what companies might say and do was in 2002 when the Super Bowl was broadcast only four months after the Sept. 11 tragedy. There was considerable hesitancy regarding what was appropriate to include and even if using forms of humor would be acceptable. Most did decide to go with a business-as-usual philosophy and only a few took a risk by even referencing the attack on the towers.
Anheuser Busch took a major gamble and produced what I think is the best Super Bowl ad ever. Given the circumstances, it took amazing creative (and courage) to actually speak to this national tragedy. The ad featured the Clydesdales traveling across America and finishing their journey by bowing in respect to the New York City skyline.
What can we expect to see this year?
Though a bit slower this year to announce their Super Bowl ad plans, we know that about 34 companies will be promoting around 40 different brands. Nearly all are veteran advertisers on the game. On par with most years, there will be five or six new advertisers. The smaller, less experienced advertisers have a history of not doing very well in the Super Bowl, so it will be interesting to see how a company like 2nd Story Software will do promoting its TaxACT free tax software. H&M fashion retailer is hoping star power works when they introduce a new line, David Beckham Bodywear.
Over the years, sponsors have become more open regarding their intentions, and many now believe pre-game publicity is an important part of their Super Bowl strategy. Volkswagen, for example, has already aired a 60-second teaser ad (The Bark Side) that extends their winning Star Wars theme from last year’s Mini Vader ad. The ad purports to be a barking rendition of “The Imperial March.” However, even after listening to this ad five times, it still sounded like a bunch of dogs barking – I wonder if they will actually plan to use a similar ad.
Fritos is continuing their extremely successful push into consumer-generated ads. Once again, anyone can go to their Crash the Super Bowl site to vote for their favorite ads. The winning ad will be run during the game, and if the ad scores first in the USA Today Ad Meter, the producers receive a million dollars (last year, one of the entries did win first place).
It has become common to have some controversy and negative publicity over who is advertising and what they are going to say. Already, this year is no exception. Currently, an animal rights group is demanding Sketchers pull their Super Bowl ad because it theoretically promotes greyhound racing. Last year, Groupon and HomeAway received a tremendous amount of adverse publicity after their ads were broadcast -- Groupon for being culturally insensitive, and HomeAway for being insensitive to child abuse. Neither is returning this year, so perhaps they were not inclined to believe the publicity was good for them. HomeAway’s CEO was asked if they would return to this year’s broadcast. His reply: “After the experience last year, I don’t have the stomach for it” -- clearly, a major risk when one gets involved in such a high-profile event.
Digital technology will be stronger than ever this year. For the first time, the game will be streamed live on NBCSports.com with reportedly very high advertising rates. Mobile aps are also getting into the game. Chevrolet has an app viewers can use during the broadcast to win prizes, play games, and interact with others through Twitter. USA Today is now offering an app in conjunction with Facebook that will allow users to rate and share the ads during the game, with the viewer Ad Meter scores announced the day after the Super Bowl. Many viewers have been multitasking during the Super Bowl in the past, but mobile apps may make it too easy to be distracted from viewing all the ads – perhaps a problem may be developing.
Sponsors will benefit from what is likely to be the largest ever TV audience. Several factors favor a viewer record. A New York vs. New England matchup includes large-market teams, high-profile quarterbacks, and a rematch of the 2008 Giants upset victory over an undefeated Patriots team. Both teams also have a relatively strong national base of fans. NFL games have been dominating TV ratings all season long, and the playoffs attracted a record number of viewers.
I estimate that the official Nielsen ratings to be 116 million, with a total viewing audience of 165 million. In a world of media fragmentation, it is truly amazing that over one-half of the entire population will see at least part of the broadcast.
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on an article that tries to address a way to better measure the value of a Super Bowl ad and how the buying process works. The biggest challenge here is in getting data related to online and social media activity. This has become a relatively new way to add value, but it tends to be difficult to get good and affordable data.
Welcome to Freelance Focus, which will help address your questions about the freelance life. If you’ve got a question about any aspect of freelancing, from getting assignments and connecting with editors, to freelance contracts and tax issues for small businesses, let me know. I’ll reach out to our network of writers to find you the best answer.
This week’s question comes from a PR professional (who wishes to remain anonymous) looking for advice on starting a career as a freelance writer:
“What is the best way to get started in a career in freelance writing if you are coming from another field? I work in PR at a major agency, but am interested in making the transition to freelance writing. The idea of just quitting my job and chasing commissions is terrifying and, I'd imagine, not the right approach.”
To answer the question, we recruited two experienced freelancers to weigh on in their tips and suggestions for aspiring freelance writers:
Jason is a professional freelance copywriter based in Canada but with clients around the globe. He can be found at Brandscaping.ca or on Twitter (@brandscaping), chatting about writing and the freelance life.
Jason shared this advice about transitioning to a freelance career:
First – write. Write more. Rewrite, and then do it again. Once you’re confident in your writing abilities, it’s time to decide on what kind of freelance writing is for you. Are you going to be a professional blogger, ghostwriting posts for CEOs who don’t have the time/desire to write their own material, or should you become a copywriter, crafting compelling content to sway the reader into making the purchasing decision? There are many different ways to get paid for pounding your keyboard, but if you want to make a career out of it, it’s best to start in the direction that makes sense to you.
Your role in your agency probably involves a fair bit of writing (media releases, press kits, etc), and if that’s the case, this could be a great way to ease into the world of freelancing, as there are many small and medium-sized businesses that don’t even know they need your specific skill set.
Now that you’ve got the confidence in your writing abilities and a direction in which to use them, it’s time to find some clients. You mentioned that chasing commissions is terrifying. The good news is: You don’t have to worry about commissions, since you get all of the profits. The bad news (and really, it’s not that bad) is that you have to kill what you’re going to eat. No one is going to hand you plum jobs, especially if you don’t have a track record of success. If you’ve got deep pockets (or a very supportive spouse) you can hire someone to do your sales for you; otherwise, you’re going to need to know how to prospect for new business.
For example, if press releases are what you want to write, offer mini-training sessions to local businesses to help them write more effectively. In the beginning, you’re going to give away a fair bit of your time. That’s ok, because it’s an investment in your future, and if you’re like most freelancers, in the beginning you’re going to have much more time than money. Use it wisely.
Watch for instances where you can help a prospect out. If you notice a particularly ineffective press release, contact them and offer them some tips on how to improve it for next time. Offer to do a review of their PR needs, and suggest opportunities for them to improve. Once you’ve established yourself as an expert, people will bring their business to you.
Here are five essential items you will need to be successful as a fulltime freelancer:
A website. It doesn’t need to be super-expensive and flashy, but it does need to be professional. Why would anyone invest in you if you don’t have the confidence to invest in yourself? If your website ends in .wordpress.com or .blogger.com, don’t be surprised that your client’s budget is minimal. Unfortunately, spending a bundle on your site isn’t a guarantee that the client’s budget will be higher...
A workspace. Some people are comfortable working at the kitchen table; others need a dedicated office space. Know what works best for you to stay productive.
A schedule. Create a schedule and stick to it, especially if you’re prone to “distractions.” You don’t have a boss hanging over you ensuring you hit your deadline, so if you aren’t able to manage your time, you’ll find you have a lot to spare. And no clients.
A network. You’re going to need a support network, as well as a network of contacts. This is essential to your success, as you can bounce ideas off the support network and find new business within your contacts. Network online, offline, and often -- and remember the key to successful networking is to listen at least twice as much as you talk.
Balance. You’re an entrepreneur. You’re self-employed. But don’t let work be the only thing you do. Take time to enjoy the flexibility that comes from a freelance life, and don’t get so stressed that you end up going back to a corporate job that you will hate until they give you the golden handshake...
Also, to avoid any competition with your agency, it might be better to try and prospect outside of their bubble, else you might find yourself fulltime freelancing earlier than you had planned…
I hope this helps point you in the right direction.
Rachel is a marketing strategist who moonlights as an award-winning freelance writer and author. You can visit her online at www.racheletc.com or follow her on Twitter at @rachelcw.
Rachel had this advice for those considering the freelance life:
Well, I hate to tell you this, but it is terrifying for a reason. At the best of times, freelance writers aren't necessarily treated with the same level of respect that on-staff writers are. Then again, the weak economy has changed that. But I think it's best to answer your question in stages.
1) You mentioned having a full-time job. Good. Don't quit just yet. Think about why you'd like to segue into freelancing. Is it because you're no longer suited for the 9-5 life, or because you just want a change? There's a lot that goes into freelancing that people don't anticipate -- everything from pitching for new work (and then pitching and pitching some more), to paying for your own health insurance (oh, that one hurts), to negotiating contracts, credit, pay rate and more. And believe me, there's always more.
2) Do you have an idea of the type of freelance writing you'd like to do? In other words, are you interested in a career as a freelance writer of PR and marketing materials, as opposed to the agency life? Are you interested in writing hard-hitting articles covering health care policy or government? Maybe product reviews? Essays? In other words, before you begin doing it, try to figure out what you're best suited to do. Start paying attention not only to the publications that you like, but also developing a list of favorite lesser-known writers. Informally stalk their bylines and try to figure out whether they're on staff or freelancing. It might give you a good idea of whether your dream publication even accepts pitches from freelancers. There's a wide world of outlets out there and they don't all include the glossy magazines. Websites, trade publications, newsletters and more might prove to be excellent revenue sources, if not full-time income-generation sources.
3) Do you have any leads? Before you go dipping into existing potential client banks, you need to realize that you are about to encounter a lot of ethical gray areas. For instance, will you be writing about products or clients you once represented? This could be seen as a conflict of interest. Do you anticipate wooing away clients from your old boss? Major red flag there. You may risk alienating your former employers, not to mention potentially violating the terms of your contract.
4) Have you been saving for a rainy day? Or a rainy month? Maybe six soggy months? Because starting out in the freelancing life means that until you find your way, you might not be collecting the ever-elusive paycheck for a while. This means that while you're paying your dues, you still need to be paying your bills.
5) Make friends. Network. Join online groups. Follow your favorite writers on Twitter, and start a conversation with them. Join freelancing networking message boards ranging from Media Bistro to Freelance Success (an invaluable resource). In other words, get your toes wet, before you dive headfirst into the unknown!