Monday, November 17, 2008

Podcasting Jim Henson Style: Rockin’ Out the Fraggle Rock!

Coined in 2004 – the term ‘podcasting’ has been used to describe the idea of audio and video blogging. The technology simply allows a user to upload a media clip to the internet to be streamed to the masses. The benefits of podcasting allow a receiver to catch the media at anytime as opposed to a specific time slot (as in the case of traditional media). The receiver can also store the podcast on their computer or portable media device to watch whenever and however many times they like. What’s more – a person with an internet connection can actually subscribe to a podcast channel or organization and receive the latest and greatest podcasts whenever they become available.

Okay – so that’s great – but – how does this apply to the realm of public relations? It’s simple. By creating podcasts companies and organizations can tailor media messages to specific audiences and publics. Too theoretical? Alright – let’s take a look at an organization which almost everyone should be able to instantly relate to – the Jim Henson Company.

(all Fraggle Rock characters property of the Jim Henson Company)

That’s right – the same Jim Henson which brought us the Muppets, Fraggle Rock, and a whole slew of unforgettable characters and moments in television history currently utilizes podcasting technology. Rock on. A quick Google search for ‘Henson Podcast’ should lead you in the right direction – if not – just check out and search for ‘podcasts’.

The Henson podcasts provide an excellent example of public relations relevant media. For example, I listened to two podcasts prior to writing this post – one from Comic Con 2008 and the most recent from November 17.

Let’s start with the Comic Con one… This one was all about Fraggle Rock – it starts with information about the (then) upcoming DVD releases of the show – leads into a sing-a-long (oh yeah, you read that right) with the red Fraggle – and concludes with an interview with a cast member of the Henson Company. We end up with information, entertainment and an interview – awesome. The podcast for November 17 describes an upcoming show called “Pajanimals”. Roughly following the same protocol – it also offers information and a few interviews from Henson cast members.

What I love about podcasting is how non-intrusive it is. Like, you can get all the information you want while continuing to do whatever the heck it is – you do on the computer. For example, I worked on an illustration in Adobe while listening to the two mentioned podcasts – I got all the information and didn’t slow down. That’s great – obviously this is a technique to provide for information to those who simply don’t have time to read through an entire article or press release. Think about it.

What’s more, is in the podcasts they urge listeners to send any questions they may have (to to be answered on the next podcast – sweet! So, should glance a typical press release or be totally entertained by the media -enriched podcast… Sorry, typical press release!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

IMC: Consistency

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is the concept for a company or organization to send a consistent message to the masses. Sounds simple. I mean, you just make sure all your ads match your product and website, right? Well, kinda… but technically, that’s not even the half of it…

In order to truly utilize the concept of IMC – an organization must pay attention to the messages sent by ALL divisions of the company (even those which may not be specifically geared at sending messages - I’m looking at you transportation and logistics). You see, it works like this: let’s say you’re working with a food company that claims to have ‘the most authentic southwestern flavor’ of something – be it chips, dips, drinks – doesn’t matter – but let’s also assume that the company is based out of Toronto, Ontario. Okay, totally inconsistent, right? So, this company claims to have ‘the most authentic southwestern flavor’ of food – and maybe it even tastes good – but the fact is that it’s not even based in the American Southwest. Nothing against Canada (I love you) but the location of the company inherently becomes a message which remains inconsistent with the rest (assuming the ads, promos, website, and PR messages all work in juncture) of the organization.

Too theoretical? Okay, let’s take a look at – a website which offers environmentally friendly products ranging from clothes to office supplies (including an awesome staple-less stapler – go figure). Anyway, the website offers a full range of eco-friendly products and they take this message across the board. Not only do they sell eco-friendly - they do business eco-friendly. What do I mean by that? For starters, the company doesn’t ship to anywhere except the continental 48. Why? Because shipping anywhere else (Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Canary Islands, etc…) would create too large of an impact on the environment due to the energy to transport goods. So, even if receives an order from Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic – it’s a no go. And not that doesn’t appreciate the efforts to go green… it’s just contradictory to ship eco-friendly product when it’s eco-harmful to do so.

In fact, looking around the website – it’s obvious that does a great job at sending a consistent message. For example, check out their press release page for information about the company and suggestions on green shopping lists (See 2005’s 'Top 12 List of Greenest Holiday Gifts') or their support for the ‘Biodegradable Bay Campaign’ which urges the restaurants of San Francisco metro to ditch all Styrofoam products. Not that had to do that, but rather, it just seemed to fit. May I say, that from one bloggers’ point of view, I’m totally on the same page with you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Wii(!) of Social Media Releases

Press releases are the car manuals of the information world: while boring to read, may contain important information (Note: This is merely the opinion of the author who does, in fact, enjoy reading car manuals).

Consider the quickly expanding use of media within the realm of the internet. That statement alone already sounds dates even though I wrote it but a few seconds ago – perhaps a testament to the dynamic social construct of the world wide web. But I digress, the use of media on the internet has elevated from a nice surprise to an outright expectation. News sites, company profiles, seminar recaps – regardless of the subject, we expect media. Media in the form of photo, video, audio, and controllable elements such as live-feed. Considering the expectation of media on the internet – shouldn’t our lowly press release also be held to the same standard?

Indeed. Enter RealWire from WebitPR an organization which specializes in just that: Press releases which truly acknowledge the expectations from the current web users. WebitPR ( creates press releases designed to be noticed. Coming pre-packaged with the typical media components, the press releases are short, interesting, and actually kind of fun to read (which is saying a lot compared to my car manual which hasn’t changed in the last 13 years). Designed with these elements at the forefront, these press releases are the perfect package to send out to the media, news, investors, and possibly the most important audience: bloggers. That’s right. I said it. Bloggers (at least the popular ones) are quickly becoming the opinion leaders of the 21st century. We subscribe and while we may not fall on their every word – it’s safe to say we definitely stumble on a few. By packaging these press releases with all of the exclusive media components, it (nearly) ensures that bloggers will not only acknowledge the release, but use it to its’ fullest capacity. Still too theoretical for you? Let’s take a look at one packaged by WebitPR regarding the Nintendo Wii...
Notice the use of the Reevoo advertisement highlighting an important consideration for holiday shopping. Quick, interesting, and again – fun. That’s not just how it should. That’s what we expect.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

American Apparel and Facebook - What Could Happen?

Let’s talk social networking-

Online social networking is the idea that an online medium allows for connections to be made that would otherwise not be possible. What makes the internet so special that it allows these connections to be made? It’s easy and rooted in the infrastructure of the mediums themselves. For example, let’s look at Facebook. By this point, most people have heard of the social networking site, but what does it really do that makes it so popular and unique? Well, it’s like this – let’s say that you’re really good friends with Person McPerson. You’ve known Person for a long time now and you know some of his friends. But – do you know all of his friends? Doubtful. So, let’s say you friend Person on Facebook and discover he has an entire network of friends you had no clue about. Bingo. At this point, you can find an entire network of friends that would otherwise be unknown. Some of these friends may provide huge benefits to you that would otherwise be unobtainable (say, for example Person is friends with the hiring director for Pixar…) – at any rate, online social networking allows for these connections through established friends to be made.

Okay, so we’ve got social networking down. Great. Now, let’s take a look at the world of advertising and see if it applies (Can you figure it out yet?)

Advertising has long been defined as the mass communication of an idea, organization, product, or service. Through various attempts, advertising attempts to connect with a specific audience to achieve desired results (no duh, right?) Sounds easy. But here has been the long uphill climb for the world of advertising – establishing credibility. It’s kind of like this, imagine walking across campus and having each person you walk past try to sell you the shirt your back. You would be so bombarded by offers you wouldn’t even have a clue where to start. And if that’s a little bit too theoretical – just think back to how many ads you see each day. Each one begging for your time, attention, and most importantly, your money. So who gets it? Who gets your dollar? Probably the one you can closest associate with or have the most trust in. (Have you figured out where this is going?)

So, we’ve got social networking and the basic premise for advertising – what next? Okay, let’s go back to the popular social networking site, Facebook. Let’s say that you’re on Facebook and you’re looking over your buddy Person McPerson’s profile. Now, keep in mind, you’ve got a relatively high respect for Mr. McPerson and suddenly, you realize, Person is a member of the “I Love American Apparel” group. You may say, ‘Oh wait, what?’ As you look closer, you realize a lot of people you know are in the group. In fact, most of the people in the group are people you know or would like to know. Okay, so great. Here’s the hook – you realize what they all have in common is that they all enjoy American Apparel clothing. You visit the site, browse around, and before you know it, have spent $20.00 on a brand new AA Helvetica Alphabet T-Shirt. Game- set- and match.