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Instagram and Snapchat are neck-and-neck in the race to win loyalty of social enthusiasts around the world. Whether you’ve naturally opted for the stream of content bites that come with Snapchat or the picture-perfect wanderlust reality filling your Instagram feed, the time may have come to finally pick your poison.

On August 2nd, Instagram launched Instagram Stories, an exciting feature with strange familiarities to Snapchat. With over 400 million active users, we are psyched that one of the most brand-friendly social networking services is tapping into the ‘real-time’ video trend. Instagram is positioning their Stories feature as the solution to the excess posting that comes with Snapchat and other apps that promote video. Since the Stories live in a separate space on Instagram, it makes it possible to post without over saturating your followers’ feeds.

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So what does all of this mean for your brand? So glad you asked.

One platform, no worries

If you already have a strong presence on Instagram, the Stories feature gives you the opportunity to post more playful content more frequently – without being forced to build a whole new audience.

Courtesy of J.Crew Instagram

Keep your influencers close and your users closer

Instagram is a buzzing hub of established social influencers in every sector. With the Stories feature, you can maintain your partnerships AND create more complex video campaigns for both audiences. The cherry on top? Spontaneous and frequent content feels more authentic, and this authenticity will likely attract more user interaction and brand loyalty.

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Courtesy of NASA Instagram

Reach your users the unpaid way

When you post a story, your account will show up at the forefront of your users’ feeds with a colorful ring around it. This top-of-feed, top-of-mind strategy opens up the coveted door to place organic content in laps of your users.

Courtesy of Starbucks Instagram

Just be careful not to flood their feeds with low-quality content!

 

Disappearing content

Micro campaigns, flash contests, experimental content – there is no limit to the spirited approach you can take to Instagram Stories. The 24-hour deadline means you can test the waters of different types of posts, and then roll them out on your regular feed if they perform well.

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Courtesy of Loft Instagram

Stories are temporary, but the fans are forever

There are no “likes” or “comments” with Instagram Stories. Your users can only respond by sending a private message to your account, which is amazing for beefing up brand-client relationships and gaining private feedback.

Courtesy of Taco Bell Instagram

Will Instagram Stories last? Or will it suffer the same fate as the channels’ other tried-and-failed features like Bolt? Our secret hope? That Instagram hops on the facial recognition game. Snap-fiends love their flower crown filter.

Social media ROI — especially linking social media ROI to sales and real business growth — has been elusive… until now.

Through our partnership with Overdrive Interactive, we now offer the industry’s first social media ROI system. This Social Media Dashboard compiles all social media touch points, from Facebook to Twitter to YouTube Channels.

But what’s more, you can also bring in feeds from Google Analytics, your call center, e-commerce sales and event retail sales.   The result is an overlay that ties together your social media efforts with the real-time results that will make any CFO happy.  Contact Anne Houseman for a demo.

As readers of this blog know, Cercone Brown is deep into online marketing and social media.  As a communications firm with a large PR component, we’d better be these days.  Now our work is being recognized on a national stage.  Cercone Brown & Co. Named Finalist for “Best Online Marketing Campaign for 2009” for the PR Platinum Awards.

The firm was selected from from 800 submissions for its “America’s Least Wasteful Cities” Campaign for bottle-maker Nalgene.  We’re off to NYC for the luncheon this morning.

We’ll write more about the campaign, how and why it worked, and lessons learned.  For now, keep your fingers crossed.  There’s a quick case study posted here, which we’ll change into an easier to use flash version this week.  Also, check out the release we’re issuing this morning…

Boston, Mass. (October 21, 2009) — Blending social media marketing, interactive design, and press relations has become a hallmark of Boston advertising and PR firm Cercone Brown & Co., helping brands such as GMAC Insurance, adidas, Quiksilver and others build campaigns that drive awareness, sales leads and ROI.

Now the firm is being recognized as one of the nation’s best as a finalist for the prestigious Platinum PR Awards for Best Online Campaign for 2009 for its “America’s Least Wasteful Cities” work for reusable bottle icon Nalgene.

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Yesterday, the FTC announced new guidelines that could have a huge impact between PR pros and bloggers.

In short, there’s two parts to watch: First is disclosure regarding advertisements, endorsements, paid endorsements, paid-in-kind endorsements, etc. The second is about accuracy of bloggers’ claims.

While the social media universe is all abuzz today, from a PR professional’s perspective these guidelines fundamentally change nothing.  You may not realize it, but we’ve always been liable on these fronts.  It’s just that most have been oblivious to the laws.  (Remember, ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law.)

All along when pitching bloggers (or any press, really) AND providing free product or services for review, we have been required to tell them in writing to disclose that they, in fact, received freebies.  Also, if these folks may inaccurate claims based on a pitch (even if we didn’t give them the inaccurate info.), we are responsible.

So instead of complaining about it, here’s what you should consider.  BUT, like anything else, this is my opinion based on my knowledge of the law.  You must consult your own legal counsel before creating your own policies and actions regarding social media (hows that?):

1. Create a standard disclosure statement regarding free product and the like and make it part of all your email communications.  I’m not sure if the mouse print thing is considered enough here, but it seems it should suffice.  Again, I’ll talk to our legal folks and follow up…but the point is, make it part of your standard communication, and not some last minute awkward…”Oh, hey, don’t forget to tell everyone I gave you this for free.”

2. Get a REAL social media monitoring system. I’m not talking Google alerts, guys.  You need a system like Radian6 with a dedicated staffer to monitor ALL the chatter across blogs, forums and social networks (there’s MANY more than Facebook, BTW.)  Get this alerts in real-time, and set the record straight immediately.

There were about 250 great business reasons to do this before, but maybe this is the one that gets companies to take monitoring and reporting seriously. It’s not an intern job!  Social media marketing is moving faster than most even know, and now the legal system is catching up.  If you haven’t already, you should do the same.

Advertising and PR agencies like ours have changed the way we communicate, adding things like search engine marketing, social media promotions, blogging and lots of other direct-to-consumer communications. It’s to the point that literally half of our PR services have nothing to do with media relations.  In fact, it’s hard to tell where our advertising campaigns end and our PR tactics begin.  It’s all intertwined in one platform of online and offline communications.

This is great, but there’s a creeping issue of intergity as the filter of established media outlets weakens.

Consider this: last week, the Seattle Times closed, and venerable papers across the country are teetering on the edge of the abyss. And it’s not just newspapers, Best Life magazine shudders in May what I’m sure will be a series of glossy periodical closures in the next 36 months.

True, this is largely economic fallout, but there’s something more afoot as corporate self-publishing bypasses the media with RSS releases with embedded video and links, and microsites promotions become our standard form of campaigning. The balance of objectivity is in danger if becoming severely out of whack.

Good online marketers know that overly commercial messages on the Internet are useless.  But insidious spin can be even more dangerous, and not just to readers.  Nothing will kill a company faster on the Net than dishonesty.

So PR and advertising agencies turn more to RSS, microsite campaigning, social media PR and even search engine optimization, the entire profession needs to step back and take a long, cool drink of integrity.  

This new Wild West of public relations is a dangerous place. In the past, a curt “no thanks” from a journalist only hurt the ego.  As we wade directly into the waters of public opinion, the rip tide of objectivity will churn with considerably more power and wrath.

Consider this the next time you’re about to hit “post”.  We’re counting on you.

 

MSN featured Nalgene as a way to buy American

MSN featured Nalgene as a way to buy American

One of the most pleasing things that can happen to a PR agency is when a high-level journalist covers a client.  What makes it better is when that coverage parrots the top-line messages you’ve been pushing for some time, and they didn’t even talk to you directly.  

 

This happened today when MSN featured water-bottle manufacturer, Nalgene, in the feature 10 Ways You Can Still Buy American.  In the article, they not only hit all the major high points on BPA-free bottles and the company’s heritage in the outdoors, the writer referred to the bottle as “the symbol of hip environmentalists” and went on to mention the whole range of product.

This is a vote of confidence for laying out a clear, AUTHENTIC, messaging strategy, then making sure you execute in all media relations efforts, search engine optimization (SEO) PR, in store, online, etc.  After a while, the aggregate mesage takes hold and you will be noticed for who you really are.

The recognition couldn’t happen to a nicer group.  Nalgene (in my opinion) is a company that always does the right thing, even when it’s not the easiest thing.  And isn’t that really American after all?

Boston PR agency helps Hasbro Inc. roll out its newest brand, NITRO XRCTM

BOSTON, MA. (Sept. 17, 2008)- Hasbro Inc., (NYSE: HAS) the world’s second largest toy-maker, has hired Cercone Brown & Co. to launch its exciting and innovative new brand. The PR agency will provide non-traditional brand development and promotional outreach as Hasbro introduces NITRO XRCTM, its new line of nitro fueled extreme radio-controlled cars.

Starting in November, the first NITRO XRCTM(Extreme Radio Control) vehicles, the NITRO XRC RICOCHET and NITRO XRC REVOLUTION MT, will be sold exclusively in Phoenix-area WalmartTM stores and nationwide HobbyTown USATM locations.

Capable of achieving speeds up to three times faster than traditional battery-operated RC vehicles and equipped with nitro fuel-powered, internal combustion engines, NITRO XRCTM vehicles are expected to attract RC enthusiasts between ages 16 and 25, a demographic that represents a new opportunity for the company.

“Cercone Brown & Co. recognizes that when it comes to capturing the attention of the Gen Y demographic, the standard marketing techniques usually won’t fit the bill,” said Brian Goldner, COO of Hasbro.  “As a PR agency who has put a lot of time into understanding and implementing non-traditional media campaigns, Cercone Brown & Co. is excited to help Hasbro construct a promotional campaign that is as exciting and innovative as the product we’re launching.”

Currently underway is the NITRO XRCTM X Demon Tour, which will help Cercone Brown & Co. and Hasbro introduce the new line. Kicked off at this summer’s Warped Tour, this multi-level mobile campaign will help Hasbro establish the NITRO XRC as an exciting new part of the Phoenix action sports culture through interactive promotional events and social media outreach.

“With the launch of this product, we’re aiming to connect with Millenials-a demographic for whom trendiness holds more importance than any other age group,” said Goldner.
“Studies show, however, that this generation is more interested in what their friends find cool than what a traditional ad might tell them is. Thus, as a brand who is still new to the scene, NITRO XRC is leveraging already-established connections to the Gen-Y demographic by packaging our product in their unique culture trappings: action sports brands, alternative music, cool locations and identifiable figures.”

The X Demon Tour will feature interactive demos at more than 70 major events and locations throughout Phoenix. RC buffs can get a taste of the action at Arizona State University football games, the Arizona State Fair, and the ASA Action Sports Tour among other events, where Gen-Y run street teams will demonstrate the vehicles’ speed and stunt capabilities and allow spectators to try their hand.

NITRO XRC will also be partnering with Walmart to conduct storefront demos at Phoenix-area stores.

Additionally, Cercone Brown & Co. will help Hasbro reach Gen-Y’ers in the place that they are most likely to be found: social media sites.  Utilizing high-traffic sites like You Tube, Facebook, Digg.com and Flickr, the NITRO XRC website features shareable X Demon Tour dates and videos, as well as a blog lorded over by two on-the-scene street teamers.

“By raising awareness of NITRO XRC through the avenues that are most unique to this demographic-popular music, brands, social media sites, major local events-we are hoping to position our brand as a truly “can’t miss” visceral experience that leads from consumer trials to word-of-mouth brand infusion and, eventually, to sales,” said Leonard Cercone, partner, Cercone Brown & Co.

The X Demon Tour will run through the end of December.

About Cercone Brown & Co.

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, Cercone Brown & Co. (CBC) provides branding, public relations and promotions services to companies in a range of industries. Founded in 2001, the company has worked with leading brands that include adidas, GMAC Insurance, Hasbro, Nantucket Nectars, Orvis, Cognos, Sperry Top-Sider, K2, The Timberland Company, Vibram and ZOOTS. For more information, visit www.cerconebrown.com.

About Hasbro
Hasbro (NYSE: HAS) is a worldwide leader in children’s and family leisure time entertainment products and services, including the design, manufacture and marketing of games and toys ranging from traditional to high-tech.  Both internationally and in the U.S., its PLAYSKOOL, TONKA, MILTON BRADLEY, PARKER BROTHERS, TIGER and WIZARDS OF THE COAST brands and products provide the highest quality and most recognizable play experiences in the world.

Cercone Brown and Co. named agency of record for Austin, Texas’s Sabertec, an environmental technology company specializing in improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gases

BOSTON, MA. (Aug. 4, 2008)- Sabertec, an environmental technology company based in Austin, Texas, today names Cercone Brown & Co. as PR agency of record. The Boston-based PR firm will handle all media relations, digital communications, social media and event execution.

“Our companies are extremely likeminded In our belief that innovation will drive the environmental and economic change that will transform the United States and the world,,” said Bill O’Brien, CEO, Sabertec. “Their work on behalf of eco-driven-conscious brands like Nalgene and Olivia’s Organics gives us the confidence that this is a great fit for us.”

Sabertec is the maker of the Blade, a new technology that easily attaches to the tailpipe of a car, SUV, truck or hybrid to reduce vehicle air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions while increasing fuel economy.

Cercone Brown & Co. recently helped Sabertec launch a promotional event for the Blade called “Drive the Change,” in which celebrities, musicians and environmental activists spoke out about air pollution in Los Angeles and their choice to use the Blade.

“For us, choosing a PR agency was more than hiring someone to increase awareness about our company, it’s finding a partner to evangelize the important change we represent,” said O’Brien.

The company’s co-founder echoed O’Brien’s words of the synergies between the organizations.  “We share a strong eco-optimism, despite the seismic changes rocking the USA and the world,” said Cercone Brown & Co. Partner Len Cercone.  “The vision and hard work of innovators entrepreneurial companies like Sabertec will be the fuel that ushers in a new era of vast, lasting economic, environmental and social reform.”

About Cercone Brown & Co.
Located in Boston, Massachusetts, Cercone Brown & Co. (CBC) provides branding, advertising, public relations and promotions services to companies in a range of industries. Founded in 2001, the company has worked with leading brands that include adidas, GMAC Insurance, Hasbro, Nantucket Nectars, Orvis, Cognos, Sperry Top-Sider, K2, The Timberland Company, Vibram and ZOOTS. For more information, visit www.cerconebrown.com.

About Sabertec
Sabertec is an environmental technology company based in Austin, TX, specializing in the development of affordable air pollution and global warming solutions for diesel and gasoline applications.  www.sabertec.org.

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