80 Seconds Campaign

Did you know that every 80 seconds there is a house fire?  When I was younger, I had a tremendous fear of fires.  For some reason I was convinced that my house would catch on fire.  Fortunately, nothing like that ever happened, but many people aren’t as lucky.  When Hana Yi told me about this virtual campaign, I was blown away by the creativity and innovativeness of it.

The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago launched a virtual campaign to raise awareness for the dangers and abundance of house fires.  They wanted to show people who have not been victims of house fires about the pain that it can cause.  Users will connect to Facebook and watch six of their most precious Facebook pictures virtually burn.  I can honestly tell you watching some of my most prized pictures burning (even though it was virtual) gave me the chills.  The pictures the campaign chose for me included pictures of my family trip to Europe and other pictures taken during college.  It was terrifying to think of my memories burning away.

After you watch your pictures virtually burn, you are brought to a page where you can donate to the Red Cross.  Then you can tweet about it, post it on your Facebook wall or write about the campaign like I am doing here.

This campaign is truly genius.  Targeting their audience online was very smart of the Red Cross, and incorporating Facebook into the campaign was even smarter.  People cherish their Facebook pictures and love looking at them.  Everyone always asks “Did you put up the pictures from last night yet?” or “Did you see the picture that was just tagged of me?”  “Burning them” over the Internet and having people imagine that their prized pictures are gone forever is the perfect way to show how much pain can come from house fires.  A good friend of mine lost most of her prized possessions and photographs due to a house fire many years ago and is still saddened by her loss.  Showing people what it would be like to lose as much as she did is the perfect way to get people to understand this harsh reality.

For more information about the campaign, check out the news release from the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

What do you think about this campaign?

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DePaul University Regional Activity

This past weekend I had the exciting chance to make my first trip to the Midwest and visit Chicago.  In addition to going to Millennium Park, the Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower) and Lincoln Park and seeing the Bean and Lake Michigan (I have never seen a Great Lake before), I had the chance to attend DePaul University’s Regional Activity, Transforming Traditional into Digital: The New Ways of PR (@NewWaysPR).  I have worked closely with the coordinator, Jamie Harris, since September, and her hard work truly paid off.  They had a great conference full of agency tours, intelligent and informative speakers and a career fair.  Their organization made the conference flow very smoothly and go off without a hitch.  Jamie and the entire conference committee should be very proud of their hard work and success!

I had the chance to sit in on their keynote speaker, Rick Murray, President of Edelman Chicago, Chris Barr, Yahoo! Senior Editorial Director, and Trent Frager, Senior Vice President at GolinHarris.  All three speakers were very informative and taught us a lot about the changing landscape of public relations.

Rick Murray, President of Edelman Chicago

It was very interesting to hear Rick Murray speak again.  When I was a freshman, he spoke at Boston University’s Regional Activity, and I found it very interesting to hear about the changes in public relations from that time until now.  He started off by telling us that the job descriptions for what we’ll all be doing in five years won’t be written for another five years.  But that’s what keeps the industry exciting – it is always changing, and there is always something new to learn.  As the former president of Edelman Digital, he knows this fact better than anyone.

The three questions that we need to ask as PR practitioners are:

1) What should you destroy?

2) What should you preserve?

3) What should you create?

Public relations is about public engagement and finding out what is important to an audience.  Murray said we play in the space of truth and authenticity, and it is important to blend passion and purpose to reach out and truly connect with an audience.  The content used to reach an audience will vary from person to person.  Some people want their information on their phone, some want it on their iPad and some want it in a newspaper.  In a time when there are so many ways to reach out to people, it is important to focus on media, ALL types of media.  That means new, old, traditional, everything.

To become a successful PR professional, it is important to keep a few things in mind.

1) Stay on top of what influences culture and the public.

2) Live and work global.  (With new ways to immediately reach people around the work, it is important to have a global way of thinking.)

3) Create value every day by thinking about goals you can measure.

4) Find your passion, and chase it.  If you are not passionate about your work, you are hurting yourself, your company and your client.

5) Making mistakes is how you grow.  Don’t be afraid to make them.

Chris Barr, Yahoo! Senior Editorial Director

Chris Barr gave some valuable advice when writing for the Internet versus written publications.  Writing online is VERY different especially when 79% of people scan web pages, and half of adults in the United States read at the 8th grade level or lower.  So in order to keep attention for as long as possible, it is necessary to do a few things.

1) Get to the point.

2) Make text scannable.

3) Write for the world.

When organizing your story, it is important to keep a few things in mind in order to once again keep the attention of your readers.

1) Front-load the most important information.  People will stop reading at some point on the web page so it is important to get as much information up front as possible.

2) You have 3-5 seconds to hook readers.

3) Limit stories to about 300 words per page.

In a digital world, it is also important to think about how the story will appear on a mobile device.  Now more than ever, people are reading news on the go on their cell phones.

Finally, he spoke about headlines and how to write them in a way that will be clear to readers and appear in search engines.  His overall advice for this aspect of writing online was that accuracy and clarity are more important than cleverness.

Trent Frager, Senior Vice President at GolinHarris

The focus of this session was crisis communications.  In particular, he focused on the impact of social media on a crisis, something that agencies have had to learn over the past few years.  There is now a lot less predictability about how your company is perceived in a crisis.  Even so, only 20.7% of companies have social media crisis plans set.  That is very low considering the impact that social media tools have on a crisis.

From the company’s perspective, it is important to have a few plans in place in case of a crisis.

1) Assess your footprint.  Figure out where your audience is on the Internet, and make sure you are interacting with them.  When a crisis hits, it will be helpful to have this contact already in place.

2) Find the right team to work on a crisis.  Prepare an advisory group.  Provide social media response training.  Online reputation management requires a strong team.

3) Be able to distinguish “baseline chatter” vs. an escalating issue.  Some people may complain online about your company, but it may not truly affect the company’s overall image.  It is important to be able to discern between the two.

All three speakers truly hit on the changing landscape of public relations.  While it is important to remember to interact with traditional media outlets, it is also important to learn how to converse with an online audience.  Whether writing a basic story or dealing with a crisis, there is a completely different set of skills necessary to succeed with social media.

And once again, congratulations to DePaul University on a fantastic Regional Activity!