Category Archives: Branding

Promoted tweets should be pitch perfect

I just happened across a promoted tweet from @Walmart that’s advertising Halloween items: Make us your one-stop shop for an affordable Halloween. And the tweet is promoting “Cups, candy and more.”

Since when are cups coveted, must-have Halloween items? You do need cups for parties, but still. Why didn’t @Walmart’s Twitter manager say “Costumes, candy and more”?

My organization is looking into paying for promotional posts on Facebook and promoted tweets on Twitter, so this observation makes me wonder how other organizations decide which posts are important enough to pay to promote and what kind of decisions are involved in the content of these posts.

Lesson: If you’re going to pay to promote a tweet, make sure that the content of the tweet is pitch perfect. My guess is that many more shoppers are looking for that perfect costume rather than that perfect holiday cup.

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No Cards cover? Yikes, Sports Illustrated.

Update: As of 9:50 am 3:45 pm Friday, March 30, SI’s Facebook page still hasn’t officially said anything about the covers. Others, though, have posted on their wall, expressing their discontent. Many Louisville fans have said they’re canceling their subscriptions. Where are you on this, SI? There’s even a someecards about this!

The web is was abuzz this afternoon yesterday with the breaking news that Sports Illustrated created different covers to celebrate the NCAA Division I men’s basketball Final Four teams. Except there are three covers…and, well, four teams. The University of Louisville got left out.

[Disclaimer: I live in Kentucky, and I’m a U of L fan.]

That said: Come on, SI! The huge PR no no is that there’s no communication around this. As Eric Crawford (@ericcrawford), the Louisville Courier-Journal‘s sports columnist, blogged today March 29, yes, it’s in part a logistical and financial decision. SI publishes different covers for various U.S. regions with each issue (plus a national one), and “producing two covers for one region…really isn’t a good move financially.”

Why not combine the two teams on one cover? That seems like the logical solution if we’re looking at this in financial and logistical terms. Crawford agrees, as do a lot of folks on social media.

One tweeter captures my sentiments: “I think It’s pretty disrespectful to not have Louisville at least on the cover with Ky. Your marketing department dropped the ball.”

If you’re wondering why “Louisville” and “cover” are bolded, it’s because that’s the search term I used on Twitter to learn more about this. Hopefully, SI’s communication team is doing the same right now. A lot of tweets were found with those search terms.

Interestingly, as of 3:06 pm this afternoon, SI hasn’t address this issue on their Facebook or Twitter accounts. I’m sure (I hope) that’ll change soon.

Back to solutions: Why not bite the financial bullet, and produce two covers for one region? SI understands and appreciates the historic significance of the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville rivalry and the importance of this Final Four match up (check out their story about it). There wouldn’t be any magazines left on newsstands across the state.

It’s hard to say why SI made this decision. It would be fascinating to know what went on during the editorial meeting where this was decided.

At the very least, SI’s media relations and social media folks need to be responding asap to what’s happening on the web right now. A #boycottSI hashtag isn’t a good way to go into this basketball weekend.

P.S.: Good article on this from The Bleacher Report.

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Fond memories: PR oopsies of 2011

I love year-end “best of” and “worst of” lists. Here are a few cringe worthy PR situations from 2011. In the spirit of the holidays, this list doesn’t include anything that has to do with lurid sexual allegations, a la Penn State and Anthony Weiner.

Netflix raises fees and changes name (, #1): Netflix has certainly seen better days, going from a key focus of Chris Anderson’s 2006 book The Long Tail to the CEO sending an e-mail to all its customers on Sept. 19 of this year that began with “I messed up. I owe you an explanation.” This great article sums up the situation, grading Netflix on a variety of areas (spoiler: 3 Ds and an F). Ouch.

Along the same line of fee increases, Bank of America (, #4) came under fire for announcing a $5 monthly debit card fee. Embarrassingly, the other banks they thought would follow suit didn’t. At all.

“Don’t forget Target’s Missoni launch!” says one commenter on the article. Good reminder! I was one of the thousands of shoppers to descend on to browse Missoni’s exclusive line of products only to find that the website wasn’t functioning and stuff in-store sold out pretty quickly. And messily. (This article written by a woman who survived the in-store frenzy is pretty fantastic.)

The Target mishap (or publicity stunt, as it has been called) is an interesting look at traditional advertisement (TV commercials, mostly) creating buzz for something happening online (and in-store) and then the product not living up to the hype. Brings back fond memories of the 2009 KFC and Oprah free chicken coupon debacle. Never underestimate the power of perceived value!

Chrysler dropping the f-bomb in Detroit: a social media rep with an agency handling Chrysler’s Twitter account accidentally tweeted from Chrysler’s account: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive.” Yikes. When you manage a personal Twitter account plus at least one professional one, mistakes can happen. But why would someone who works on behalf of Chrysler even tweet that from her/his personal account? Not classy at all.

Check out other 2011 PR disaster lists from AdAge, Startupsmart,, and Huff Post.

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Companies on Twitter: should you follow all your followers?

Should an organization follow everyone on Twitter that follows it? It’s a question I’ve been struggling with ever since I began tweeting professionally a few years ago.

When I worked in higher education marketing, I once had a follower who was not happy that the official school-sanctioned college account (that I managed) didn’t follow her back.

It raises the question, then and still now: what should our expectations be as followers and as followees?

First, let’s ask some more questions. Do we follow accounts on Twitter so we can hear what they have to say, or so they can hear what we have to say? Or both? It all depends, of course. Friends are a different matter; for now, let’s just focus on brands and organizations.

I follow marketing professionals, blogs and publications on Twitter for the purpose of learning from then, retweeting their content, and for throwing in my two cents every so often. I want to engage with these types of accounts. I also would hope that if I were to retweet their content fairly often and engage with them, they might want to follow me, too, since we’re talking about the same thing.

But, I follow Bolthouse Farms and Women’s Health magazine on Twitter because I want to know what’s going on with them, and I like the content they put out. I’m a fan of these brands. Regular engagement might not occur, and even if it did, I wouldn’t expect them to follow me. I realize that I don’t really say too much they’d want to hear.

Something to consider, though, is that because I’m in marketing, I understand these nuances. Someone following Women’s Health on Twitter magazine might really expect the magazine to follow them back. I was nice enough to follow you, you should show you appreciate me by following me, someone might say.

It’s a common social media guideline that if a Twitter account has a disproportionate amount of followees to followers, it could be a spam account, or it’s just not producing good content. For example, if an account is following 1,351 people and only has 33 followers, it’s a bad sign.

But on the flip side, most celebrities and huge brands have a disproportionate ratio going the other way. Look at University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari). He currently has 1,140,097 followers. He’s currently following 119.

Should the bottomline for Twitter be that there shouldn’t be a bottomline? It seems that a lot of guidelines for social media marketing on Twitter are situational and relative. Which clearly makes this blog entry one that doesn’t have a tidy conclusion!

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Playing the rankings card in higher education marketing

Photo by Chris Floyd

Last night I had the privilege of talking to a small group of college seniors about higher education marketing, and specifically, the role that college rankings play in a school’s public image. My audience was a savvy group and well-above-average students academically. So they understand the purpose of higher education marketing, which is, first and foremost, to support student recruitment.

The goal of a college admissions office is to obtain as many high-quality applicants as possible from year to year. Higher quantities of applicants indicate that an increasing number of individuals are aware of and interested in your school. Plus, the more high quality students that apply, the more a college has to select from. And this, in turn, helps recruitment efforts for the future.

So what about college rankings? For sure, they’re widely loved and hated. The argument isn’t as simple as, “Those who do poorly in rankings hate them.” Not so. Many schools who would otherwise do well in certain college rankings opt out of consideration, for various reasons, one being that certain rankings systems have unfair judging methodology.

In my role as a higher education marketer, media and public relations is my specialty. And like any job you’ve had or will ever have, there’ll be some great parts and some not so great. For example: I’m currently working with a biology professor who is creating a class to analyze the Gulf oil spill. This is a publicity project I’m really excited about.

On the other hand, I don’t get as excited about publicizing college rankings. Not because rankings are bad or because they don’t have their place, but because there are other characteristics of any college or university that better describe a school’s personality and worth, such as academic programs, special professors, and high-achieving students. And that’s what I love to focus on my efforts on.

We must take rankings with a grain of salt, so to speak: that is, not too seriously. We can definitely take pride in them and share the news with the groups of people we think might also take pride in them. We should incorporate them a bit into our recruitment efforts, because there are some folks (especially parents!) who take rankings seriously, and if we’re at the top of them, folks should be aware of that.

That said, it’s good not to base an entire marketing strategy on rankings. Why? Well, as we all know, rankings are dynamic. They change. Look at my school, for example: In one ranking, we were #13 in 2008, #14 in 2009, and this past year, for the 2010 rankings, we fell 10 spots to #24. What happened? We didn’t change, and we especially didn’t get worse. Did other schools get that much better? Who knows.

Let’s turn it around. If a university was consistently ranked poorly, would they go around feeling like they were bad just because U.S. News or Consumers Digest said they were? Of course not! They would acknowledge these rankings exist (they wouldn’t publicize them), and then disregard the negativity and go on, knowing they’re better than that.

And I think that’s also a good way to approach positive rankings. We acknowledge they exist, we publicize them a little, then we go about our business, because we don’t need a third party to define us. Our students, our faculty and our staff members do that. As do our alumni, who are really any school’s biggest advocates, if those relationships are cultivated properly.

College rankings are like any other third-party validation: if you overexpose and run them into the ground, folks are going to tire of hearing about them, which can easily turn anything positive into something negative. And that’s not what any college’s marketing team sets out to do.

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