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Newsjack(ass)ing: PR Fail in the Wake of Tragedy and Crisis

Posted on Oct 30, 2012 by Amy Kauffman

Newsjacking is the (sometimes) clever, quick-response PR tactic piggybacking on current events with an angle benefiting you or your client’s company.  The strategy is not new by any means, but became increasingly popular over the last several years with the rise of Twitter and the constant struggle to stay relevant and timely as news stories can be buried within minutes.

Marketing strategist David Meerman Scott’s definition of newsjacking is the “process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.”

To execute newjacking appropriately you must stay abreast of breaking news stories, know your target audience and most importantly, utilize common sense.  As a result you can increase search rankings and exposure to new customers or clients.  Failing to heed these rules results in you: 1) completely falling on your face in a desperate attempt to promote a hardly-relevant spin on a topic and 2) most likely pissing-off a social community of very vocal citizens.

In the wake of the devastating Hurricane Sandy, I felt the need to bring up the most sensitive and more-often-than-not inappropriate newsjacking, which occurs during a tragedy. Like this gem, below:

President John F. Kennedy once famously noted that when written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters; one representing danger and the other representing opportunity.

It is the opportunity portion of crisis in which many wide-eyed marketers neglect any sense of sympathy or reason and in-turn embarrass themselves, their company and the entire industry of public relations.

HupSpot received much backlash this week in a blog post that has since been taken down highlighting marketers who have newsjacked during the horrific Hurricane Sandy. Hubspot responded in a follow-up post, semi-apologizing and posing the question: “Is Newsjacking Hurricane Sandy Right or Wrong?”

The marketing resource provides some awful examples of newsjacking and a couple that are partially relevant to emergency tactics or supplies.

The worst include InStyle Magazine’s cosmetics story: Hurricane Sandy Have You Stuck Inside? 5 Beauty Treatments to Help Ride Out the Storm and online dating site HowAboutWe’s blog post titled: 18 of Our Favorite Hurricane Sandy Date Ideas from HowAboutWe Members. Yes, because my family on the East Coast’s primary concern is their manicure art or planning their next date during 80mph winds.

I’ve coined this lack of intellect and sensitivity: newsjackassing. But it’s definitely far from the first time this kind of idiocracy has occurred.

A few short months ago the Aurora tragedy was followed by more instances of tasteless and disgusting marketing; most notably a retail boutique whose staff tweeted this, mere hours after the shootings:

@celebboutique: #Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress ;)”

WTF, right? Insensitive, shocking and complete disregard for all the families and victims affected on that day in Colorado.  The boutique claimed they did not know about the event as they are out of the country, yet they tweet about Kim Kardashian. Don’t buy it. And neither did Twitter.  The CelebBoutique ruined their online image forever.

You will not overcome these very public mistakes mocking or downplaying a crisis; instead exercise tact, empathy and better judgment, if you can’t — then rethink your career choice.

As a PR professional disgust is the word that is most accessible in my mind, as well as other obscenities stemming from the frustration when I learn about horribly misplaced PR stunts. I secretly hope these individuals have zero background in the field, but I know I am just fooling myself. Of course we all make mistakes, but these instances are blatantly crass and unforgiving.

Unless your company or client has a product or service directly applicable to a situation as severe as the above, leave it be. There are very few companies in this category, and if you have to wonder if you apply, the answer is always no.

Don’t be a jackass.


Glance Back at 2011 As You Gear Up for Holiday 2012

Posted on Oct 30, 2012 by James Trumbly

A quick trip to the mall this morning revealed that stores are already gearing up for Thanksgiving and—yikes!—Christmas shopping. 10 percent of retailers have already sent a Christmas email to their subscriber list, but don’t feel bad if you haven’t yet. There’s still plenty of time to get your jingle on. Check out what worked and what didn’t during the 2011 holiday season:

What Worked: Sending Emails During the Week of Black Friday

While email opens were average on Black Friday itself, the week leading up to it was a good week for email marketers. Nearly 16 percent of email subscribers made a purchase in response to an email that was sent during the week of Black Friday.

What Didn’t: Relying on Gimmicks to Earn Better Open Rates (like certain words in the subject line)

Popular subject line word choices for 2011 included “free,” “sale,” and “shipping.” Surprisingly, these words did not result in higher open rates. However, the word “coupon” did entice more people to open an email, although it wasn’t used as often.

Take away: Tried and true subject line methods of stating clearly what your email contains, piquing interest, and promising value earn more opens than gimmicks.

What Worked: Sending Emails to Subscribers on Christmas Day

Surprisingly, 6 percent of the emails sent on Christmas Day were opened, despite the many festivities of Christmas morning and dinner with the in-laws. That’s just 3 percent less than average. Also, people spent over 170 percent more on their mobile devices this year than they did on Christmas Day 2010.

What Didn’t: Expecting Better Response Leading Up to Christmas But Ignoring Christmas Day

Actual customer behavior showed that click-throughs increased on Christmas Day, meaning that the savvy marketers who sent a Christmas Day email were rewarded for their efforts with a spike in sales.

Takeaway: People are already looking for sales and after-Christmas deals even before the wrapping paper has made it into the trash can, so give them plenty of shopping options.

What Worked: Using Social Media to Promote Specials and Sales

Promoting sales and specials on Facebook and Twitter creates buzz as your fans share with their friends, giving you a much broader reach than just your subscriber list.

What Didn’t: Failing to Link Social Media Campaigns With Other Marketing Efforts

Of course, Facebook and Twitter can be limiting in their own way, so don’t expect them to do all your marketing for you. People need commonality across marketing venues to keep them oriented.

Takeaway: Coordinate your social media marketing plans with other marketing campaigns to create a unified strategy that reaches as many people as possible.

The 2012 holiday season is upon us. By reflecting on what did and did not drive sales last year, you can create an effective marketing strategy that will keep shoppers merrily clicking away, even when the weather outside is frightful.

Statistics Source: Epsilon 2012 Holiday Trend Report


How to Overcome Tunnel Vision in Email Design

Posted on Oct 17, 2012 by James Trumbly

How long do you have to snag your reader’s attention before you lose them? Say it with me: ten seconds or less. We’ve had this drilled into our heads, and great designers know what keeps people reading and what doesn’t. But what hasn’t been learned nearly so well is that your customer’s online attention is not only short, but also very narrow.

Usability guru, Jack Nielson, explains in a recent Alertbox Column that most users focus only on what interests them or what they expect will give them the answers that they need while ignoring the other content. Known as “Tunnel Vision,” this phenomenon can make the difference between click-throughs and deleted messages.

Let’s consider an example. You design a newsletter advertising your website’s 20 percent off sale. You include a headline, an image, a block of text that includes a coupon code, and a call to action that says “Shop Now.” Nielson’s usability research suggests that if you haven’t stated the coupon code in the headline or included it as part of the call to action, many subscribers won’t see it. It’s a phenomenon similar to banner blindness, where readers ignore portions of the screen that they think aren’t essential to the overall message. If the coupon code is necessary in order to receive the savings, you’ll need to follow a few design tips in order to keep it within your subscribers’ field of vision.

  • Put important elements near each other.
    If your image shows sale items and information, try putting the coupon code within the image or as the image caption. If subscribers must read through a block of text in order to find the coupon code, they may miss it altogether.
  • Include essential info in the link.
    People tend to focus on click-able elements within an email design. Your call to action button and any nearby links should contain the essential information you’re trying to communicate. So instead of using a call to action that says “Shop Now,” try “Save 20% with coupon code FALL2012.”
  • Test with actual users.
    Designers have difficulty recognizing usability problems with their designs because they already know where the important information is and their eyes gravitate toward it. They might not recognize where tunnel vision might occur for the average subscriber. Creating simple A/B split tests can point out problems that keep your readers from noticing the important stuff amongst everything else.

Tunnel vision means that users often don’t see things that are right in front of them. By grouping important elements together and putting essential information where readers tend to look anyway, you can boost your click-through rates and ultimately, your conversions.


Does Your Business Really Need Google+?

Posted on Oct 10, 2012 by James Trumbly

Twitter and Facebook have been well-established as the twin pillars of social media for what amounts to eons in the rapidly evolving technological world. Now, after an epic Google Buzz fail, Google has launched their newest attempt to run with the big dogs: Google+. The questions being asked by many businesses include “Do I really need a third networking site? Will it be a good investment in the long term? Does anybody actually use Google+?” Let’s address these questions one at a time.

Do I Really Need a Third Networking Site?

“Need” is a relevant term, but Google+ does offer some unique features that Facebook and Twitter don’t:

  • Circles—Circles allow you to categorize all your contacts into groups. You can share posts with all your contacts or you can cater your content to those within a particular circle.
  • Hangouts—Hangouts are like video chat on steroids. They allow you to chat with up to nine other Google+ users, even those who aren’t currently connected to you (a great feature for brand exposure). Hangouts are ideal for webinars, group discussions, and question/answer sessions.
  • Google Indexing Benefits—Google is the search engine king, and you can bet they will integrate Google+ into their indexing algorithms. For the best exposure, you have to play the game their way.
  • Saved Searches—Type a keyword into the search feature and find all content relevant to your brand or another topic of interest. These searches can be saved and displayed in your sidebar to keep you up-to-date on all the latest conversations.

Will Google+ Be a Good Investment in the Long Term?

To date, Google+ remains significantly smaller than Facebook. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. On Facebook, you’re competing with a huge conglomeration of events, photos, updates, and more; Google+ tends to be more informational, meaning that you can get your message out to the people who really want to hear what you have to say. It’s also a good bet that Google+ will eventually be integrated with all of Google’s other offerings: Google Places, search, images, and more. All of which makes it a good investment for businesses.

Does Anybody Actually Use Google+?

So far, 90 million users have accounts with Google+. And because every gmail user automatically gets an account, you can expect that number to grow. Sixty percent of those users log in every single day (compared to just 50% who log into Twitter every day), and eighty percent log in once a week.

Google+ is a growing network whose ultimate reach has yet to be established. Its unique features make it a good investment for businesses as social media becomes increasingly integrated into the daily lives of average people. Should you invest? You bet.


Quick Fix Stock Charts Launches, Provides Financial Insights to Members

Posted on Oct 08, 2012 by Amy Kauffman

Quick Fix Stock ChartsHMG Creative is thrilled to announce the launch of Quick Fix Stock Charts, a financial site that educates members on the market about pay day loans and stocks by providing daily stock charts, complete with analysis and comparisons.

Continue Reading →


Workin’ on WordPress

Posted on Oct 04, 2012 by Stacey Donelan

For those of you who don’t know, WordPress is an open source blogging tool and a dynamic content management system (CMS).  Actually, WordPress is currently the most popular blogging platform in use on the Internet.  And what do you know, WordPress is what we currently operate on here at HMG Creative.  For those of you not so familiar with the application, I will provide you with a quick tutorial that will explore and teach you about the ins and outs of WordPress.

Getting Started
The first step, just like any other online management system, is to login.  To do so, add the extension /wp-admin to the end of your website URL.

For example:

Now that you are entered as an administrator, your options are endless.  Well—maybe not endless, but there are a lot of functions to choose from.  So let’s start with a blog.

Creating a New Blog Post
You will see the Dashboard on the left side of the page.  To create a new entry, click “Posts” and choose “Add New.”

Once you have your new workspace you are free to do the following:

  • Title It:  What’s a story without a title anyhow?
  • Add Content:  This is just like working with Word or any other similar software.  Just type away!
  • Pictures & Media:  If you would like to add something to spice up your post, click on the “Upload/Insert” media icon.
  • Insert a Hyperlink:  Always helpful when you are making references.  If you’d like this link to open in a new window, be sure to check that box!
  • Categories:  Choose or add a custom category based on the topic of the post.
  • Add Tags:  This will allow readers to track the key words found in your post.

You also have the ability to:

  • View it in HTML by choosing that tab which is located at the upper-right corner of the text box.  If you don’t understand HTML coding stay away from this feature.
  • Add a title and description in the All-in-One SEO Pack.

Publishing Your Post
The time has come and your masterpiece is now ready for other eyes to see.  So now you must choose, should I publish now and be done with it, should I save it as a draft and have a co-worker proof my work OR should I schedule a time to publish it in the future?  Although this is completely your decision, there are many online studies of the prime times to publish articles, post blogs, tweet, send emails, etc. so be sure to check those out!

Approving Comments
The whole point of a blog is for people around the Web space to learn and interact with one another.  In order to interact, most users will post their comments on other blogs.  However, WordPress does not allow a comment to be seen unless it is approved by you.  In order to decide if this comment is worthy for your blog, go back to the Dashboard panel and click on “Comments.”

Here you will be able to see who and what has been posted.  You are then able to approve or ignore the comment.  You will see these options when you hover over the text.

Editing a Web Page
To do this, head back over to the Dashboard panel.  Choose “Pages,” and then click “All Pages.”

You will see the option to edit the page when you hover over a row.  Once you choose to edit, you are presented with the same options as you were earlier with a blog post.  However, it is different in the fact that it will stay in the same place and will show up in your site navigation (in most cases).

From here, you’ll do the same as you did when you created your new blog post:

  • Add a page title
  • Edit the body content
  • Add images and other media
  • View in HTML format
  • Edit title and the description of the All-in-One SEO Pack
  • Publish, save as a draft or schedule your publishing date

Adding Pages to the Navigation
To begin, select “Appearance” on the Dashboard menu, then choose “Menus.”

You will then select the page that you would like to add in the “Pages” section and press the “Add to Menu” button.  You are able to rearrange the order of the navigation by dragging and dropping the buttons in the general navigation area.  Once you are finished, save your changes by pressing the “Save Menu” option.

Adding a New User
On the Dashboard bar, under “Users,” select “Add New.”

  • Fill out the new user form fields.
  • You will then be given the following options to assign a role to the new user:
    1.  Subscriber:  Can read comments/comment/receive newsletters, etc. BUT cannot create regular site content
    2.  Administrator:  Has access to all the administration features.
    3.  Editor:  Can publish posts, manage posts, as well as manage other people’s posts, etc.
    4.  Author:  Can publish and manage their own posts and are able to upload files.
    5.  Contributor:  Can write and manage their posts but cannot publish posts or upload media files.
  • Once you have done the above, save your changes by pressing the “Add New User” option.

Before no time, you will be an expert at using WordPress.  All it takes is a little practice and all of the functions will become second nature.  Feel free to leave a comment or send us a tweet @hmgcreative with any questions, concerns or maybe even a few of your own tips to share!