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March 25th, 2013Comments (0)

You Gotta be In It to Win It! by Liz Woodhouse

On March 15, Schwartz MSL Boston hosted students from all over the country at our Summer Insiders Challenge. MSLGROUP uses the “Challenge Day” process to identify students whom we’d like to invite to intern at the agency, and we make the competition as fun as possible. Who will be left standing? Who had the best video and digital content? Who wrote the most clever tweet? Who stood out during the day with the best questions, observations and presentation?

The competition is fierce. Requirements for an invitation include a 3.5 GPA or better, two previous PR internships and a great writing sample.

After reviewing 80 resumes, we selected the students and invited them to participate in the first challenge–the digital assignment. The goal is for each student to create 30 seconds of content that offers information about himself or herself and showcases creativity. Some students selected infographics, while others showed off their Facebook fan page or their Pinterest page.

All of this work and effort pay off at Challenge Day.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Schwartz MSL Boston employees gave the students an office tour and provided a concentrated dose of information about working in the public relations industry. From practice group presentations, to a Q&A, to a panel of staffers talking about “a day in the life,” to a case study and presentation—we hope the day was fun, educational and totally worthwhile. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Anyone who spent time with us on that day received a personal phone call regarding next steps, whether it was a job offer or a genuine thank you for all that they accomplished that day.

Schwartz MSL Boston is a great place to work, to learn and to have fun. If you’re interested in participating next summer, keep your eyes on MSLGROUP’s Summer Insiders Challenge.

Here’s to a great summer!

Liz Woodhouse is the Vice President of Human Relations at Schwartz MSL Boston. She is responsible for all facets of human resources, including organizational development, risk management, performance management, recruitment, employee orientation, employee relations, retention, compensation, benefits and employee training.

March 20th, 2013Comments (0)

Next Generation Marketing Agencies Will Be Inspired By the Super Friends by Kyle Farnham

30-year Old Animated Television Series Offers Blueprint for the Future of Marketing Services Agencies

As the lines between the traditional marketing silos have blurred over the past few years, marketing services agencies of all shapes and sizes are moving to develop and share powerful brand stories in real time across multiple channels of engagement. It’s all about integrated marketing capabilities. And, it’s about real-time content.

Advertising agencies are hiring social media specialists. Public relations agencies are hiring creative directors from advertising shops. Digital marketing agencies are hiring PR pros. All of these firms are racing to surround their clients with new talent and capabilities that will enable them to design, develop and deliver discipline neutral ideas that drive conversation and change.

It’s increasingly confusing for clients to hear ad agencies say they can do social media, and social media agencies say they can do PR, and PR agencies say they can do advertising. While unique perspectives will remain as these agencies evolve, traditional distinctions between agencies continue to disappear. So, where should these clients turn?

It seems to me that the more agencies diversify their capabilities and sell services outside their perceived sweet spot, the more confusion it can create for clients. So, what is the best way for next generation agencies to re-engineer their capabilities? Is there a different model for agencies to consider? How do we eliminate the confusion for brand managers and marketing executives?

If you want to look at a model for the agency of the future, just watch the Super Friends.

As children and parents of the 1970’s and mid-1980’s may remember, the Super Friends was an animated television series that ran on ABC as part of the network’s Saturday morning cartoon line up. The series was created by Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1973.

The Hall of Justice, headquarters for the beloved Super Friends — Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin, Aquaman — served as a central meeting point to assess and fight back against a host of super villains, mad scientists and aliens. The series also featured characters like The Flash, Green Lantern, Black Vulcan, Zan and Jana, Samurai, The Atom and Apache Chief, among others.

Each member of the Super Friends had a unique power: breathing under water, super-human strength, telepathy. They also had special tools: utility belts, invisible planes, power rings. Whether working independently or in tandem, they used these powers and tools to defeat any evildoer thrown in their way.

While each member of the Super Friends had a different expertise, they all operated under one brand. They were discipline neutral in their approach by letting the hero with the right tools or special powers take the lead on certain jobs. They harnessed combined powers to win. They were united in their common purpose to defend good and defeat evil.

Each episode featured the Justice League Monitor — the giant computer screen in the Hall of Justice that allowed the Superfriends to send and receive televised transmissions. The Trouble Alert could instantly transmit video images recorded by the Justice League Satellite directly to the screen. The Justice League also used it to monitor world events, such as disasters or threats such as alien invaders from outer space. When the Superfriends would receive a message, they immediately responded by racing to the scene of the action.

So, how does all of this translate to a marketing services firm?

Rather than a public relations agency that adds a few specialists to diversify its marketing talent or a network that manufactures a cross-functional agency team to serve a global account, the agencies of the future will be staffed by and operate like the Super Friends of marketing.
Next generation agencies will be manned with ad directors, media buyers, content creators, PR strategists, social media specialists, experiential marketing experts, graphic designers, creative directors, mobile specialists and video producers, among others. They will work for the same goal. They will not be defined by a discipline but by the power they have to drive conversation and change. They will communicate to the client with one voice.

In the future, PR firms, advertising agencies or digital marketing shops simply won’t exist in their current form. Instead you may find communications agencies that are staffed by their own unique spectrum of marketing superheroes that join together to deploy their individual expertise seamlessly across channels.

But, more than how they are staffed, next generation agencies will be defined by the real-time nature of how they react and respond to the world around them.

Just like the Super Friends that instantly respond to Trouble Alerts on the Justice League Monitor, next-generation agencies will be defined by their abilities to execute in-the-moment marketing. Agencies will all be equipped with their own command centers with monitors, alert systems and listening tools that notify them of marketing opportunities in real-time. Just as the Super Friends immediately insert themselves into a troubling situation, these next-generation agencies will be able to immediately insert themselves into the conversation to maximize a brand-building opportunity or minimize the risk to their clients. They will be focused on building conversations, not campaigns.

The next-generation agencies are already moving toward this in-the-moment marketing approach and Super Friends staffing model at superhero speed. Others that fail to transform quickly enough may be limited in their ability, to design, develop and deliver ideas that are truly discipline neutral.

The same brand manager or marketing executive who today is frustrated by the need to manage and work with multiple agency partners will be energized by their ability to engage a single team of super friends that embodies and delivers authentic integrated marketing solutions.

At the beginning of each episode of the Super Friends, the narrator would say, “Gathered together from the cosmic reaches of the universe – here in this great hall of justice – are the most powerful forces of good ever assembled.”

The future holds a different, and far better, place for the most powerful forces of marketing. Working together under one roof and united by one goal – to defend good and defeat evil for clients everywhere.

As Managing Director of MSL Atlanta, Kyle Farnham has more than 15 years of communications experience working with national and international brands on corporate reputation, consumer marketing, brand positioning, community relations, sponsorship activation, media relations and special events work. In leading the Atlanta office, he drives its daily operations along with pioneering the office’s business development and strategic offerings. An expert in consumer marketing, Kyle has served as a group director for the agency’s work on behalf of The Coca-Cola Company, The Home Depot, Chevron Products Company, Philips Consumer Electronics and IRWIN Industrial Tools.

March 19th, 2013Comments (0)

The Experience Economy Rules by Laura Chavoen

Beyond the actual SXSW festival, where the planned and serendipitous meetings drive, surprise and inspire, the value of attending has always been the insights into ‘what’s next’. SX has been the launch pad for many influential technologies, including Twitter in 2007, Foursquare in 2009 and Highlight and GroupMe in 2012. Over the last year or so, a new approach began to establish dominance, a strategy where brands launch the product BEFORE the festival and use SX to activate, driving mass awareness and adoption. This year, it was obvious, with no real ‘tech’ break-outs, and the majority of the Brand activations were parties and lounges with RSVPs required (Twitter at #FEED, SalesForce at #CloudLounge, Klout at #KloutKrib, Mashable at #MashBash) and interactive experiences for Nike FuelBand, Leap Motion and the Ouya gaming console.

The keynotes often offer insights into upcoming trends, and this years’ focus on entreprenuralism indicates the slowing of the incremental shifts to technology, user experience and channels, and is a harbinger of an upcoming sea change, rooted in immersive multi-channel, user-directed and powered, deeply integrated experiences.  From community-driven space travel to open-source game development and shared personal data, the future is currently changing and shifting, and it is an incredibly exciting time to be in this universe!

March 18th, 2013Comments (0)

2013 Schwartz MSL NCAA Tourney Social Media Power Rankings: Duke vs. UNC by Mark McClennan

For the past six years, to critical acclaim, the Schwartz MSL Insights Group has conducted the NCAA Social Media College Basketball Bracket Analysis (we believe we were the first to do it). As a PR firm that deals with high-tech, healthcare and services companies, we live social media every day and have a love of metrics. Therefore, we asked ourselves what if the schools in the Big Dance had to compete based on their social media prowess, not their hoop skills?

Four members of the research group carefully evaluated the field of 64 and had the teams face off solely on social media skills and came up with a power ranking for each school. We kept the NCAA seeds and let them face off.

You may question – does this really work?

Well in 2008, the NCAA Social Media Power Rankings were one of the few to predict Davidson’s tremendous run deep in the tourney – so mock it at your peril.

All the other basketball pundits tell you that you need to pick your teams based on the standings,  guard play or how far they travel. None of them work all that well. So instead, which of the schools in the dance would win a social media shoot out?

Each year, we refine our methodology. This year, we looked at a school’s official athletics Facebook, Twitter and YouTube following (based on a protest from Duke last year) to see how engaged its fans are. We divided that by a school’s student population to keep it fair for the mid-majors and come up with a school’s Social Media Power Ranking
Do we encourage wagering on games or any other activity which may take this as anything other than entertainment – no.

Without further ado: The Social Media Power Bracket

In the end, Duke (SMPR: 34.30759) is too much for UNC (SMPR: 24.82998)

The 10 Academic Social Media Powerhouses:

1.    Duke
2.    Notre Dame
3.    UNC
4.    University of Florida
5.    Oregon
6.    Miami
7.    University of Oklahoma
8.    Wisconsin Badgers
9.    Syracuse
10.    Missouri

Biggest Facebook Powers:

1.    University of Florida
2.    UNC
3.    Oregon
4.    Wisconsin
5.    Ohio State

Strongest Twitter:

1.    Ohio State
2.    Florida
3.    Duke
4.    Kansas
5.    University of Oklahoma

YouTube Drive:

1.    Oregon
2.    Duke
3.    Norte Dame
4.    Miami
5.    UC Berkeley

Who do YOU think will win?

March 14th, 2013Comments (0)

The Power of Visual Storytelling by Stephanie Ramirez

It’s easy to be in awe, yet overwhelmed by the exhibits and halls at SXSW just by the inundation of visuals and businesses providing an on-site experience for attendees in hopes they will share that experience online.

Since storytelling was one of the top trends this past weekend, I attended a session called Infographics: The Power of Visual Storytelling. Essentially, infographics are evolving to stay effective and relevant. The overflowing amount of information that lives online needs an innovative way to be consumed and shared meanwhile providing relevancy and value to an audience.

For brands, think of what your consumers engage with and what they are more likely to share. Continue to innovate on the content your brand already publishes and think of how your messaging can be created into a real-time visualization especially now with the new Facebook newsfeed update.

We’ve all seen the trend of funny memes as a visual way to convey a message on social media, but if the desired KPI is high virality, make a visual that informs or inspires a consumer to act while tying back to business goals. Stick to one tool that will allow a consistent look and feel of an infographic that is in alignment with your creative team.

Ultimately, users want more interactivity as they consume more data and an infographic can do just that.

Jason Lankow of Column Five suggests the following as a guide to creating infographics:
– Streamline data
– Create an interactive design
– Consistent form of data collection
– Relative aggregation

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was created after inspiration from this infographic on public health. Source: 37signals.com

Stephanie Ramirez is a social media strategist at MSL New York.