Top 6 PR Lessons Learned From FOX’s Primetime Drama “Empire”

empire If you’re like me, you’re still buzzing about the season finale of FOX’s monster new drama “Empire” and mourning that you’ll have to wait months for season two to get more nuggets of wisdom from the show’s ferocious lioness Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). Cookie is an expert at commanding a room and dropping a sound bite: cookie-lyon-streets-inline This show is chockfull of life lessons, financial lessons and even PR lessons… here are my top 6:

1. Timing is everything.

tumblr_nke65lszkJ1qiohboo3_400 With an IPO deal hanging in the balance, Lucious (Terrence Howard) knows that his annual white party has to impress. Two of his sons, Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) and Jamal (Jussie Smollett), have albums about to drop and everything needs to be timed precisely to ensure that the label gets the maximum buzz out of both artists. There’s much to consider: what’s best for the artist, best for the label, what’s happening in the market at the time, etc. Looking at your “big announcement” as a huge opportunity, from all angles, is key to ensuring you’re maximizing your client’s investment and exceeding their expectations. In “Empire” there’s plenty of jockeying that goes on regarding who is the hottest and thus can impress investors the most… which leads to the next lesson.

2. Live events can go off-track; own it and spin it.

Jamal decides to use the white party not only as his chance to establish himself as an artist, but also to publicly come out as a gay artist…and sticking it to Lucious at the same time. His father made it clear in the past that he disapproved (that’s putting it politely!) of Jamal’s homosexuality. Cookie couldn’t be more pleased that Jamal decided to finally let out his “roar,” although she too was shocked. The lesson? Both smiled and nodded as if they orchestrated the whole thing. As publicists this is what is required at live events. You do everything you can to meticulously manage each detail, but ultimately you have no control once the performance begins. So when it doesn’t work out as planned, it’s key to keep your cool. Remember: your attendees don’t know that it wasn’t scripted (in most cases). Make them think the “snafu” was part of the show.

3. There’s always a Boo Boo Kitty

tumblr_nj0cqvd6xx1slin46o3_400 Anika (Grace Gealey), is Lucious’ new lady and obviously Cookie’s natural rival. Cookie is quick to give her a demoralizing nickname to her face in true Cookie style, and thus Boo Boo Kitty was born. Who is she? She’s smart, beautiful, shiny and new. She’s everything your existing client thinks that they are missing out on at another agency, but you’re the one that’s done hard time for them. You’re the one that gave them three gorgeous kids. But they can’t help but be enamored… and guess what? It’s not their fault. It’s your job, our job, to bring them fresh ideas, even fresh faces regularly to keep them from straying. It’s our job to regularly remind them of our rich experience and how our intimate knowledge of their business makes us the best choice… leading to our next lesson.

4. Keep an eye on the competition and do your research

PR, much like the music industry, can be cutthroat. When Lucious finds out that Anika has been talking to his arch rival in the business, he’s quick to put the entire office on red alert. Lockdown the most important talent and retain anyone who could be a game-changer for the label. This is a data-driven endeavor where every second and every relationship counts. They know whom, how and where their rival will try to strike out, and in turn, are able to quickly put together a counter strategy in no time. As publicists we regularly prepare our clients for a crisis, but we need to ensure the agency is prepared, too.

5. Don’t mistake celebrity for influence.

tumblr_njo5em0r4z1qiohboo3_400 So how do you ensure that you have the types of relationships that will hold up in a crisis? Obviously, long-term, regular connection where you can truly get to know someone is the best situation, but this isn’t always possible or scalable. So what then? Is it the biggest, most prominent name you should focus on? As publicists we know better. If you want the celebrity, you have to know how to motivate them, and when it’s not just about the dollars that’s done through the people that influence them the most. As we see in “Empire” when everyone is trying to sign Titan through traditional inroads, it’s Cookie who is able to make it happen by identifying who has the most influence over the artist and establishing a connection with them (in this case his mother).

6. Don’t be afraid to use guerrilla tactics

In an effort to retain Empire’s most valuable artists Cookie finds herself on the wrong side of the tracks trying to convince Royale-T to stay with the label. This is particularly difficult since he’s at a studio with guys from rival music label Creedmore. After exhausting all verbal objection handling, Cookie relies on guerrilla tactics… she challenges him and his crew to a drinking contest. If they pass out first then Royale-T stays with Empire; if she’s out first then it’s over. Of course, Cookie’s a smart lady who never asks a question she doesn’t know the answer to (another good PR lesson) and who never throws down a challenge without being sure she can win. As the last one standing, Cookie seals the deal. Sometimes it’s necessary to know when old school tactics are required to get the job done. This is why I’ll never buy that media drops and desksides are a thing of the past.   What life lessons have you learned from the biggest show on television right now? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

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Digital Download: 5 Takeaways From SXSW 2015

sxsw This year, we took our talents to the South by Southwest conference. A breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies, SXSW Interactive has been one of the biggest conferences of its kind since 2007. InternetBetterAustin6thStreet As a first-timer, I was overwhelmed, yet invigorated by the variety of content and events. Along with our executives AJ Gerritson and Tom Lee, we tirelessly combed through digital guides and enthusiastically connected with SXSW veterans to build a targeted programming strategy. I was in for an unforgettable experience. Here are five of my most prominent takeaways:


1. Itinerary

We crafted our itinerary based on session and brand highlights and built a schedule knowing very well we could deviate if need be. However, the interval between sessions is only 15-30 minutes. Between the vast layout and oversaturation of attendees, it made getting to other venues in a timely matter impossible. Next year, we will factor in the importance and convenience of spending a full day at just one location.


2. SXSW App

This is the best networking tool we used. SXSocial is an innovative way to connect with attendees before, during, and after the conference. Attendees create a profile with links to their social media outlets and can browse all registered attendees by keyword, location, or industry. The best feature is that the app lets you star these contacts, which compiles them in a “favorite” section for future reference. WORD OF MOUTH

3. Word of Mouth

There are dedicated accounts on Instagram and Twitter to scoping lines, RSVPs, and capacity information. Do your research and find the trending hashtags. We skipped some of our top targeted events because of hot leads we came across during the day. Stay flexible and give yourself permission to eavesdrop. innovative networking

4. Innovative Networking

Waiting in line is an integral part of the SXSW experience. Even if you did your homework and RSVP’ed to everything, you will wait in line. A really long one. Fight the urge to use this time to catch up on e-mails, and instead, make friends in line (and save your phone’s battery life!). Some of the best contacts we made started with casual commiseration about wait times. Remember: everyone is there to network. Use coffee lines, walking commutes, pedicabs – anything – to start up a conversation.


5. Pace Yourself

You are forewarned repeatedly: Drink water, take a break and bring sunscreen. It won’t be until you arrive in downtown Austin that you realize how non-stop SXSW is. Blink an eye and you miss an invitation or conversation about the next hot spot. Make sure to take the time each day to round up your mass of business cards, have some water and ground yourself.

*Bonus Tip: Work Hard, Play Hard

SXSW has been a fundamental part of Austin since its creation in 1987. The city has grown organically around the festival, establishing itself as a staple city for millennials in the multimedia fields. We highly suggest you take time to revel in all that the city has to offer. The food is delectable, the bars are diverse, the music is advanced, and the people are wildly authentic. Austin’s culture is truly one of a kind.
Our favorite hot spots: Rainey Street, 6th Street, Franklin BBQ and the Peached Tortilla.
It is safe to say, we will definitely be back for more. What tips do you have for making the most of SXSW?

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Heinz-Kraft Merger, Pope to Visit White House, Periscope, and Munch Madness

451 Labs

Top Story: Heinz-Kraft Merger

HJ Heinz, owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, is to merge with Kraft Foods Groups to form the fifth-largest food and beverage company on earth. By joining forces, Kraft and Heinz executives expect to save $1.5 billion in annual cost by the end of 2017. The merger is valued at $36 billion, and the new company will have revenue of approximately $28 billion. “This is my kind of transaction, uniting two world-class organizations and delivering shareholder value,” Warren Buffett said in the statement. “I’m excited by the opportunities for what this new combined organization will achieve.” Kraft brands like Jell-O, Oscar Mayer, and Kool-Aid will join Heinz Beanz, Ore-Ida potato fries, and Weight Watchers meals to become The Kraft Heinz Company. Here’s an infographic from Heinz showing some of the biggest brands in the combined portfolio: o-HEINZ-KRAFT-900

Under the Radar: The Pope Visits the White House

[caption id="attachment_11354" align="aligncenter" width="453" class=" "]Pope (Photo credit: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)[/caption] The White House announced yesterday that Pope Francis is to meet with President Obama during his trip to the Unites States later this year. The Pope will visit the White House on September 23, where the two will discuss “caring for the marginalized and the poor; advancing economic opportunity for all; serving as good stewards of the environment; protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world; and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities,” according to a statement from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

Tool of the Week: Periscope

Periscope Logo Last week, we featured the live-streaming app Meerket that was launched at SXSW and has already gained major popularity and buzz. Twitter responded by launching its own live-streaming app for iOS, Periscope, and then cutting off Meerkat’s access to Twitter’s social graph.

How does it work?

Perisocpe Periscope users sign in with Twitter and find a list of streams that are currently live. Below it, there is a list of recent streams, although not all can be played back. Users have the option to stop their streams from being replayed with a single tap; however, streams save by default, and the result is an app that can be browsed. Replay is Periscopes differentiating feature that just may win the game.


Periscope also allows users to send a heart (or two) to the person recording a stream, with the tap of a finger. The heart appears on the screen for the sender and the audience to see. It is a cute feature that lets the person recording know that what they are doing is appreciated. "It’s like the crowd going wild — who doesn’t like that?" says Kayvon Beykpour, Periscope’s co-founder. The goal is to make broadcasting less intimidating to the average person. So far, users have streamed everything from what they had for breakfast to an explosion in NYC. nyc explosion

Around the Hub: Munch Madness

Munch Madness Munch Madness, created in 2010 by the Boston Globe, is a tournament pitting 64 local restaurants against one another. It’s down to the final four with just two rounds left: Island Creek Oyster Bar vs Toro, and Oleana vs. Hyland Kitchen. Cast your votes and follow the action at Join in on Twitter using hashtag #munchmadness. Who do you think will come out on top?

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3 Tips for Utilizing Social Media for Recruitment Marketing

3 tips With more than two billion active social media users around the world, job seekers are increasingly using platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to search for employment. According to a recent Jobvite study, 21% of “social job seekers” have found their “favorite or best” job through online social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. 76% of social job seekers found their current position through Facebook. Additionally, these job seekers used LinkedIn to do most of their job searches, and asked others via Twitter for help and advice in regards to their job search. As social job seeking increases in popularity, it’s especially important for brands and recruiters to participate in job search-specific social conversations when seeking qualified talent. To do this, brands and recruiters should consider these three tactics:

Create Careers-Specific Social Platforms

When sharing content about job openings through a brand’s corporate page, it is difficult to ensure that messages will be shared with the appropriate audience. By creating careers-specific social media accounts, you can be assured that most followers are interested in working within your company or your industry in the near future. You can then utilize these careers-specific social platforms to share information about job vacancies, showcase what it’s like to work at your company and why it’s a great place to work, and relate to those who are currently job hunting through shareable, lifestyle-oriented content.

Keep Content Balanced, Engaging and Informative

Since each social platform has its own purpose, unique functionalities, and limitations, it’s important to keep their differences in mind when creating a content strategy for each platform. On platforms that utilize hashtags, a cohesive hashtag strategy should be put in place to attract those interested specifically in your company, as well as those searching for jobs in general. Overall, content should be a fun, balanced mix of information relating to job openings, exciting company news, current employees and their accomplishments, and lifestyle-oriented content relatable to the job-hunt. Aim to create content that relates back to career opportunities at your company. However, keep in mind that it is important to avoid promoting your brand on holidays and when content has a serious subject matter. As a client of 451 Marketing, Ericsson’s Employer Branding team successfully reaches key target audiences by maintaining several recruitment-specific social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Across these platforms, Ericsson Careers shares job openings, company news, and engaging custom image series like “Ericsson Career Tips,” “Ericsson Careers Inspiration,” and “Ericsson Careers Health Tips.” These custom image series always relate back to the job search and working in a professional environment. Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 11.58.11 AM

Leverage Employees for Content and Engagement

Featuring current employees is an excellent way of showcasing how and why your company is an exciting place to work. Engaging forms of employee-focused content include: employee testimonials, inspirational quotes from company leaders, career tips from employees and those in hiring positions, and photos from events and exciting office activities. In honor of International Women’s Day, Ericsson Careers asked its female employees to share how they feel empowered in the workplace. These quotes were then implemented in a creative custom image series that was shared on Facebook in an album. The album was a success, receiving about 2,275 likes and 23 shares, and showcasing Ericsson’s dedication to diversity and employee support. Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 11.58.17 AM Employee engagement on social media can also be another driver of success. All employees should be encouraged to follow your company’s social media accounts and share posts with their friends and followers. During exciting office events, employees should also be prompted to share photos and stories of their experiences. During the 2015 Mobile World Congress, Ericsson Careers shared daily content, uploaded by Ericsson’s student ambassadors attending the event.

Our Ericsson student ambassadors took some time for a leisurely lunch at Mobile World Congress! #MWC15

A photo posted by Ericsson Careers (@ericssoncareers) on

What are some creative ways your brand has utilized social media to recruit employees?

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3 Tips for Branded Content Marketing for Community Banks

branded content marketing To attract new customers and retain existing ones in today's digital age, the need to optimize one's online brand image is more important than ever. This is especially true for community banks. Gen-Z is coming of age, the Gen-Y segment continues to mature, and the Gen-X and Boomer segments are embracing online communications like never before. Therefore, it’s no wonder that the national and regional banks are already using branded content marketing to reach out to your customers. Not every community bank has the internal resources to implement a full-blown online marketing strategy. But branded content marketing used in an engaging, consistent, and timely way will win new business and help retain the business you have—even when done on a small scale. By integrating your brand messaging with content that engages and entertains your audience, you can still stay top-of-mind without saturating them with sales messages. For instance, you might build a news page on your bank’s website and create a planned schedule of posts to be uploaded monthly or quarterly. Topics could include online security, smart money management, investing and saving, or community news. Then, replicate that periodic messaging across multiple touch-points. multiple touch points To be effective your content marketing campaigns should utilize at least two or more of these channels, but the key is consistency and authenticity. branded content must be It’s important to analyze the results of the campaigns. By understanding the “what, when and where” of audience interaction and consumption of your content, you will know how to fine-tune and refocus your efforts as you go forward. Of course, always be sure to have your legal or compliance officer check over your content first prior to publishing. One of the interesting trends in bank marketing is behavioral retargeting. This is where the viewer will be served up a unique content based on their previous online behavior – where they went and what they browsed. utilize behavioral targeting   For instance, if a user went to your website and read about how to switch to your bank, but left your site without filling out the contact form on the web page, they would be served banner ads reminding them about switching to your bank while they visit other websites later on. This technology gives you the ability to create content that speaks directly to the consumer’s needs in a timely way. Whatever your marketing plans, know sooner or later you will have no choice but to improve your online brand image. Just as mobile banking is now becoming standard for community banks, so too will branded content marketing. Ultimately, that means understanding what your bank’s brand stands for and how to tell your brand story consistently across multiple online channels. The sooner you can institute these changes to your online marketing strategy, the better it will be for your brand!

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