Selfies: Narcissistic or Revolutionary?


We’ve all done it. In front of the Grand Canyon, with your two college friends, a solo shot post-workout—there really isn’t a wrong place to take a selfie. Selfies have evolved from a tourist mannerism to a normal daily activity and in doing so, have completely transformed how we interact in the world. Like most social phenomena, selfies have gradually seeped their way into all aspects of life—altering the way we interact with peers, the way we market ourselves, and even the way we view ourselves. Our lives have been totally eclipsed by this sensation of self-promotion and the result has been increasingly controversial. Images are becoming the single most important determinant in promotional articles. Articles that include images get 94% more views than those that don’t. There has been a fundamental shift to the visual side of marketing that makes social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest even more crucial to driving sales. Selfie images themselves are becoming their own independent platform with which brands can promote themselves through campaigns, competitions and hashtags. Samsung, who has seemingly made it their marketing goal to own the selfie, has been particularly successful at harnessing the power of it. David Ortiz received an outrageous amount of press for his recent selfie with President Obama.

selfie obama

While he was accused of taking the picture as part of his promotional deal with Samsung and received a lot of criticism for it, the exposure it brought to Samsung and their Galaxy Note 3 device was well worth the debate. Controversial press is still press; and it can have positive results if handled correctly. Ellen DeGeneres, another sponsor of Samsung, went viral with her Oscars selfie, which was subsequently retweeted over 3 million times, a twitter record and brought the company over $1 billion dollars worth of attention. Both instances were met with extreme popularity and resulted in unbelievable exposure. As the selfie makes its way up the ranks of trending social behaviors, it simultaneously tests the waters of modern PR tactics. Cancer Research UK hitched on to the trending #NoMakeUpSelfies and transformed the trend into a fundraising campaign. no make up While the Facebook page has accumulated thousands of selfies and the campaign has been successful in terms of participation, it has also gained a lot of criticism for encouraging narcissism and creating hype around something that shouldn’t be that profound (women without makeup). Regardless, the campaign raised over 2 million dollars in just 48 hours and since then has latched onto various other campaigns to become an even larger sensation. Similarly, the theme for the 10th Anniversary Celebration of BlogHer Conferences that took place in San Jose last week was #selfiebration. For ten weeks prior to the event, an online selfie contest was held as bloggers responded to hashtags and prompts with pictures of themselves. The idea was to demonstrate how blogging is an extension of oneself, and that the true power of blogging comes from understanding and revealing your true self. Blogging today, like PR, is about transparency and creating an identity around a product or a brand so that it transforms into something more real and therefore valued. On the BlogHer event website they describe the selfie as “a new way of sharing, a new way of telling stories, a new way to be a part of media, a new way to connect with brands, a new way to disrupt the old ways—[it] is bigger than we can even fully see and understand right now, because it is happening every day, with us in smack-dab in the middle.” Through this contest, BlogHer was able to garner hundreds of participants while simultaneously generating enormous buzz for their upcoming anniversary event. As the selfie takes on new roles in the marketing world, controversy around it has become increasingly tense. The growing political, social and behavioral power it has on the public is changing the environment of marketing. Selfies are becoming an important and influential way to endorse yourself, and bond with the public over something simple and universal. If PR firms can harness the influence that a selfie has over the public and use it in a way to build brand awareness, it can be a huge asset. In the case of Cara Delevinge, a famous model who took a selfie video on the catwalk of Giles Deacon’s runway last February, she was able to give 2% of the twitter activity during London Fashion Week to Giles Deacon himself, not to mention the additional 4 million followers on her Instagram that watched the videos. In terms of the President of the United States and his participation in the selfie phenomenon – people seem less enthralled. In his case, the selfie takes on a petty and conceited nature, one that the public and press aren’t impressed by. Selfies live in a specific and spontaneous environment, and it is up to you to determine the right moment. They are a whole new beast to tame in the world of social media and public relations, but when used appropriately, they can break open a whole new level of exposure and brand awareness with minimal resources. All you need is yourself.   **Written by Abby Bunting, International Relations major at Brown University (Class of 2015).

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7 Ways Big Brands Successfully Drive Sales with Content

The number one goal of content marketing is to create and distribute valuable, relevant and consistent content that will attract and acquire a clearly defined audience. The purpose is not merely to get consumers’ attention, but to drive profitable customer action. Read the seven reasons why these companies and more have successfully succeeded in driving sales via content marketing.   Craft headlines that are sure to make headway It seems that people cannot go anywhere without their smart phones, tablets, or laptops. Each of which is constantly connecting with the worldwide web, leaving every image, article, video and social media platform right at your fingertips. With so much to choose from, it becomes that much more imperative to make sure your article stands out and rises above the rest. Your best bet is to:
  • Put a Number on It
  • Use Rhyming & Alliteration
  • Opt for How To’s, Complete Guides, What No One Tells You About…, Tips, etc.
  • Pathos: Surprise, amaze, incredible, heart-breaking, life-changing
Prime Example: Buzzfeed


Buzzfeed does an incredible job of incorporating the above-mentioned tactics into their headline strategy, guaranteeing user attention. People generally like the idea that there is a limit or expectation to how much information they will take in from an article, which explains the desirability of using numbers. Rhyming and alliteration make for fluid statements, while personal stories, testimonials, and struggles are an extremely relatable way to connect with your audience and gain valuable engagement. Last but not least, by emphasizing how inclusive, innovative, and far-reaching your information is, the more interested readers will be.   Remember: Not just any-old image will do Everyone’s heard the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but it’s certainly possible that the quote isn’t entirely accurate. Maybe you can only come up with 148 words to describe an image of this morning’s coffee stain on your new shirt, but the point is that high-quality, relevant images can do the work so you don’t have to use 148 words, or ‘a thousand’ for those who are optimistic. With this in mind, attach an image that you believe sends the most effective, intuitive message to your audience, one that is large so that it’s hard to miss and clear so that they can’t miss the point. Prime Example: We Are Not Martha (Shout-Out to our Director of Social Media Susie Anderson!)

we are not martha

With great recipes and a funny personality, We Are Not Martha would be a successful blog, pictures or not. However, it is the inclusion of her high-resolution photos, most of which are drool-worthy or hunger-inspiring, that takes her blog and it’s recipes to another level. Since people respond tend to respond more emotionally to images than a string of words, her decadent photos of all that she makes takes you step-by-step through the cooking process, and certainly builds up excitement for what is to come!   Don’t let users get lazy, call them to action! Too often businesses are able to bring users to check out their websites, only to have them leave moments later. Why is this? The reason is that many companies fail to recognize the significance of using Call-to-Actions, which is an attempt to generate an immediate response from the audience. Rather than idling the website aimlessly, why not give users something to think about? Maybe they should download your eBooks, or try a free month-long trial of your product? By asking something of your audience, you can generate more leads and product participation, each of which will force users to scrutinize your good or service further. Prime Example: Netflix


Netflix integrates call to actions, like the one above: “Watch TV shows & movies anytime, anywhere.” Simple and to the point, the slogan emphasizes how flexible the application is, while also mentioning that the site has essentially all that one would look for in terms of video entertainment. At $7.99 a month, the service seems like a bargain, and the intuitive “Start Your Free Month,” tab is too. Always empower those who power you Our guiding principle is to make people love your brand, but what exactly does that entail? This is not an instance where you hire someone to give out free hugs and high-fives to every customer accrued. Instead, the aim is to invigorate your audience by convincing them that they can be a better version of themselves if your brand was part of their life. Prime Example: Apple


  Understand that user sharing really is caring When something of interest is found on the Internet, that interest usually doesn't stop there. What used to spread through word of mouth and written letters can now spread simply and rapidly through hyperlink. The easier you make it to share, the more likely people will do just that. Prime Example: YouTube


YouTube is an excellent example of a company that has made its content accessible to virtually anyone anywhere with one of the larger selections of social media platforms that I’ve seen. It extends sharing options beyond the standard 3-4 platforms (usually some combination of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Email) to offer 13 opportunities including reddit, StumbleUpon and even foreign social networks like Russia's Odnoklassniki and Europe's VK. Given that YouTube's most viewed video of all time (Psy's "Gangnam Style") has surpassed the 2 billion views mark, I would say it's working.

  Optimize and leverage product-related topics There are variety of general topics that interest people, whether it’s the NFL Superbowl, the FIFA World Cup, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, the 4th of July or music festivals. Though each may be an event or a holiday, there are a number of connotations and associations that develop whether it’s consciously or not. As an example, the Fourth of July not only represents the fourth day of the month of July, but rather it brews up images of hot dogs and burgers, fireworks and no work, as well as red, white and blue. Companies that understand how their target audience thinks, knows how to make the most of associations such as these by capitalizing on an event or concept that will further the initiative of their product. Prime Example: Free People


Free People, a popular women’s fashion clothing company, has its own blog in which many of the posts include images of models wearing their clothing. In this way, it becomes difficult for the user to separate an article on music festivals from the Free People clothing the model is sporting in the included image. Therefore, associate yourself!   Recycle content by relating the past to the present Sometimes we forgot that things from the past can still be useful in the present. Despite a blog post or advertisement being days or months or even years old, they continue to represent an interest or demonstrated expertise on a given topic that was once, and can still be, of interest to your target audience. More often than not, two topics can be intertwined such that your most recent focus could incorporate a previous one. For instance, a food blog may have a recipe for red velvet cake with a hyperlink to a cream cheese frosting recipe that had been posted well beforehand. In much the same way, company blogs or website articles can be linked to previous blog posts or online articles so that the single present piece being shared has many embedded hyperlinks that will direct users to further pieces. By doing so, your company not only appears to have a better understanding of a broader range of topics, but it also indicates that you’ve thought of all the possibilities and more. Prime Example: WikiHow

sevenWikiHow has become a premier destination for those trying to learn how to do everything from bake the perfect homemade apple pie to the many who would like to learn a thing or two about being happy (shown in the photo above). You can see that the number one step to “being happy” is to “be optimistic.” For those on the above page who also think they could use some insight into being optimistic, they can click on the phrase so that they’ll be directed to a similarly structured how to guide. In this way, WikiHow knows which topics will be of interest to users based on their intended searches. By hyperlinking topics to an entirely different, but related topic, the site ensures that even more engagement will occur.

  Someone somewhere said that you should learn from the best, and in today’s times, the best being corporate giants like Apple, Netflix, YouTube, to name a few. Written by Marketing intern Alison Takahashi English and Psychology majors at Boston College (Class of 2016).

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Social Media’s Newest Trend: Public Fact-Checking

The concept that a company should use social media in an innovative way to gain publicity certainly isn’t news. In February, Oreo’s "You Can Still Dunk in the Dark" tweet demonstrated to the world that a well-timed social media post could generate more publicity than a multi-million dollar Superbowl ad. What is more, just last week Ikea released the first-ever Instagram website, effectively turning the social media platform into an online store. And while countless other examples of this exist from the past few years, one particular new trend seems to be emerging: fact-checking over social media.


On June 19, The New York Times correspondent, Timothy Egan, published an op-ed criticizing Walmart for unfair labor practices and questionable business techniques. Egan is not the first to criticize Walmart regarding this concern, however Walmart decided to fight back against such accusations for the first time. Instead of submitting edits to The New York Times, writing a letter to the editor, or engaging in other types of damage control, Walmart chose to wage an all-out battle with The Times over social media. Walmart’s Vice President of Corporate Communications, David Tovar, literally took a red pen to Egan’s article, covering it in scathing comments, and posted the marked-up copy on all of Walmart’s social media channels. two With this one move, Walmart turned fact-checking into a social phenomenon, and the response has been met with huge amounts of public attention, both positive and negative. And Walmart isn’t the only company taking its media battles public – just last week Blackberry unveiled a new fact-checking blog devoted to “fighting back” against unfair criticism.


While incorrect and unfair information on the Internet is inevitable, damage control is something that every company must take very seriously. It is important to know when this should be done over social media, or when taking your media battles public is, quite simply, bad PR.   Either way, there is no doubt that public fact-checking can do wonders for a company’s publicity, so here are a few pros to Walmart’s public approach:

1. Exposure 

Walmart’s controversial response undeniably drew a huge amount of attention to the brand, and raised awareness of the issues the company aimed to highlight. According to many sources, simply getting social media mentions and media exposure is the most important PR move there is.

2. Shock Value

There is no way that Walmart could have generated this enormous amount of exposure using traditional fact-checking techniques. By taking a more risky and creative path, the company ensured that the story AND the technique received maximum exposure, creating a broader conversation over social media that will last long after the content itself has become irrelevant.

3. Power to the People

Many proponents of social media fact-checking are arguing that public media battles have long been needed. While media sources like The New York Times have historically acted as the ultimate source for information, perhaps giving social media access to both sides of the debate is the wave of the future.

But although we’ve all heard the old cliché, “all publicity is good publicity,” I tend to side with the many critics who think that public outbursts may do more harm than good. Indeed, there are a number of clear cons to waging a social media battle:

1. Negative Attention

While Walmart’s article may be generating mass amounts of exposure for the company, most of this exposure will likely be negative. Because it is impossible to read Tovar’s article without first reading and understanding Egan’s, Walmart’s bold retort risks drawing even more attention to the original criticism than to its counter-arguments.

2. Unprofessional Image

When it comes to professionalism, Egan’s article beats Tovar’s by a landslide. The Walmart retort is snarky and emotional, and was sent out over social media, while Egan’s article is more traditionally professional and published by a credible media source. And although this more casual social media approach is becoming increasingly common, it could ultimately cost Walmart credibility and public support.

3. Alienation

Despite this shift towards informality and social media, there is no doubt that in many instances, media sources like TheTimes are still hugely powerful sources of information, both in terms of credibility and sheer number of resources. It was risky for Walmart to choose to attack the media that is responsible for most of its credible publicity, and could lead to more far-reaching negative consequences for the company in the future.

But for those of you who like to live dangerously, engaging the public in a media debate may be exactly how you choose to fact-check your critics. So, before you make the decision to take your battle public, here are a few tips for fighting back on social media:

1. Act Fast

One bonus of rapid-response fact-checking methods, such as posting on social media, is that you can get your story out before the buzz surrounding the issue has died down. If you choose to pick a fight over social media, make sure to respond quickly enough to make your argument relevant and notable.

2. Pick your Battles

Before you make the choice to fact-check over social media, carefully consider your decision: will this particular response be an effective counter-argument, or will it just sound petty? If you’re responding to bad publicity to complain rather than explain, hold off on posting until you have substantial facts and reasoning to back up your argument.

3. Watch your Attitude (calculated or scathing?)

When responding over social media, make sure you keep your retorts measured and professional – no matter what. Using scathing, overly critical or emotional language can make you enemies with individual members of the press, alienate you from the media, or worse, lose credibility in the social media community.

Social media may be casual, but that doesn’t mean that you should make decisions that aren’t calculated or considerate of the long-term consequences. So before you decide to bypass the traditional routes of fact-checking and take the issue to all of your social media channels, consider your options carefully to ensure that your actions are helpful rather than harmful.   **Written by Consumer PR intern Carly Meyerson, International Comparative Studies at Duke University (Class of 2016).

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Lessons Learned from Ads of the World Cup


Over the past few weeks, the whole world has contracted World Cup fever. It’s one of the rare occasions where work comes to a halt for a few hours without punishment and often at the boss’s request, or the coach of the U.S. Men's Team, Jurgen Klinsmann:

us soccer

It’s when neighborhood bars are filled to the brim with eager, enthusiastic fans that crowd themselves around a small TV set just to get a glimpse of the game. With nearly 25,000,000 American viewers tuning into a single game, it comes to no surprise that companies consequentially have their own competition going on: advertisements. Ad space during the World Cup is for the most part limited to big name giants, especially those selling sports-related products. In this separate but entirely related World Cup arena, it is not simply about the frequency, but also which celebrities appear in it? Is it witty or creative? Is it something fresh and new? Does it play on tradition and bring us back to our roots? Whatever the angle an advertisement may take, many of the most popular engage the audience in a unique way by appealing to the emotional, realizing our soccer fantasies, giving viewers a behind the scenes look, compiling user generated content or drowning viewers in sex appeal. Take a look at our favorites and why they were!   People Love Exclusives Currently a favorite pick for athletes and average citizens alike, Beats by Dr. Dre released an inspirational ad campaign starring Brazilian football phenomenon, Neymar Jr. While the sheer star power is impressive in and of itself, what makes the ad exceptional is its depiction of Neymar beyond the context in which we know him best – the football field. “The Game Before the Game” gives viewers a glimpse into the mental preparation undergone by these world class athletes. It is in these moments of focus and clarity that Beats by Dre has struck a chord in the hearts of viewers everywhere, as those tuning in get a behind-the-scenes snapshot of the world’s best sportsmen and women savoring music and solitude just as athletes everywhere do.   Sex Still Sells As the saying goes, “Sex sells,” and it always has. Attractive men or women increase the desirability of the brand, as consumers consciously or subconsciously believe product X will make them more beautiful and confident then they currently are. Enter Victoria’s Secret bombshell Adriana Lima, whose allure is more than enough to garner double-takes from unassuming sports enthusiasts kicking it in the man cave. As the men sit mesmerized, Lima and her equally model-esque team replace football paraphernalia with their “futbol” equivalents, reminding them what real “futbol” is.   Emotional Connections Run Deep Stepping on to the biggest stage in world football means your wildest dreams or worst nightmares can become a reality. All the players have a choice to make -- all in or nothing. Tossing and turning in a restless sleep, Argentinian powerhouse Lionel Messi’s mind mind races as images fly across the screen— fans going wild, tense moments of anticipation, , dripping sweat and skills telling of athleticism— keeping him from a peaceful night’s sleep. It becomes clear that the soccer field is the battleground and is certainly no place for the unprepared. Football players Dani Alves, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luis Suárez, Xavi, Jordi Alba, Mesut Özil, Robin van Persie and David Villa all know there's only one way to play with the whole world watching. The ad reminds us, “Destiny is not fate. You have a choice. Fear or be feared. Hunt or be hunted. Evolve or die. Now or never. It's black or white. all in or nothing.” The passion and drive, intense workouts in anticipation, the hours of practice that led to perfection, are all instances in which World Cup athletes go ‘all in’ like Adidas.   User-Generated Content Humanizes Lately, it’s hard to come by an advertisement that is poorly shot or of bad quality. It seems that everything on TV is professional and well executed, acted out by models that oftentimes promote an unrealistic beauty ideal. However, McDonald’s latest World Cup inspired ad is made up of home-video quality clips that showcase people from every age, race, gender and walk of life as they shoot, juggle and punt soccer balls around the world. It’s a feel-good commercial filled with real-world people enjoying their daily life as they laugh, smile and play soccer for the love of the game.   Tap into Viewers Imaginations What begins as an ordinary, run-of-the-mill neighborhood pick up soccer game, evolves into a fast-paced high level match in which the best of the best go head to head. Originally only a field of teen players, with the simple pass of the ball, the receiving player can transform into the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney, Neymar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pirlo, Thaigo Silva, David Luiz, Hazard, or Gotze. As if this wasn’t enough of a fantasy, suddenly the beat up grass field becomes a professional soccer stadium, replete with zealous fans and stadium lights. The players are alternatively their original selves and their professional parallels, making for an exciting, ever-changing commercial. What makes this ad a standout is it’s ability to capture a fantasy soccer game, in which an average city field can be transformed into one of World Cup status, accessible through your imagination. What are your favorites this World Cup tournament?   **Written by Marketing intern Alison Takahashi, English and Psychology majors at Boston College (Class of 2016).

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#451Cares: The Burrito Project

burritoWorking in the epicenter of Hollywood, it can be easy to forget about the world outside of our little bubble.

451 Marketing’s West Coast office was honored to team up with The Burrito Project, which began a few years ago as a group of friends, meeting monthly to commune with one another and share quality food with the disenfranchised people of Los Angeles.

451 at burrito

Today, it is made up of several chapters across Los Angeles, its surrounding areas, and throughout the country, which each take responsibility for meeting, purchasing, production, and the distribution of fresh burritos. Their aim is to serve as a message of hope for the homeless population that have been neglected and ignored. Despite the reasons for these people’s displacement, The Burrito Project offers them warm food without judgment. There is no sermon or lecture but there are handshakes, hugs and stories. While they do not claim to be a solution to a big, often forgotten problem, their project is an inspiring starting point that hopefully motivates all those who come in contact with them to make a difference. No matter what city you may live in, it’s important to remember that valuable lesson we all learned as children: SHARING. 451 Marketing West was moved spending time with this unique and remarkable group! Whatever gifts they may share with the community during their regular meet-ups, what they shared with us was immeasurable as well.


To learn more about The Burrito Project, please visit their website. They regularly post updates and meeting invites in their chapter Facebook groups. You can pay a visit to the West LA chapter here.

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