The Holiday shopping season is looking bleak.

November 12, 2009

The economy crisis will be affecting all aspects of holiday shopping this year.  Sales and coupons will be consumer’s biggest buys while regular priced items may collect dust on the shelves.  People have even voiced that second hand shops for close friends and family will not be out of the question to buying gifts.  Last year’s holiday decorations will be dusted off and reused before the purchase of new ones. 

People will be more opt to buying practical gifts such as clothing and necessities rather than toys and novelty items.  If people are creative that will give them even more options to make gifts this year.  Homemade calendars with pictures printed right from your computer would make a great thoughtful gift.  Joint gifts and secret Santa’s will probably be more popular this year as well.  A ConsumerReports survey on 1,000 adults said that two-thirds of the U.S. plan to spend less this year and that 6 percent are still paying of last year’s holiday debt. 

Some stores have already began trying to make sure that the smaller percent of people who will be shopping, shop at their stores by making sure they market themselves perfectly.  Target.com has begun their free shipping promotion two weeks earlier this year and also has expanded the number of items available for free shipping.  Some stores who have been already affected by last year’s lack of holiday spending might not have the funds to do as much advertising as the bigger stores. 

Barry Judge the chief marketing director of Best Buy has began targeting young consumers this holiday season.  By placing ads on Twitter and Facebook.  By using these social media networks Best Buy can focus on the younger consumers and that is where they are, not looking in the newspaper.  

The key to financially effective shopping this year is to start the season with a budget and a list.  Start with your budget first, how much realistically can you spend this season.  When doing so remember mostly everyone will be cutting back this season.  Then make a list and next to each name and write the amount you want to spend on each person.  Be creative and talk with siblings about secret Santa’s so you only need to buy for one family member than all five.  Try to use cash unless you know factually you can pay your credit card off after each purchase.  Holiday shopping shouldn’t put you in debt it should be fun!

By Kate Kiselka

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Hand Sanitizers, the new “IT” product.

November 9, 2009

The swine flu scare that is sweeping the country has allowed marketers to start getting creative with sanitizers.  But are they really all they are cracked up to be?  Everyone from drug stores, to clothing lines are now making their own hand sanitizers.  Hand sanitizer is a 112 million dollar industry, who wouldn’t want a piece of that?  I will admit I have fallen for some of the attractive packaging but when I look at the price I am taken back.  Eight dollars for a 4.2oz bottle of hand sanitizer from Victoria Secrets is what threw me over the edge.  Thank you but no thank you I will just hold on to my two dollar bottle of Purell

Are we all going overboard?  Will these hand sanitizers really help the spread of germs, especially the dreaded swine flu virus?  Are the prettier, well packaged hand sanitizers really going to work better?  Of course not but they will make us feel prettier/cooler when using them. 

Companies have even gone as far as promoting their logo on a bottle of hand sanitizer.  What happened to the stress ball or pen?  Hand sanitizers are a necessity; a way of life, without them what would one do?  It makes sense to put your companies name or logo or even a picture of your face on a bottle of hand sanitizer.  Everyone carries them around; everyone uses them in public, what better way to promote ones company or self?  It is actually a brilliant marketing scheme. 

The Food and Drug Administration has voiced that the old school way of washing your hand with soap and water is still the single most useful way to rid yourself of germs and bacteria.   But how is that possible if the hand sanitizers claim to kill 99.9% of bacteria?  Apparently this is true on almost any inanimate object but not on the human hand.  Apparently  it is very hard for them to test this on the human hand being that the bacteria is hard to control because everyday life changes and therefore so does the germs you carry with you.  I am not telling you to stop using this product just warning you that it could possibly not be as effective as you think it is.  It should be used as an aid to washing your hands with soap and water. 

By Kate Kiselka


Will unplugging things really save money? According to National Grid it will!

November 3, 2009

National Electric has a new campaign asking everyone to try and cut down their electrical usage by 3%. This seems like a wise challenge for everyone being that we are still in the middle of an economic crisis!  Every other commercial advertisement on T.V. is in relation to this new campaign, so I wanted to see what the hype was about.  Their goal is to inform people of efficiency and conservation through energy usage.   For some of us this task may be easy, for some it’s a slight change of lifestyle and for me it’s nearly impossible, I don’t know what else I could cut down on!  I am the kind of person who yells at you if all the lights are on, or if you use the dryer to “get the wrinkles out” of one lonely shirt.    Should have taken it out and hung it up to begin with! You would have saved time and money.   I am told I skipped acting like my mother and turned into my grandmother a little too quickly.  The National Grid website gives people many suggestions to lowering their electricity usage.

I have to say this idiosyncrasy that I have developed over the last few years was really the polar opposite of how I viewed electricity usage and recycling habits in the past.  I was still living at home; never saw that white envelope with the blue letters that read National Grid.  I wasn’t responsible for the environment or the cost of living because I was still letting mom and dad cover the cost.  After moving out a few years ago, having a job that paid zilch and realizing how much everything cost and making it my sole responsibility to take care of myself financially, I learned some really easy and simple ways to save money for a rainy day.  I unplugged almost EVERYTHING.  The reason I say almost everything opposed to absolutely everything is because, well you can’t.  My fridge stays plugged in as well as the oven.  I learned very quickly unplugging your cell phone charger isn’t an option, it will go dead and you will miss your alarm going off which will result in being late for the job that pays you zilch.  Plugging the phone into the charger does not work the same if you forgot to plug it into the wall.

Even though I think it’s impossible I am taking the challenge.  National Grid has an energy evaluation available on their website and as you click the appropriate answers that reflect your style of living it allows you to see how much money and electricity you could be saving by lowering your energy usage.  I am personally starting by putting in motion censored lights outside, because this is one light I leave on regularly.  I encourage all of you to take the challenge as well.  See what impact you can make on the earth and on your wallet.  It takes some getting used to but eating dinner by candlelight is more romantic and more cost-effective than keeping that 8 bulb chandelier on!

Posted by Kate Kiselka


The Science of the #TwitPitch

October 30, 2009

There are those of us (not me) who are excellent artists – like those people on cop shows that can draw a perfect rendition of the face of someone they have never met based on a description given by someone who was standing 100 yards away (“he had a nose… hair, it might have been brown – or black – maybe dark blonde.  Glasses, I think – but definitely eyes”).   There are those that are great writers – Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Perez Hilton (ok – maybe not so much with Perez – but he’s funny… usually).  And now, there is a new breed of greatness developing.   Those who are social-media mavens.  They can use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to do ridiculously amazing things, whereas I can only use them for what they were initially designed for – a way to keep in touch with friends and family.  There are those among us who are making a huge impact on the world we live in with 140 characters and the click of a button… comparatively, by the end of this sentence it will have taken me 196 words to get to the main point of this blog – and so, without further ado – I bring to you… the #TWITPITCH!

Kind of.  But first – a history lesson.

About a year ago, a journalist named Stowe Boyd decided that he no longer wanted to be pitched stories through the traditional means of e-mail and phone calls.  He preferred the 140 character method of Twitter.  By being able to pitch an idea in 140 characters (or less!) a PR professional should, ideally, be able to convey their entire message quickly and concisely.  According to the article from PR Daily, at least 2  other journalists have picked up on the trend, and encourage PR professionals to pitch them only via Twitter.

Taking a different approach – many companies are now turning to social-media to promote their brands; many companies are posting YouTube demonstrations of their products, almost every company has a Facebook “fan” page ( apparently I am a “fan” of a lot of things – including some things that have no relevance to my life what-so-ever), and lots of companies are taking up residence in the Twitterverse (which I tried to link to a definition, but apparently it doesn’t have an official one).  By using Twitter, companies are essentially able to pitch their new products and announcements directly to consumers, rather than just to reporters and editors.

And now, some real life application.

I had already started writing this blog when I was assigned the task of creating “10-15” twitpitches for one of our clients.  This particular client has one of their products in use in a very public place,  the plan is to blast a couple tweets out to the Twitterverse saying basically “hey if you’re here, check it out!”.   Perfect, I thought.  I am already “researching” twitpitches –  I’ll use this for my blog!  I figured that the assignment couldn’t be too hard – a couple quick short announcements of a fact.  EASY! Orrr not.

Here is what I have found (… well, decided).

Coming up with 140 characters of information is hard.  140 characters of “Hey I bought new shoes” is simple – see, I just did it!  But actually getting a message across takes some skill.  It took me about an hour to come up with 8 very different, but still informative and (hopefully) attention-grabbing tweets all focused around the same thing.  When you’re limited to 140 characters and you have to use the same basic words at least once in each tweet (obviously I had to mention the product and location each time, so those took up at least 20 of my characters) being creative is tough.

In theory, the twitpitch is great.  In practice – it’s astounding.  It costs nothing and assuming you’ve got a lot of followers, which a lot of companies do, you’re able to get your message out to lots of people.  Efficiency is key, however.  Telling the Twitterverse you’ve got a new product is cool, but linking to it is essential – and those links take up characters.  Making sure people know where they can find a product is important, but don’t forget to include the hashtags (ex: “#caster” – hashtags make words easily searchable through twitter).  Being able to tweet your product in 140 characters or less and have it be memorable and informative is practically an art form.  Do not take twitpitching lightly.  If you’re doing a great job of it, and using it sparingly – they could prove to be invaluable to your company.  If you are just bombarding your followers with links and “buy this now!” types of messages, you may find that you’re “unfollowed” pretty quickly.

Just for reference, below is an example of how long a 140 character tweet it.

DogWiggles has just released their most innovative dog leash yet and its only $40.  Buy it now at http://bit.ly/3jhP30 and have a happy pup.

(The link is fake – I made up a webaddress [I think] to show a shortened Twitter link, which people tend to use, rather than lengthy URLs.)

Notice that I didn’t include any hashtags, and it isnt exactly interesting.  But it’s all I could come up with in 140 characters and a fake product/company.

Posted by Courtney | Follow me on Twitter


Volkswagen and iPhone take advertising to a new level.

October 28, 2009

Volkswagen and iPhone are my brothers two favorite things and now they have officially come together.  Volkswagen has decided to be the first and only car dealer to advertise solely on the iPhone.  No magazine articles, no commercials only iPhone owners are going to be able to enjoy the advertisement that Volkswagen has to offer for their 2010 GTI’s.  The PR value is huge because this is the first of its kind.  What are the other dealerships thinking?

Instead of a simple advertisement Volkswagen went above and beyond, they made a one of a kind racing game through Firement Real Racing.  ‘Real Racing GTI’ is available to download on apples app store for free.  It allows you to choose from six different 2010 GTI’s and race them on VW tracks.  There is one major advantage to being an iPhone user and being able to play/ view this advertisement from VW, you have the chance to win one of six limited edition 2010 GTI’s.  If you win one or choose to purchase one of these GTI’s you will be able to view your music library from your iPhone right on the dashboard!

The next six weeks will be filled with VW junkies, including my brother on their iPhones playing this game because there is no limit to how often you race, and the highest score from each week will be the winner of a new 2010 GTI!  They have even gone a step further by allowing the players to upload their actual races to YouTube and the racers will also be allowed to access Twitter right from the game.

Volkswagen has made this their single advertising move for this car leaving people like me who don’t own an iPhone left out and actually rather sad.  They may be saving money on advertising and this may be an incredible PR approach to selling a car but to me it seems like they are shrinking their audience.   I have a strong feeling though that a lot of VW fans will be investing in an iPhone.   I guess it pays to own an iPhone.

Posted by: Kate the intern


Can the Political Season Help Save Newspapers, TV and Radio?

October 26, 2009

The 2010 Political season is just around the corner, and we all know what that means: our favorite channels will be taken hostage by every Tom, Dick and Harry seeking political office.

I am not an avid political follower, nor do I enjoy in the least watching these commercials, but the one thing that I am utterly shocked by is the amount of money that is spent on advertising by these candidates.

In 2010, political ad spending is estimated to increase 11% and it $3.3 billion. Yes, I just said BILLION.

According to an article in Media Week,

The ad windfall, more than 60 percent of which will go to local TV, will be fueled by the election of 37 governors, 38 senators, every member of the House of Representatives and issue advertising (which could approach $1 billion) on hot-button issues such as health care.

Experts are predicting that this election year will just about equal the record setting $3.4 billion spent in 2006, as similar issues were on the campaign trail.

Honestly, I think the numbers in question are insane, but it means some much needed revenue to some markets that are struggling, such as TV, radio and newspapers. We all know that these media outlets are struggling and a political season is probably music to their ears.  

I don’t think that this alone will save these media outlets, but I do believe it will be a much needed boost.

Posted by: Lauren


FTC Guidelines: How They Relate To Your Blog

October 7, 2009

Earlier today, I was asked a question that threw me off guard a bit, vaguely formulated as follows:  “what do you know about social media as it relates to PR?”  I muttered a joke about seeing people create PR nightmares for themselves via Twitter and Facebook and then got down to business, stating that “it’s a cheap and effective way to get your message out to tons of people” – pretty standard, ay?  

I decided to do some digging and find out what the industry pros have to say about Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media/networking sites that exist around the web and instead found an interesting article (10 Simple Things to Know About the FTC’s Rules for Blogs and Brands, by Augie Ray) about a document released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today outlining guidelines for advertising and branding via social media.  These guidelines are not laws, but rather suggestions for companies as to how to best situate themselves so that they are abiding by the existing laws in place regarding advertising.

 For the most part, these guidelines address whether or not it should be considered advertising if a blogger writes a positive review of a product.  It seems that the general idea of the guidelines is as follows:  if you are a blogger on the receiving end of a benefit from a company for favorably reviewing or using their product, then you are – in fact – an advertisement.  If I were to run out to the corner store and buy myself a pack of gum that I truly enjoyed, and I came home to blog about it – that would not be considered advertising.  However, if the gum company were sending me free packs of gum on a regular basis – or any other product that their company manufactures – and I took to my blog to spout the wonders of this product, then that would in fact be considered a sponsored endorsement, since I am regularly receiving treats. 

Most relevant to the PR world is the fact that many workplaces are now looking into adopting Social Media policies, and if they are not – according to the FTC and Augie Ray – they should be.  It is important that in a time where it seems everyone has a Twitter account, which could lead to easy and free advertising for your company for 140 characters or less, you are monitoring and managing these networks.  If an employee of a company logs into their personal Facebook account and reveals to the public their employer’s product is their all-time favorite, without disclosing that they are an employee of that company, they are opening the company up to legal ramifications and they may not even realize it.

Courtney Danielson (candidate for a Caster job)