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


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


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


A question of business ethics

October 23, 2009

Did you know that business ethics are a form of applied ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that arise in a business environment?

Though I may not have defined it that way, I certainly know what they are and I definitely know when they should be questioned.

I guess you only know in the moment if you can choose to do the right thing, and if you choose wrong what does that say about you? And then if others subsequently choose wrong because of the first ethical crisis, what becomes of them? It’s a slippery slope.

And one I am really glad not to be on.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter :  newscaster


Be Careful What You Wish For, Richard Heene…

October 19, 2009

It is 2009.  MTV has signed “The Real World” for 4 more seasons, which will be a total of 26 seasons.  A group of 20-somethings in Southern California have grown up and been shot to “stardom” by living their “lives” on camera.  Jon and Kate are tabloid gold.   The parents of Falcon Heene  have fostered a new nickname for their youngest son – “Balloon Boy”.

MTV began airing “The Real World” in 1992.  It’s a show about “seven strangers, picked to live in a [house/mansion/apartment/loft], and have their lives taped”.  These seven strangers are literally moved into a house, and followed with cameras as they go about their lives, that’s it – no script, no special effects.  However, MTV intentionally casts people of different socio-economic backgrounds and lifestyles, in an effort to have “drama” create itself, and it does.  Watching the show growing up, I remember thinking “are these people CRAZY?  Why would anyone ever want to have a camera following them around 24/7?”

And then in 2004, “Laguna Beach” happened, followed by “The Hills”.  Now, MTV was following around teenagers and 20-somethings in Southern California. I was entranced. I wanted to BE a reality-TV star… but how?  Perhaps I could learn from these two examples, although neither really has the desired outcome.

Enter Jon and Kate Gosselin.  Jon and Kate had 8 kids. EIGHT!  That’s crazy, and expensive.  And the producers at TLC thought so too. In an effort to make sure their children wouldn’t have to go without, the Gosselins decided to let their lives be taped and sponsored.  As a result, not only do their children have everything they may need in life – but they’ve gotten to experience some amazing things (vacations to Hawaii and Colorado, appearances on national news outlets, birthday cakes made by famous chefs – also with their own TV shows).  Their TV show has been on the air for five seasons and they’re creating a mini-empire.  In the wake of a divorce announcement, Kate has been approached about hosting her own talk show and has guest hosted on “The View”  while Jon is … desperately clinging to fame, but that’s another blog all together.

And now let’s invite Richard Heene and his clan to “fly” on over.  A meteorologist from Colorado, he has approached numerous TV channels (including TLC) pitching a reality show about his storm-chasing family.  His family appeared on ABC’s “Wife Swap”, and he regularly submitted video to CNN’s “iReport”.  After none of those avenues resulted in fame and notoriety, he took his quest to a ridiculous level.  On October 15, 2009 a 911 call was placed by the Heene family (after they called a news station!) saying their son had climbed into a home-made weather balloon and was now flying across the Colorado sky.  As the nation stopped what it was doing and devoted the better part of a Thursday afternoon to watching the balloon (to be honest, I didn’t stop and watch – but I did let the audio stream in the background while I did work), Richard Heene got what he wanted – undivided attention.   When his son Falcon was found, safe and sound, the search stop and the cameras got ready to turn off – but Richard Heene made sure to take full advantage of his 15-minutes, hitting the talk show circuit later that evening and making the rounds of the morning shows the next day.   On “Larry King Live” (with Wolf Blitzer filling in) Falcon said “we did it for the show” and the entire nation was pretty much in the same balloon – it had to be a hoax.  Richard tried to play it off by saying his son was confused, that he was referring to all the media’s attention and interviews, and not an actual show but it was too late. 

His attention-seeking nature will now be his downfall.  By keeping his family in the spotlight, Richard Heene was opening his family up to scrutiny, something I’m sure all reality stars could have warned him about.   Sure – he was getting attention, he was being interviewed on some of the most-watched programs in the country and I’m sure he believed that a Heene-focused reality show, or at least a docu-drama, was within reach.  What he didn’t count on, is that NO ONE believes that “reality-TV” is actually “reality” anymore. 

Richard Heene and Jon Gosselin have learned a thing or two about being “reality-TV” stars.  Reality-TV is not an actual representation of reality. Every single cast member (and they are called cast members) on “The Real World” and “The Hills” are perpetuating a pre-designed image.  They were chosen to be on the show by producers for the drama they could bring, and they know that.  They are acting – for the most part – even if they don’t actually have a script to read off of.  The decisions they make when those cameras are rolling are directly related to the role they are being paid ridiculous amounts of money to play.  

While Jon was filming the show with his family, his role seemed to be the husband who took a lot of flak from his wife for wanting to play with the kids and relax rather than neurotically clean their house. America felt bad for him.  But as their life post-marriage has become tabloid fodder, it appears that Jon’s actual lifestyle is nothing less than disgraceful.  Drinking, smoking and [attempting] to cash in on his family’s fame, he has quickly ruined the good guy image he had going for him. 

Richard Heene has turned his quest for stardom into criminal charges and possible jail time.  He and his wife look like a bunch of crazies, and his family’s dirty little secrets are being dredged up. His children are most likely going to be scarred for life.  He obviously got the memo that reality-TV is less reality and more fantasy and he tried to create his own “reality”.  What he didn’t account for was that at the first teeny, tiny hint of a tall-tale, the country would see right through him. 

A piece of paper is now posted on the Heene family’s front door, stating “we are tired”.  Apparently Richard Heene forgot that in the world of reality-TV stardom you don’t get to just go home from a regular day at work.  Your entire life is fodder for everyone else’s entertainment.

 

Posted by Courtney | Follow me on Twitter


The Newest Member of Caster

October 16, 2009

We are so excited to announce the addition our newest staff member, Miss Courtney Danielson who will be joining us in the junior account services position. With two-plus years of supporting a wide breadth of volunteer PR projects including the CVS Charity Classic and Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, Courtney will apply her experience supporting the account services team in a wide range of projects ranging from media support and follow up to blogging and social media ORM. Courtney received her B.A. in History and Communications from UMass Amherst.

We asked Courtney to say a few words for the blog and introduce herself:

Graduating from college early seemed like a smart, money-saving move. However, upon the realization that I would need to get a job and leave my friends that logical reasoning became less enticing. During college I completed two internships in the public relations field, and also oversaw the public relations endeavors for a number of on-campus organizations/activities, including a large student-run charity event. Beginning in October of the year I graduated, I began fervently searching for PR jobs, to no avail. I accepted a job in Boston at a completely non-PR-related company and stuck it out almost 1 year until I realized that just any job wasn’t going to cut it. I made the decision to search for the job of my dreams, and on my final day of employment in Boston, I received an offer from Caster Communications.

During the interview process, I felt like Caster would be the perfect place for me – they seemed like genuinely fun and caring people, who knew what they were talking about and – more importantly – were just as eager to teach me as I was to learn. As it turns out, I was right. I’ve been here only 3 days, but have already gotten my feet wet working on a number of small projects. I’m not ready to be released out into the wild on my own just yet, but with Caster employees leading me every step of the way, it shouldn’t be long before I am.

We don’t think it will be long at all.  Welcome Courtney!  We’re thrilled to have you.

Posted by: The Caster team