First, we want to thank everyone for hitting “Reply All” and supporting our podcast! It’s been a really fun learning process, and we appreciate all of the feedback and support.
This month, we’re tackling a major debate that has quietly been sweeping the nation, and it’s not the Ben Carson rap song. Hint: it involves condiments, toppings, fillings and soup.
We also pay tribute to Lucky Magazine and Grantland.com, two great media outlets that met their demise far too soon, and Lucky’s former editor in chief Eva Chen, whose signature #EvaChenPose will live on. Wait, you’ve never heard of the Eva Chen pose?!
In the spirit of great women changing the world, we also talk about the new Barbie ad that is pulling at our heartstrings.
We’re always on the lookout for great HARO inquiries, and this one definitely doesn’t get “brushed” under the rug. Check out reporter Phil Mutz’s article that was based on his inquiry:
In 2005, a journalist for a well-known automotive magazine published his monthly column written entirely as a text message, complete with mind-numbing SMS shorthand vernacular that included phrases like “my friends all like 2 say that im always txting 2 much” and “ok thx 4 reading my column C U next time.” At the time, this was both cutting edge (RIP Motorola Razr…) and rip-roaringly funny for those of us who texted often. If he had waited a decade longer to write a column with similar cultural relevancy, he would have used emojis and it would have read something like this:
Those of us who remember the earliest forms of texting and instant messenger services recall not only the bare-bones “word processor” feel of the platforms, but finding creative ways to infuse your texts with personality; hence, the emoticon was born. Shortcuts and acronyms became commonplace in this new language. Over time, you could actually start to “hear” the recipient’s voice and recognize the emotional gravitas behind every “LMAO” or “:(”
In 2015, we’re fully invested in a different type of shorthand language communicated via smartphone and messenger apps – the primary form of communication for many PR professionals. We no longer need to waste the keystrokes typing out “I’m so angry right now” or “I’m engaged!” or “Wanna grab beers tonight?” Rather, we communicate more than ever through emojis, the ubiquitous picture characters. Recognizing that we humans have a much broader range of emotions, concerns and interests besides simply being happy or sad, emojis allow us to paint vivid situations, ideas and thoughts with tongue-in-cheek precision. And let’s face it, you can get really creative and have a lot of fun.
With emojis having now entered the general population’s lexicon, it was only a matter of time before smart marketers leveraged this for profit. Domino’s Pizza now allows you to tweet a pizza emoji to order your pie.
Global home furnishings retailer IKEA created an emoji campaign as a fun way to improve communication at home (because really, it’s so much more fun to say “I love you but not your shoes all over the floor, so please store them in the shelves” with cartoons) but also reinforce their message that a happy home is clean, organized home thanks to the STÄLL shoe cabinet with 4 compartments for only $89.99.
Really, one could make the argument that for many young people, more than half the reason for purchasing a smartphone is to communicate better with their friends – and that includes using emojis. In Q1 2015, Apple sold more than 74 million iPhones and was the most profitable for any public company during any quarter in history. When 74 million people, nearly one third of the U.S. population, can now do business with a national retailer by tweeting a photo of a slice of pizza, then I think we have our answer.
Some companies are also finding ways to leverage emoji’s popularity for social good as well. Apple mysteriously designed a one-eyed emoji in partnership with an anti-bullying initiative meant to serve as a symbol of vigilance and awareness. Dove has been praised for drawing attention to women’s issues, and created an emoji keyboard, complete with 27 curly hair designs that represent women of various skin tones and hair colors. The World Wildlife Fund brought attention to its cause by creating an online campaign highlighting the various emoji animals that are endangered.
One thing is for sure: these organizations have successfully engaged smartphone users who are already fluent in this language and the population will only continue to grow.
So, have you signed up for ESL (Emojis as a Second Language) class yet?
REI, the privately held niche retailer that primarily sells outdoor recreation gear, sporting goods and apparel, is planning to buck the tide and close on Black Friday, traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year. It will not only close all of its 143 stores but also black out its website and give its 12,000 employees a paid day off so that they can “go outside.” The rationale behind this according to REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke, is that Black Friday shopping had “gotten out of hand” and the company wanted to “encourage people to get outside, saying “maybe this was one of the most authentic things we could do.”
A bold move indeed…
It is an unprecedented move, especially at a time when many other retailers have turned even Thanksgiving itself into a day of holiday shopping. Some showed signs of wanting to be part of the goodwill flood and jumped on the bandwagon, like outdoor gear maker Outdoor Research who said it will join the #OptOutside “movement” and close its corporate offices, distribution center, Seattle factory and retail store on Black Friday.
A ‘movement’ huh? Sounds more like a savvy marketing move. Just consider the gains…
REI used this bold announcement in a variety of ways to bolster its own branding.
It was a chance for the company to roll out its brand’s principles in a big way, in full view of major media.
They also seized the moment to maximize visibility for its new logo, one that includes the word “co-op” for the first time since 1983. This gave the company a chance to emphasize the organization’s difference.
It went further. It created a microsite aimed at encouraging its employees and customers to spend time in nature, by where people can type in their ZIP code and find a nearby trail to hike.
Being one of the country’s few large retail cooperatives that is not a publicly traded company, REI is owned by its members (unlike profit-minded shareholders) — people such as shoppers, producers or employees and is therefore governed in the best interests of its members. As such, they have the leeway not to worry about profits from quarter-to-quarter or be beholden to the whims of Wall Street.
Basically, by opting out of Black Friday, they managed to get their literal and figurative “day in the sun” ahead of the massive news coverage that descends on retailers on Black Friday.
In essence, they stand to gain far more than they will lose in Black Friday sales (if not in immediate dollars.) But, perhaps most interesting is that REI is demonstrating that sometimes the best way for a brand to “stand out” is to “sit out.” Or in this case, “go out.”
We’ve all heard it before. Especially since the days social media transitioned from a “phenomena” to “career choice.” It’s the marketing babble-speak that is practically useless and philosophically… well, useless.
“Brands need to engage authentically with audiences.”
“Brands need to have meaningful interactions.”
“Brands need to engage meaningful interactions.”
After a while we all start sounding like Captain Picard of the Enterprise saying, “Number one, engage. Shields up! Interact!”
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve said those very words myself, many times. And those words are true. Brands do need to be authentic, engage and interact with audiences. But what does that really mean? And is it enough to do that? Shouldn’t the sentiment transcend only social media?
First, let’s get to the bottom of what have become communications clichés. What are really trying to when we talk about engagement and authenticity? Really what we mean is that brands need to be personable and accessible. Unafraid to respond to customers in real time with authentic voices and the genuine desire to communicate. That simply cannot be taught. It is a new way of looking at branded engagement from top to bottom.
But, here’s the thing. Brands can engage and interact until they’re blue in the face, but unless they are doing so authentically, it’s not going to do anything for them. You can have a billion Facebook likes, but if they are acquired without authenticity, you may as well not have any.
Okay, bold sentiment, but what does that mean? Is it authentic to smile and nod, be helpful and respectful? Certainly those are good qualities for a brand to have when communicating online or offline, but that’s not necessarily authentic.
Authenticity is about being honest about yourself, your audience, and what you are communicating.
Not being authentic means acting like something your not, misleading audiences with communications, playing games with audiences or trying to “trick” them into doing something.
I’m not really talking about ethics here—we should always be ethical—I’m talking about how you communicate. You never want to be that middle-aged, gray-haired guy with a backwards cap walking into a club saying, “Hey dudes” like you somehow belongs with hip twenty-somethings.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to that club, I’m just saying you should be who you are. Talk with the audiences from a genuine and realistic place. Don’t be ashamed of who you are, what you represent, or what you want to say. Don’t try to trick people into thinking you’re something you’re not. Authenticity is about being comfortable in your own skin as a brand and finding ways to talk with your audiences with your true voice. Not a robot voice that belongs to some distant corporate collective, and not a fake voice that attempts to make you sound more like your audience. A true voice: your voice.
And whether that means you are putting out a press release or a tweet, your litmus test for whether or not the message is authentic should be, is it true to who you are? If so—engage!
Have you ever clicked on the link to a news story and laughed out loud? Like, embarrassingly loud. So loud, that you immediately copy and paste the link into your email and send it around to your coworkers? And within minutes, one of them hits “Reply All” and the next thing you know, you’ve got a chain of emails covering topics from Kanye West’s presidential bid in 2020 (In Kanye we trust!) to Donald Trump to the best coffee memes?
If this has ever happened to you, then you’re in for a real treat. If not, my condolences, but please read on.
We are six savvy, passionately curious female PR professionals in LA and New York with a penchant for pop culture, sports, food, social media and current events – and we realized that our emails and lunchtime conversation had all the makings for a podcast. And after thinking long and hard on a title, we realized that it made the most sense to pay homage to how we got started: Reply All.
Reply All will start as a monthly podcast with four regular segments: What’s The Pitch? (current news headlines), HAROs (the acronym stands for “Help A Reporter Out” and helps PR professionals seek out media inquiries), On Review (a review of new products, services and social media features) and Sidenote (final thoughts on what’s gone viral, what’s hot and what’s not).
On this episode, we cover the Twitter handbook for politicians, the new Facebook Dislike button, two of our favorite HAROs, Halloween costumes and, since we’re facing a possible shortage, all things pumpkin. Curious about the Halloween costumes we talk about? Check them out here.
We encourage you to share the link to our Soundcloud page with your friends and colleagues. Thanks for listening!
The Reply All Team: Brittney Dicker, Megan Gallagher, Stephanie Goldman, Jackie Liu, Olivia Walker and Mariel Yohe