ReplyAll Podcast, Re: Are You For Serial?

Happy holidays from the Pod Squad! It’s hard to believe the year is nearly over. We hope you’re soaking up the remaining days of Starbucks red cups, Star Wars mania and an Instagram feed full of ugly sweater Christmas parties. Thank you as always for your support and feedback on our podcasts, we appreciate it.

For many people, including several in our offices, Christmas came early this year as the hugely popular “Serial” podcast began its second season on December 10th. This time, host Sarah Koenig and the creators of “This American Life” take us through the incredible story of Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. Soldier who was a prisoner of the Taliban for nearly five years and was released in May 2014. Within days of his return, people began saying he shouldn’t be celebrated; some soldiers from his unit called him a deserter and that he had deliberately walked off their outpost in eastern Afghanistan and into hostile territory. The case is still going on now, as Bergdahl was arraigned on December 22nd on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

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What’s the pitch? Well regardless of whether you listen to “Serial” or not, you can’t deny its popularity and we discuss some of the reasons why we think that’s the case. Check out the Serial website here and get hooked:

Our HARO of the month comes from The Levo League, a career resource website for Millennial women, and it touches on a somewhat personal subject – explaining to people what we do for a living. Believe it or not, there are still a lot of people who don’t understand PR. We break down our experiences while singing “Two Princes” by Spin Doctors (just kidding…or not). Take a look at the article that was based on the inquiry here.

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(But really though, did you know Spin Doctors has a new album out?? Stay up to date and follow @SpinDoctorsBand on Twitter)

It wouldn’t be the last On Review of the year without a little breakdown of the year in review. We take a trip down memory lane with some of the news stories and events that made a big splash.

And Sidenote: Adult coloring books are a thing so we tested them out. Great stocking stuffer, right? We’ve got more ideas. Also, Kimye’s new baby, Saint West, has joined Twitter. We ponder the serious questions: when are Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds going to share pictures of baby James? Do we really need to reserve Twitter handles and Instagram names for babies now?

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We’re excited to see what the new year brings, and we’ll be back with Episode IV in January!

Wishing you a happy new year,

Megan, Mariel, Brittney, Stephanie, Olivia and Jackie

Brands and the Big Scary Dislike Button


Recently, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the long requested “dislike” option for Facebook posts and comments was in the works. Despite Zuckerberg’s caveat that the button would convey empathy, rather than negativity, the announcement has caused rumblings among individual users and organizations, alike.

Since the launch of social media, users have expressed displeasure, disgust and even anger with ideas, photos, and articles that other users post on newsfeeds and public pages. Many brands have learned, sink or swim style, the sheer power that social media has given consumers.

Dealing with such harsh criticism has resulted in the rise of two schools of thought regarding brand response to negative sentiment. The first, which is widely being phased out, is the idea that negative content and sentiment should be removed from pages immediately.

The problem with this approach is that it often leaves customers feeling ignored, as if their concerns or displeasure don’t matter to the company. Frustration can build, and loyalty lost.

The second school of thought is that brands should address negative posts head-on and engage the dissatisfied customer to fix the issue of contention.

While many argue that the Facebook dislike button is a step in the wrong direction when it comes to bullying, my brand-specific recommendation is as follows:

  • Talk it out: While the dislike button will express a sentiment, brands need to learn the root of the displeasure so that they can address it head-on.
  • Make it count: We’re all guilty of view the number of “likes” as simply that— a number. Brands need to make sure not to step on the same landmine by instead taking a quality over quantity approach to responses.
  • Remember that sentiment can spread: Because dislikes are more a more anonymous option than comments, consumers may feel more compelled to express displeasure through the feature – especially if they see the number of dislikes growing on a post.

Happy, engaged customers are loyal customers. Social media has provided brands with tools to be transparent and engage with their audiences. Facebook’s new dislike button is not evil in and of itself – rather it is a tool that your target audience may soon use to express their displeasure.

Shrink not away in fear; rather, use the negative sanction as you would with any other expression of displeasure as a point of negotiation. Address the matter with clarity, transparency and work with consumers to find a common ground resolution that upholds the brand’s vision, mission and values.

Coca-Cola “Wants you”

Anyone who watched the Super Bowl ads of 2012, will surely remember Coke’s animated iconic polar bears who reacted to the action on the field throughout the full four hours or so of the game, coupled with a live feed during the game showing the bears watching. According to reports nine million people across various platforms checked in to see the polar bears.

The Polar Bowl was creative and forward thinking, but it was still about watching…

This time around Coke “wants you” to get involved in the narrative of their “Coke Chase” story — which is about “three teams of people – cowboys, showgirls and badlanders – who are lost in the desert and see the mirage of a glistening bottle of Coke — then vote in real time to decide who wins a battle for the Coke, and the result is revealed at the end of the game.”

But here is the kicker in the game – players are pitted against other players. They can also sabotage—in other words, vote down—the teams they oppose. It triggers a competitive spirit geared to propel engagement.

According to Coke executives, they want to “gamify the game” via a real-time television, web and social media campaign that taps consumers’ votes to determine the storyline of the spot. They hope that consumers are up for another game, while watching the Big Game.

Pio Schunker, SVP of integrated marketing at Coke said, “People aren’t going to necessarily interact with your product unless you tell a compelling story. This is the most engaging and compelling way in to talk about Coke as the ultimate thirst quencher.” A bit promotional I think, but on point with the interaction part.

It is clever. It is about cross-media storytelling and engaging players in a narrative. It is about extending the conversation through a host of platforms across Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram, for which custom content has been crafted. Additionally a press conference with the losers has been recorded for YouTube. It’s a marked change from last year’s Polar Bowl that had a singular tactic for social-media channels.
By the looks of the game Coke conceived, it is likely that they will beat their numbers of last year. It is also a very cool way for Coke to maximize their estimated $11 million investment.
But more importantly, Coke may very well be responsible for permanently turning around expectations of the Super Bowl ads of 2014.

It’s what we would expect from a market leader.

Facebook Takes CSR To Another Plane

Facebook Organ DonorThe simplicity of it is amazing, but the impact of it is astounding… In one day, Facebook’s new Organ Donor sign up option had 6,000 people enrolled, through 22 state registries, as opposed to less than 400 on any other normal day.

Ingenious, really…

The Facebook feature allows users to share their decision to be an organ donor on the website. More than 100,000 did sign up on the first day Facebook announced the option. The DMV has offered that option for years, but apparently the numbers had remained dismal, by comparison.

With this feature, Facebook has provided a bolt of hope to the more than 114,000 Americans who currently have their lives on hold while waiting for transplants of kidneys, livers, hearts and other organs. Although I am sure that Facebook never considered this program as falling under anything resembling a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, it surely feels like it.

But not quite, and here’s why…

Most CSR programs are geared to applying a company’s core competencies to advance social change in a way that contributes to business results and gives a company a competitive advantage. Most such programs, offer public good but are, in essence, keyed up to mitigate the impact of a company’s activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere. Most programs are either philanthropic in nature, as in donations for disaster relief or for the public good in general; support educational awareness campaigns, as in safety or health; or are sponsorships, as in cash or product giveaways, or employee volunteer time.

None of this applies to Facebook. Its Organ Donor program is on another CSR plane.

By providing a link on the site that connects organ donors to online donor registries, it has simply provided a “public good” by doing what it does best – connect – in this case, organ donors who would not have had a chance to come forth in such a public way or who had not thought of registering in the first place, with organizations that can offer hope to the 114,000 waiting…

But as with anything else, it always starts with one person’s mission and goal and in this case it was Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, who teamed up with an old friend Andrew Cameron, a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, who alerted her to the dire need for organ donations. Sheryl, made a judgment call and decided to find a way “to fix it.”

Although only an available option in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, still, with its millions of users, Facebook has now turned into a powerful tool to save lives…


Tweeting For Free Tuition

This tweet showed up recently: “The Uni of Iowa is offering a $37K scholarship to its b-schl fr the bst tweet by a prspctive MBA student.”

Strange to see this from an academic institution… It makes the “de rigueur” misspellings that are so intrinsic to the Twitter format seem OK.

Still, if the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business wanted to break through the clutter and get attention from potential business school candidates, it certainly got what it wanted, for this tweet went viral with a whirlwind velocity. Why not? Seems an easy and quick way to vie for a full scholarship. Even business publications were all over this including Bloomberg, Business Insider and BusinessWeek blog, as well as the French publication Atlantico, albeit the latter promptly declared that this would attract mediocrity rather than motivated students.

Not necessarily.

It will also attract savvy students wishing to compete on a creative level rather than just on their background information. It also fits in very well with Tippie’s need to get more aggressive in finding students to fill their school’s full-time MBA program, considering that they only had only 307 applicants. Moreover, it keys in with the school’s admissions officers’ increased curiosity in knowing a candidate’s social media voice in addition to their academic achievements.

It’s a creative pioneering gesture to interest applicants through a medium that really belongs to that generation. But the required tweet to compete for the $37K is in addition to the regular application form and resumes, not instead of, and that seems to dull the ”newness” of it all. So, armed with all the traditional information required, except for the usual 800 to 900-word essay, just how much weight will the tweet carry when it comes to in winning the scholarship?

There is something that I do not quite get…. I am thinking of all those spelling bees that kids try so hard to win over their early years, only to have a college give permission to misspell as a lure to apply.

It’s a clever attention grabber, but a stunt none-the-less, one that does not seem to be on message for an institution of higher learning…or is it “hier lrning.”