Gaia Group PR Blog

Living in The Moment or Remembering The Moment

4 Steps To Making Sure Social Media Doesn’t Take Over Your Travels

by Hannah M. Avery

A crimson sunset gracefully sets on the Italian Riviera. You close your eyes and hear the waves crashing on dock, breathe in the salty air and take a mental note to remember this moment for a lifetime. Sounds pretty spectacular, right? Most of the time, mental moments like this don’t happen. Whenever there is a breathtaking sight, you can bet someone is going to pull out their phones to capture the experience. Somehow the organic element of “living in the moment” is gone as soon as someone sends a Snapchat or “checks-in” on Foursquare.

Social media is a powerful tool that can be used to capture, share, and express yourself in the environment around you. After all, what is the one thing that everyone tells you before you travel? “Take lots of pictures for me!” Traveling is more than experiencing, but also to bringing back pieces of the world to share with others. Whether that be in pictures, Instagram updates, Facebook posts, or even tweets – staying connected with home while traveling is always important.

So what is a respectable balance between living in the moment and having tangible proof and memories of your visit? Here are four tips to keep you connected; yet free from the addictive grasp that social media has on most of us.Capture 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

You see them everywhere—the extreme addicts who would rather go to a fast food restaurant with Wi-Fi than have a scenic picnic on the beach. At least you can Instagram the French fries, right? According to mediabistro.com, around 70% of travelers updated their Facebook status while they were on vacation. Although it is great to stay up-to-date with news, emails and keep up with friends and family, there comes a time when you need to put down the phone and live a little bit.

2. Capture the moment and then put it away

I personally love taking picture wherever I travel. There is no better way to embrace your inner tourist than with a camera in hand. Even if the photo isn’t spectacular, it is wonderful to be able to look back and remember my days through a diary of photos. Strangely enough, most times the photos I liked the best were ones where I wasn’t trying to be Picasso and create a masterpiece, but just simple snapshots throughout my day.

Take photos, gather memories – but look at them when you get home. Small changes like taking your phone off the table during dinner make a huge difference. Don’t spend all evening discretely (or not so discretely) checking Facebook to see how many likes you get on your photo.

3. Stay in touch

Take the time to send a quick postcard or letter to those you love. Although you are out experiencing new sights, tastes and sounds – the rest of you family and friends are left wishing they could be with you and wondering what you are doing on the other side of the world.

Capture

Anyone can send a text, but it takes thought and planning to send something hand written. Sitting down with a pen in hand to write a personal message is an alien concept to many – don’t fall into this category! Even if you just send a couple sentences, it will mean so much to the lucky person receiving your card. As John Diaz from the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out, “Neither a thousand tweets nor an e-mail of any length can quite match the power or poignancy of a handwritten letter.”

4. Take time to reflect

Capture photos and videos. Describe your experiences to family and friends. But if you don’t take some time for yourself to absorb the experiences in your mind, then what are they really worth? Try going for walks or writing in a journal to unblock your thoughts from the hustle and bustle of a busy day.

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How Major Brands are Adding Snapchat to Their Arsenal

by Tori Montano, Associate

As mobile apps such as Twitter, Vine and Instagram are changing the way marketers think – how does the rising popularity of Snapchat fit into the picture? While big brands utilize Snapchat to reach a younger demographic, what does it take for a smaller business to be successful in the medium? Let’s start with step one…

What exactly is Snapchat?
For those of you who are not aware of the company that turned down $3 Billion from Facebook in November 2013, Snapchat, is a photo-messaging app used to send photos to friends that vanish 10 seconds after opening. Last October Snapchat rolled out a feature called Stories, which allows users to string together photos and videos to a feed for 24 hours before it disappears.

Snapchat is extremely popular among millennials, which many attribute to the privacy and lack of long-term history feature that the app offers. Snapchat allows users to send pictures without having to worry about who sees them or  if the pictures will show up somewhere else later.

Fast Facts:
• Snapchat has an estimated 26 million active users in the U.S.
• About 400 million snaps (photos and videos) are sent a day
• The core audience on Snapchat is ages 13-25
• 70% of Snapchat users are women

Four Easy Steps for Integrating Snapchat into Your Marketing Plan
Since late 2013 many brands have begun incorporating Snapchat into their social strategies. Among the list of active users are consumer-brands such as, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Audi, Acura, FreePeople and PacSun. The beauty of Snapchat is it’s truly a free platform that allows companies to engage on a more personal level with fans and followers. Here’s a simple Snapchat plan that anyone can follow.

There are four simple steps to use Snapchat in your next campaign:

  1. Engage followers on existing social network
    Cross-promotion across multiple platforms is key when adding a new channel to your current marketing plan. McDonald’s began promoting their Snapchat platform with teaser pictures on both their Twitter and Facebook pages to engage current followers.mc1
  2. Provide exclusive access and content for Snapchat friends
    Now that you’ve promoted your Snapchat page, it is important to give users an incentive to add you! One of the biggest challenges Snapchat presents is getting users to take the action to add search and add a company. Here’s a simple way that Seventeen Magazine addressed these issues by offering exclusive content to their fans.twit
  3. Introduce a new product or raise awareness
    Since Snapchat Stories only last 24 hours, companies can keep users interested with an enticing video or contest. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Turkey and Denmark implemented a campaign to raise awareness about endangered and threatened species. Users are being asked to screenshot these “selfies” and share them on their own accounts and across social media.Grey Panda LastSelfie
  4. Request an action from Snapchat fans
    One of Snapchat’s biggest criticisms is that it doesn’t have the same high-level analytics and measurement tools as other social platforms. To counteract this problem you can ask your users to complete an action and monitor whether that action happened in a 24-hour period. At the end of one of McDonald’s Snapchat Stories they asked fans to follow them on Twitter!mcd

Other Ways Brands are Using Snap Chat (& You Can Too!):
• Introduce a new product
• Sending one-on-one Snapchats
• Send reminders
• Reward audience for engaging with your brand
• Go behind-the-scenes
• Offer Exclusivity
• Provide Discounts
• Host Contests

Do you think Snapchat is a good tool to help support your social campaigns? Let us know how you plan to use it!


What I’ve Learned at Gaia Group

by Lindsay Buchanan, Associate

keep calm

Sadly, my time as a Gaia Group employee has come to a close. With law school on the horizon, it’s time for me to bid the firm “adieu.” However, I’ll always cherish these lessons that I learned from the Gaia gals.  If you are seeking a job or even an internship position, perhaps some of the advice below will be helpful in providing guidance on agency life!

Never underestimate your own power.

During my fifth week at work, I was asked to run point on event support for a large-scale two-day client event. Suddenly, I was at the helm of communications for a 200-person summit. Although, I’m a self-starter, I was initially terrified to be “in charge.” That fear quickly dissipated when I realized that–thanks to my managers at Gaia Group– I was completely informed and capable of completing the tasks at hand. At Gaia Group, the leadership doesn’t believe in keeping other members of the organization in the dark: they believe in managing up and fostering a completely team-oriented environment. From Day One, I was included on emails, calls, event planning meetings, and updated on all pertinent information. I met with client contacts, worked closely on marketing materials, and acquired a considerable knowledge of all of the power players, jargon, and hot topics in our client’s industry.  I realized that I had all the tools that I needed to succeed. More than that, knowing that my managers had enough faith in me to allow me to take the lead made all the difference.

Work for your network, and it will work for you.

One of my wisest professors always said, “Networking shouldn’t be about what you can get or use from others; it should be about how you can help each other grow.” Our fearless leader, Gaia Group president Laura Taylor, is the living example of that principle.  Her success lies in the fact that others trust her, respect her, and appreciate her because she gives of herself, completely.  That goodness radiates throughout the entire team. She can often be found setting aside twenty minutes to talk to a burgeoning businesswoman, doing pro bono work for causes and people she believes in, or treating her employees to lunch to make sure they know they’re important. She does so much for so many people, and in return, her network rewards her with words of thanks and referrals. From observing her and the other Gaia Group employees, I’ve learned that the key to growing happiness in your career comes from the selfless deeds you do for others.

Think small.

I know. Let me explain. In order to specialize and be the best in your industry, you’ve got to think small: know everything about your industry (backward and forward), be precise, comb through every tiny detail, segment your research, and apply it to your client’s specific organization. Thinking small is imperative, but the real challenge is applying small, specific thoughts to big issues to create big wins for the client. This is where Gaia Group excels. Collectively, the professionals at Gaia Group are experts in the areas of cleantech PR, technology, public affairs, social media, editing, and media relations. They’ve thought “small” enough to become experts in a number of industries in order to make giant impacts for their clients.

All ideas are good ideas.

One of the main reasons that I felt like a true member of the Gaia Group team from early on in my employment was that I was treated as if my experiences and thoughts were completely essential to the organization. I think that’s the beauty of Gaia Group: every team member brings something different (and equally important) to the table.  Every idea I ever had was treated with validity and complete respect. In my previous experiences interning at several different organizations, I was rarely ever asked for my opinion on client work. Now, at a PR firm with incredibly talented, seasoned PR vets, I (a first-year associate) was asked for my input almost every single day! Using a more collaborative team strategy allows Gaia Group to pull from a wealth of amazing ideas and produce exemplary results for their clients.

What I will miss most is the camaraderie I share with my fellow team members. There really isn’t a rotten egg in the whole crew. The warmth and dedication that lives in each member of the team is infectious. It touches everyone they work with– just ask any of their clients! I’ll definitely be back to the new McLean office to visit!


11 Perfect Post Ideas for Your Company Blog

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At Gaia Group, we do a lot of blogging for our clients. Blog integration is one of the most important keys to digital success. Blogging adds tremendous social and SEO value to any organization’s marketing strategy. However, we understand that it can be difficult to come up with consistent, relevant, exciting content for your company’s blog. With these 11 fail-proof ideas, you will never be at a loss for words.

  1. “Top” Lists - “Top 10″-type lists are perfect for driving traffic to your blog. “Top” lists are memorable, practical, and help us organize our thoughts. These lists are great for SEO, especially if you tag included photographs very well and share on feed-based sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
  2. “Lessons Learned” Posts – These posts take events from the zeitgeist and liken them to an industry issue. Lessons learned posts are wonderful for engagement, and they vary blog content from the “usual.” These posts include eye-grabbing headlines like ” Five PR Lessons Learned from Beyonce’s Grammy’s performance” or “What the New iPhone Commercial Says about Millenial Marketing.”
  3. Write News Roundups – Posting occasional entries filled with links to industry news sites or other reputable blogs. After each link, write a short blurb with analysis. This increases your SEO and builds your credibility as an industry thought leader. News and link roundups also build relationships; when other thought leaders see traffic directed to their site from yours, it opens your organization up for more partnerships and collaborative opportunities.
  4. Post Trend Updates – Is there a new issue or trend sweeping your industry? Write about it! How does the trend help? Hurt? How has your organization adjusted to the changes the trend influences?
  5. Include Feature Stories about the Organization – Write about employee programs, someone on the team who deserves to be recognized, or a special social responsibility initiative you have going on. This will give stakeholders an inside look at your organization’s mission and values.
  6. Debunk Common Myths – Is there a common myth in your industry? Debunk it in a blog posts, and talk about how your organization operates outside of that myth.
  7. Interview a Client or Customer – Who can speak better about your product or services than you can? Schedule a sit-down with a trusted client, and post the conversation to give potential customers an idea of what to expect from your organization.
  8. Share a List of Your Favorite Industry Blogs - This one works similarly to the news roundup. These types of posts are best for building partnerships and influence as an industry leader.
  9. Share Conference Takeaways – Did you learn a lot at the conference you attended last week? Great! Share with your stakeholders! You can also pick up a lot of the conference’s traffic: chances are, people who didn’t attend are looking for a summary.
  10. Post an Industry-Relevant Infographic - Write a quick blurb about an interesting industry infographic, and make sure to html tag the photo!
  11. Take a Poll - The best way to engage with your stakeholders is to reach out and talk to them. When you ask others for specific action or feedback, you’ll get it!

Lindsay Buchanan is an Associate at Gaia Group. You can follow her at @LBuchananPR or check out her blog, Southern Belle Stylista.


Positive Social Sharing for Brands: Amazing or Annoying?

share

It recently came to my attention that an old high school classmate was overheard complaining about my social media usage. She complained that I only post about  “every positive thing” in my life, and that it was “annoying.” I was initially offended: I couldn’t figure out why a person I haven’t thought about since I was 18 years old would care enough to complain about my positive social shares. However, because 60% of my job is to create, measure, and study social media interactions – I considered her opinion and rationalized it in a professional context. Is positive social sharing irritating to some people because it seems fake? If so, what kind of implications does that have for social content for major brands?

Share Diverse Brand Information

As marketers, we’re encouraged to shape perceptions, promote positives, and spin negatives. However, we also have to be careful not to alienate our clients’ blog readers, Facebook page fans, and followers. There’s nothing wrong with being positive, just as long as you’re being truthful and sharing diversified content.

Reduce Brand’s Fans’ “Fear of Missing Out,” And Save Reputation

Perhaps, my old classmate was just suffering from social media envy. This “epidemic” was the subject of a particularly interesting New York Post article. The immediacy of physically seeing someone’s happiness or success can give people a severe “fear of missing out.” Similarly, social fans who feel left out and unheard are far more vocal than if they have no complaints about the brand and its content. According to a survey quoted in a Mediapost article, on average, social media users who have had bad service experiences tell 53 other people about the experience; that’s almost three times the number of people that non-social media users tell. To limit negative news and help fans feel included, cater your content to your audience, and respond to posted issues social quickly and respectfully.

Spread Positivity With Comments and Likes

In order to counteract Internet negativity, I routinely comment on engagement photos, baby pictures, and school acceptances, congratulating my fellow happy social media pals. In a similar way, brands need to share the love. When active brand lovers mention you on Twitter or comment on your Facebook photo, respond! Building relationships with your organization’s digital friends only strengthens brand loyalty, broadens your impressions and reach, and pays the positivity forward. Brands that talk back to their fans online are more likely to receive more favorable comments more often. This spreads reinforces a positive, branded digital culture.

Don’t Try To Please The “Un-Pleaseable”

Although, after some self-reflection, I decided that I disagreed with my former classmate, her opinion taught me a valuable career lesson: always consider the naysayers. In the words of Dita Von Teese, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be someone who hates peaches.” When creating digital content, write for your target and listen to their criticism, but don’t get caught up in trying to please a consistently negative “fan.” Web activity sometimes fosters a subculture of nonsensical contrarianism. Don’t try to be everything to everyone: be the best you can be for the people who need or hire you.


Client In the News: There’s More to the Super Bowl than Meets the Eye

facebook haystax

One of our clients, Haystax Technologies, was just featured in a CNET article . Their technology is “designed to pull in huge flow of raw data — things like camera feeds, radiological monitors, RFID and GPS systems, and social media — and algorithmically bring the most important data points to the top.”

In short, their product helps first responders find a needle in the proverbial haystack.

Check out the article here.


Three Ways Your Brand Should Use Vine

vine

by Lindsay Buchanan, Associate

Given that two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2017, and mobile makes up more than more than 25 percent of YouTube’s global watch time, many brands are making the wise decision to create more web video content.

Vine is winning the brand war in many ways. Five tweets per second contain a Vine link. A branded Vine video is four-times more likely to be seen than a regular branded video. Although Instagram has 10 times the users that Vine does (130 million and 10 million, respectively), Vine’s users are extremely vocal. Additionally, Vine’s influence stretches beyond the app itself.

Vine video compilations are among the most watched videos on YouTube. Even if people are not Vine users, they are more than likely watching the top videos via YouTube, Twitter, or blog site embeds. Additionally, Luce Performance Group found that Vine videos from brands got .0206 percent average engagement rate and an average of 20 retweets, while Instagram videos got .0111 percent average engagement rate and an average of 7 retweets.

Here are a few ways your brand can jump on the Vine bandwagon:

Partner with Vine Influencers

There are many users on Vine, but there are a few who truly stand out. There are some breakout “Vine stars” whose videos receive thousands of re-Vines and comments every day. Brands to build partnerships with these influential Vine users in order to create more brand awareness and gain more followers. Ask influencers to create a video on their account using a campaign hashtag, or ask them to direct a series of videos on your Vine account. By working with these Vine “celebrities,” you can greatly expand your brand’s reach and influence.

Cross-Promote

Like with any social strategy, cross-promotion is key when drawing attention to your brand’s Vine videos. Make sure that you share content across all social channels. Share videos on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Get the rest of your organization involved, too. The more that eyes are on your content, the faster it will spread.

Extend Campaign Key Messages

Use Vine to promote your brand’s key messages. Consider Vine as an extension of your integrated communications plan; it should not be your entire strategy. Social media marketing only works effectively when it’s part of a carefully crafted communications plan. The best branded Vine videos are ones that are obviously, carefully planned. Social is a tool, not a tactic; make sure you consult a communications professional to make sure all of your brand messages, social or otherwise, are created thoughtfully and strategically.

Curious about Vine vs. Instagram? Here are some resources to help:


Four PR Lessons from Disney Movies

by Lindsay Buchanan, Associate

Early on in childhood, Disney taught us many life lessons. We learned that a dream is a wish your heart makes and that sometimes you’ve just gotta say “Hakuna Matata.” However, we didn’t know that some of the lessons from our favorite Disney films also inadvertently taught us a lot about PR.

Be timely. [Cinderella]

cinderella losing her shoe on stairs

Good ol’ Cindy learned this lesson the hard way: always be on time. Don’t miss your opportunity to deliver relevant news about your clients. Moreover, don’t try to sell old information; that’s a losing battle in today’s digital, 24-hour news cycle. Keep up with current events, and tie in client news in order to add value and interest to your stories and press releases.

Be transparent. [Pinocchio]

pnoch

Just as Pinnochio’s fibs kept him from becoming  a “real boy,” a lack of transparency could keep your company from becoming the” real deal.” As we’ve seen in the press lately, non-disclosed information can make a company look like they have something to hide faster than you can say “Gepetto’s Workshop. ” Divulge any potentially problematic information up front in order to avoid colossal embarrassment later. If your organization has particular trouble in this department, prepare crisis communications drafts so you’ll be prepared if trouble strikes.

Rely on your network. [Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs]

Seven Dwarfs

Snow White would have been nothing without her friends, and neither would you. Nobody gets to where they are by themselves. As a professional, your whole life is about connecting with others on a personal level. That includes your network. Your personal contacts are just important as your professional ones. Get out and meet people in all industries – join a professional organization. Build meaningful relationships with journalists and digital influencers: one tip or conversation could turn into a career-long relationship. Let your brand precede you. Always be genuine, professional, and reliable. But most of all, be compassionate. Never take the power of kindness for granted.

Be brave. [Merida from Brave]

brave

At Gaia Group, we love to encourage our clients to forge new paths. Think outside of the box: it’s okay to have good, new ideas! Innovation is what sets you apart from your competition. If an idea doesn’t scare you a little, it’s not big enough. Don’t limit your ideas just because you think something will be difficult to implement. Dream big, and the execution will come. That’s what you have us for.

Lindsay Buchanan is an Associate and Digital Strategist at Gaia Group. You can catch up with her on her style blog, Southern Belle Stylista, or on Twitter.


“PR Is Dead,” and Other Lessons from PRSA iCon

by Lindsay Buchanan, Associate

Last weekend’s 2013 Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) International Conference in Philadelphia was full of lessons and forecasts from the industry’s greatest minds. The crown jewel of the weekend’s lineup of presentations delivered by industry superstars was the keynote speech from Brian Solis of Altimeter Group. Brian is a well-known and longstanding thought leader in the PR industry. Here are just three of the many insights Mr. Solis shared with the crowd about “The Future of PR” and are practice that Gaia Group and others in our industry put into practice and also serve as reminders of where we are headed.

1. Selfish Social is a Major Branding Blunder.

Solis urged professionals to put the “social” in social media, NOT the “me.” Some companies jump on social media, and they only use it to push out marketing messages. In reality, it is not advisable to market “at” people, but rather to draw them into a digital experience. The “experience cycle” involves the relationship between user, consumer and brand experience.

In this interconnected digital world we’re actually kind of antisocial, said Solis. Our digital feeds should be about creating an experiential environment where followers become brand ambassadors, not about shoving a product or service into our follower’s line of sight. Followers should feel like they are a part of your brand lifestyle. The brand journalism movement adds promise, and that all digital content should consider the consumer and her likes and dislikes.

2. Communicators Need to Communicate (With Each Other).

Winning social campaigns start at home. Successful social strategy requires communication between all of an organization’s departments. Transparency allows communicators to unify messaging and create a meaningful, workable strategy that keeps all internal parties involved. He talked about the journey that consumers have to take with organizations, whether it’s through a website, press release, an app or Facebook page.

Brian Solis described the “journey” of creating competent content as “a mess.”

“The people who own mobile don’t talk to people who own the website. The people who own the website don’t talk to the people who are running Facebook,” Solis said. This disconnect creates multiple brands and multiple voices for one company. It is up to PR practitioners to redefine that “journey,” integrate it, and, thus, change content for the better.

3. PR is Dead.

At least in the traditional sense. Public relations is no longer just about writing press releases, pitching stories, and planning events. The Future of PR is all about creating experiences, either online or in person.

Public relations now sits at the intersection of brand experience, user experience and customer experience.

4. Communications Professionals Should Avoid “Kodak Moments”

It’s important to know when to adapt. If you fail to adjust your strategy to account for new information, digital innovation, or new ways of thought, you may have a “Kodak moment.”

Brian Solis said that the old definition of the “Kodak moment” was co-opted by society as the “Instagram moment.” Kodak didn’t change their business model at a time when digital and consumer experience were exploding in their industry. They had all the technology and patents to create that experience, but they didn’t. Brian Solis defines the “new Kodak moment” as the moment you failed to realize that your organization needs to change.

“In order to change and innovate, we have to see what we don’t do right,” said Solis. Communicators are responsible for assessing their strategy, assessing their organization’s industry, and deciding how to influence a shift in consumer perception.

Lindsay Buchanan is an Associate and Digital Strategist at Gaia Group. You can catch up with her on her style blog, Southern Belle Stylista, or on Twitter 


Client News: Energy Storage and the Future of Solar

We love to help clients make news and there is nothing better than a discussion in a widely read outlet like the New York Times. This article on solar power energy storage pieces together the issue surrounding the capture of energy and how utilities are harnessing the power of the sun after hours. The Solar Electric Power Association stepped up to support is utility members in this discussion.