Posts Tagged ‘fan base’

Branding and Engagement Lessons From the Oscars

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Like many longevity brands, the Academy Awards faces the ongoing challenge of creating a classic but youthful image. Yet last night’s Oscars showed that connecting with a younger demographic doesn’t mean pulling weird stunts and packing the stage full of young people – in fact, by curating a balance of classic and up-and-coming, the event was a glittery case study in branding and engagement. Below, three of the evening’s many takeaways.

Ellen Breaks Twitter

Host Ellen DeGeneres managed to crash Twitter with her celebrity-packed selfie that garnered a record 2.7 million retweets and took down Twitter. DeGeneres prefaced the whole selfie incident by stating that she wanted to set a record for retweets and of course, the fans obliged. This was hands down the most successful social media stunt the Oscars has ever pulled – DeGeneres (and the masterminds behind the ploy) not only asked for retweets, they made a whole schtick out of taking selfies and posting them to Twitter. I wonder how no one thought of it before – though the stars aligned with Samsung as a sponsor and a TV host with a huge fan base.

Interestingly, Ellen’s “most epic selfie of all time” didn’t feature a gaggle of young starlets (23-year-old Jennifer Lawrence is the youngest), but a sampling of some of the most established stars in Hollywood. The average age of those in the photo (excluding Lupita Nyong’o’s brother, Peter, whose age I couldn’t find) is 43, showing that being “epic” is no longer quite as contingent as being in one’s 20’s.

What they did right: Stated their goal of getting the most retweets ever, made taking selfies an interactive process, added humor, got a host with a large fan base and loyal online following to give it a push (I can’t imagine working with past hosts like Seth McFarlane or James Franco and Anne Hathaway).

What didn’t work out so well: Twitter wasn’t ready for the traffic, Ellen tweeted a backstage photo from her iPhone.

Engagement takeaway: State your goal and make the process fun. Doesn’t hurt if you can get nearly a dozen big celebrities, and it’s not only young people who resonate with young people.

Bringing Back Classic Stars

The evening was supposed to be a return to tradition and the classics, as evidenced by appearances from Kim Novak, Sidney Poitier, Liza Minnelli, Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, and John Travolta. I have to admit, I found Midler’s performance of “Wind Beneath My Wings” at the In Memoriam section a bit of a head scratcher. For a brand like the Oscars that so plainly pursues a younger demographic, it seemed weird to me to have Midler, who was at the height of her fame decades ago, sing in what is possibly the most emotionally moving spot of the evening. However, it seems it may have been a good move since one of their goals was to consolidate their base (women) and there were a lot of positive reactions on Twitter, even though it seemed counter-intuitive to the goal of projecting a younger image.

What they did right: Going out on a limb and choosing a star who isn’t young but is classic, nailing a balance between old and young Hollywood, Pink’s excellent cover of “Over the Rainbow” gave a new take on a classic song, symbolically passing it down to the next generations but maintaining the power of the original.  The right way to do a tribute.

What didn’t work out so well: Not having Minnelli involved the tribute to The Wizard of Oz, in which her mother, Judy Garland, starred. It’s entirely possible that Minnelli didn’t want to sing, but regardless of the circumstances, a lot of people on Twitter thought it was odd that Pink would sing the tribute while Minnelli was feet away. If Minnelli didn’t want to sing, she should have at least introduced the number so that it wouldn’t look like she was being slighted. And if she was being slighted, they made it super apparent.

Branding takeaway: It’s not always the wrong move to choose a spokesperson who is classic, as Midler is, so consider whether that person will resonate with the audience you’re most doggedly pursuing. Strive for a balance between reviving classics with new faces and bringing back the originator. Also, remember to consider appearances – examine something from all angles to make sure it doesn’t look like you’re slighting someone.


ABC and the Academy announced their Twitter initiative, #MyOscarPhoto, in which users who followed @TheAcademy  (and who signed a practically hidden online release) could Tweet a photo of themselves using the hashtag, and then during the red carpet pre-show, a celebrity would take a photo with a TV screen showing the photo the Twitter user had submitted, and some photos would be shown on TV. It was, at best, awkward in on-air execution; when the model and red carpet host Tyson Beckford modeled the first example, it looked forced. ABC only aired one more instance of #MyOscarPhoto, but clearly they got some traction, as their Twitter feed has over 400 tweets of stars posing stiffly with a television screen.

What they did right: Sourced user-submitted content and made non-celebrity fans feel like part of the event.

What didn’t work out so well: Execution was awkward, they only showed two photos (including the introductory example) so it seemed to dwindle quickly. Maybe they needed a hastagectomy. Also, if people need to sign a release, you should probably mention that in your explanatory tweet.

Engagement takeaway: Don’t let engagement initiatives fizzle; if you say you’re going to air photos, air a bunch of them, and publicize the release well ahead of time.

This Week’s Shot of Fresh: Statues, Socialocity, The Loop, Compelling Content, Groundhog Day, Advocados, Quoting Accurately, and Lawyer Up

Friday, February 7th, 2014
Squared Splash by flickr user derekGavey used under CC BY

Squared Splash by flickr user derekGavey used under CC BY

It’s been a busy two weeks here at Fresh Ideas. This week’s Shot of Fresh rounds up our Fresh Ideas content for the past two weeks:

Get Thee to a Lawyer: What You Need to Know About Canada’s New Anti-Spam Law

Almost every commercial email falls under purview of this law, so if you have affiliates, headquarters, clients, or leads in Canada, there’s a lot to do before July 1.

Issuing Citations: How to Quote Wisely and Accurately

Friends don’t let friends misquote. Misquotes shift the focus from your message to your mistake – here are some tips to quote someone accurately.

Jargonology Episode 3: Advocado

Don’t be an advocado – that’s what fact-checking is for. Don’t know what that means? Check out the video for your latest jargon jar addition.

Five PR Takeaways From Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is still just once a year, but PR lessons from the movie are forever.

How to Build a Brand Using Compelling Content

It’s the age of content marketing but that content needs to be compelling and contagious in order add to the brand. Check out the three E’s of contagious content.

The Loop: A 360° Approach to Public Relations – Registration Now Open

Know a PR student? Then they should attend The Loop, a PRSSA conference in downtown Chicago early next month. Plus, our own Tressa Robbins is a speaker.

Art Discourse, or Community PR?

When an ultra-lifelike, nearly naked statue of a sleepwalking man appears on the Wellesley College campus (a women’s college), is it PR stunt, or glaring misread of the audience?

Jargonology Episode 4: The Story of Socialocity

We’ve all witnessed socialocity firsthand – the rapid-fire pace at which an offensive tweet is shared, the traffic and comments a fan base can bring – and let’s face it: We all want to be on socialocity’s good side, even if it means performing emergency hashtagectomies, quarantining our influenzers, or reforming advocados.

Outlander and the Power of the Fan Base

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
flickr user Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer

flickr user Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer

The digital age has given fan bases and brand advocates the tools to unite with unprecedented speed and volume, something Variety no doubt learned this weekend when one of their writers incited a fan firestorm.

The Television Critics Association winter press tour began last week, and naturally, television critics were covering it in force, one of them being Malina Saval, associate features editor at Variety. In her article, “12 Cable Shows That TCA Convinced Us to Watch,” Saval mentioned Starz’s upcoming series Outlander. Here’s how she described it:

“This new series is based on the internationally bestselling novels by Diana Gabaldon that bored middle-age housewives have been going absolutely bananas over. It’s set in the 1700′s, involves time travel and sexy period-piece costumes, and its Harlequin Romance-esque plot is sure to fuel breathy playground chatter for the next year. “

A few months back, we noted how successful Starz’s viral campaign became even before the shooting began. That success was – and still is – due in large part to a vast and very dedicated fan base. A few people in that fan base saw Saval’s article, posted it to online fan groups, and some of the fans mobilized. Variety’s articles usually get comments in the single digits, but Saval’s article has nearly 500 comments at the time of posting, every single one of which refutes Saval’s characterization of Outlander and its fan base.

I’m a fan of the books (and, if it matters, neither middle-aged nor housewife). But I don’t have to be to see that Saval’s comments were incorrect (the books are not genre romance novels, and ergo cannot be Harlequin) and, more importantly, misogynist; Saval not only implied that female tastes are inherently “frivolous,”* but that by virtue of the series being popular with women, it’s not to be taken seriously. This synopsis also did nothing to endear the many men who enjoy the series.

My first instinct was to think that Saval had inadvertently caused the flurry of comments with a flippant two-sentence synopsis. But let’s also acknowledge that journalists are in a tough spot: in a contracting profession with heavy emphasis on digital presence, there’s pressure to get high traffic and rankings. So it’s conceivable that, in trying to garner page views with a segment that is not Variety’s primary audience, Saval, knowing the strength of the Outlander fan base, phrased her synopsis as she did in a bid to reap comments and page views. Machiavellian? Yes. Effective? Very.

Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of the whole situation was the 48 hours of silence from Variety and Saval. Engagement – with your fans, your readers, even with your badvocates – is one of the top credos of modern-day PR, and the comments went unacknowledged until yesterday afternoon, when Saval tweeted:

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 9.45.14 PM

If Saval’s comments weren’t intentionally provocative, her response certainly was. Comparing fans’ responses to a fatwa isn’t engagement – it’s on the verge of trolling, and is a pretty great example of how not to respond if you actually want to engage. And while PR bandies the word “engage” around a lot, we need to recognize that it goes far beyond making a melodramatic comparison to political persecution; it’s about reaching out to those who have had a negative response and acknowledging their experience. Community is about the conversation; it’s what makes the comment sections important in online media.

If the tone of her initial synopsis wasn’t intentional, Saval unwittingly turned herself into a classic example of one of the tenets of PR: don’t underestimate the power of a fan base. It doesn’t matter if it’s your base or someone else’s fan base, because there will be backlash.

That’s why engaging your fan base is so incredibly vital: Your fans and advocates are crucial to your success. One of the reasons the Outlander television series has almost every fan on board is because the main cast, writers, producers, author, and even the costume designer continually engage with fans on Twitter. They make the fans a part of the brand they already love, and respect them for who they are. When you nurture your audience like that, they come to your defense in force; when you ignore them, they’re left with a bitter taste and negative feelings.

*Quotation marks connoting not that Saval said such tastes are frivolous, but that “chick lit” and romance novels get the (undeserved) reputation of being frivolous