Posts Tagged ‘visitors’

Even Santa Can Use Some Good PR and Marketing

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

At the PRSA 2010 International Conference opening reception, Eric Schwartzman introduced me to Santa’s PR guy, Maj. Brian Martin, deputy chief of staff for communications at NORAD and USNORTHCOM. Ok, he’s not really Santa’s personal public relations consultant, but he does handle PR for NORAD Tracks Santa, and the program has a great PR story to share.

The history behind the 2009 campaign:

Over 50 years ago, a local department store advertised for kids to call Santa on a special “hotline,” but they accidently used the number for the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD). Col. Harry Shoup, received the first call and told his staff to put the rest through. They confirmed Santa’s location via radar, and the tradition of tracking Santa was born. CONAD is now the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM).  NORAD volunteers still take calls, but they also answer emails and respond to social media posts from kids all over the world who want to know when Santa will be coming down their chimney.

As of November 19, 2009, Stacey Knott, public affairs, social media officer, NORAD and USNORTHCOM says, NORAD Tracks Santa had 719 Facebook fans, and a minimal presence on Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn and YouTube. For the 2009 holiday season, they wanted to increase communication with their audiences, improve awareness, and drive traffic to the NORAD Tracks Santa website. Additionally, they looked to increase awareness of NORAD’s brand and mission notes Maj. Michael Humpreys, public affairs officer, NORAD and USNORTHCOM.

Results from the 2009 campaign:

  • As of January 1, 2010, NORAD Tracks Santa’s Facebook page had 417,608 fans.
  • 13 million unique visitors from over 200 countries visited the NORAD Tracks Santa website.
  • The NORAD NORTHCOM Facebook page went from 447 fans on October 1, 2009 to 5,911 on January 1, 2010.
  • As of November 29, 2010, there 17,579 likes for NORAD NORTHCOM on Facebook.
  • The NORAD website typically has 1,000-3,000 visitors per day. On Christmas Eve 2009, the website had over 90,000 visitors and over 85,000 of them were unique visitors.

Preparing for the 2010 season:

NORAD Tracks Santa is a volunteer operation, so NORAD relies on many partners to help create the website, keep the website from crashing, and help strategize on other tactics.  For 2010, some local Colorado schools are helping to develop games for the website. And for 26 hours over the eve of Santa’s arrival, the command staff, families, and other volunteers will run the command center phones and monitor social media to answer questions. Martin says it has been a great way for NORAD/USNORTHCOM to spread goodwill.

“The memories of NORAD Tracks Santa are a real tradition in people’s homes,” says Knott. She goes on to say, you have to believe in Santa after you volunteer to help.

For social media, Humphreys says they decided to focus on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, where they have the most activity – although they previously had a presence on Flickr and LinkedIn. Since they post pictures to Facebook, using Flickr seemed redundant.  YouTube is the second most used search site, and they have a lot of activity on there.

All of the NORAD Tracks Santa social media sites and website are “family friendly.” Knott confirmed they spend a lot of time checking to ensure people are not posting mean, ugly posts, or profanity. In the video above, Maj. Martin discusses addressing issues on social media.

NORAD Tracks Santa’s Strategies, Tips and Best Practices—

  • Link back to the main website as often as possible
  • Have a consistent message across all media (mainstream media and social media)
  • Encourage interaction by looking for questions and try to respond to as many posts as possible
  • Further the conversation
  • Interact quickly
  • Have an engagement protocol and enforce it
  • Be trusting
  • Continue engagement throughout the year
  • Post pictures and videos

Humphreys says success comes from constant engagement on social media. Martin adds that NORAD Tracks Santa continues mainstream media outreach to print and web publications and with satellite media tours for broadcast stations.

I know I have great memories of watching the news to learn when Santa might be coming to my house. Do you have similar memories?

The BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas readers would like to hear how you’ve taken an old program and made it fresh with social media. Do you have any tips to share?

Are People Really Swayed by Authority?

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010


by Lauren Shapiro*

Are you an obedient consumer? A study in the 1960’s by Stanley Milgram proved that we, as human beings, are obedient to our instructor even when what we are asked to do may cause harm to another person. The study, mirrored by the 2009 movie The Box, asked participants to shock their co-participant (an actor) any time he answered a question incorrectly. Out of the forty participants, all 40 agreed to induce shock when asked to by the scientist. 62 percent gave the highest shock and 65 percent of participants continued to administer shocks even when the person being shocked said he was experiencing heart trouble. Now, a French reality show, The Game of Death, puts a new spin on the Milgrim study to see if contestants in 2010 will be as obedient as the participants from the sixties. Their findings? Out of 80 participants, 81 percent administered shocks and more than four out of five gave the maximum jolt. 

From both experiments, it is clear that we are very influenced by individuals of authority. The studies take the point to an extreme, but the fact itself is true. Take, for instance, the role of public relations, marketing, and advertising which attempt to influence the way people think about a certain brand, product, or person. Some people are more influential than others and their message can make consumers more or less obedient to their instruction. For example, Tiger Woods was a significant “authority” in the sports world and he received many endorsement deals with products such as Gillette, Tag Heuer, and Gatorade. His wholesome, positive image made him the perfect spokesperson whose message would yield obedience by consumers, creating and tracked by higher sales. However, Tiger’s most recent popularity in the media has caused him to lose endorsement opportunities and downgraded his authority as a person of influence in the media.

Social media has allowed for the non-celebrities of the world to become important influencers, too. According to, an influencer is “a visitor who’s subsequent sharing actions result in at least one additional site visitor.” In the PR and marketing industries, these influencers and their reach are extremely important in identifying who to engage and in measuring social media success. also found that “content spread from consumer to consumer through word-of-mouth is far more powerful at driving brand preference and purchase intent than content distributed by the brand itself.” But, do top social media influencers create obedience in their followers? uses the 2-4X rule, stating that “visitors driven to a site by influencers are 2-4X more likely to convert compared to visitors from other sources.”

With social networks like Facebook and Twitter users get to pick and choose who they want to be influenced by. Unlike Milgrim’s study or the French game-show, consumers are dealing with the conundrum of whether “to buy or not to buy” versus “to shock or not to shock” which is a far more pleasant dilemma. However new social media tends to be, it appears that users are still more obedient to their own social media authorities than the influencers presented to them by corporate branding strategies. Consumers have taken over branding the social media outlets to let their peers know the “real deal.”  

In the world of PR, marketing, and advertising – how are you using authority to influence the decisions of constituents? Do you target social media influencers in your PR pitches? As a consumer, are you swayed by a person’s authority or influence when making purchases? Please share your thoughts with me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas?


*Bio: Soon after graduating from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, in 2006 with a B.A. in communication and a B.S. in business/marketing, I joined the BurrellesLuce client services team. In 2008, I completed my master’s degree in corporate and organizational communications and now work as the supervisor of BurrellesLuce Express client services. I am passionate about researching and understanding the role of email in shaping relationships from a client relation/service standpoint as well as how miscommunication occurs within email, which was the topic of my thesis. Through my posts on Fresh Ideas, I hope to educate and stimulate thoughtful discussions about corporate communications and client relations, further my own knowledge on this subject area, as well as continue to hone my skills as a communicator. Twitter: @_LaurenShapiro_ LinkedIn: laurenrshapiro Facebook: BurrellesLuce