Public Relations Graphic

What is Public Relations?

Public Relations Graphic

The PR Puzzle

“A developing company is looking to hire a PR/advertising person,” I read yesterday in a Facebook status of Katya, my former colleague in Russia. “PR slash advertising, right,” I thought to myself. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a PR guru like James Grunig, for example, putting an equals sign between public relations and advertising… In many companies around the world, however, such association is pretty common. In Russia, the words PR, advertising, and marketing are often used interchangeably and essentially refer to one thing and one thing only: promotion of goods or services. Is that in any way different from the American culture? Let’s get brainy and try to figure it out.

Curiously, the abbreviation ‘PR’ for Russians would typically evoke a set of negative emotions. The deal here is that excessive political PR blackened the reputation of the whole PR process in the 1990s – right when it came into existence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Take PRopaganda for instance, which is the name of a large local public relations firm: Can you really expect good things from the company where PR and propaganda merge?!

PR in Russian language is also often used as a verb describing a public figure or an organization trying to boost their popularity through dubious activities. See a politician in a news report bragging about equipping local schools with newest computers? Don’t doubt for a second that the guy is ‘PRing’ himself. Such skewed understanding of PR is not unique to just Russia and is observed in other countries of the former USSR as well – in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.

So what would the ‘correct’ interpretation of PR be? Most likely it would sound something like ‘communication between an organization and groups of people affected by this organization, where all parties should benefit.’ PR would imply listening for feedback and allowing for dialog between the organization and the society. Unfortunately, most organizations are far from working in line with this ‘true’ purpose of PR. Public relations practitioners usually act as marketers, trying to urge people to buy the product instead of putting efforts into upholding the company’s reputation in the society.

Blueforest Studios recently held a contest for local nonprofits in the Triangle area called Blueforest GivesBack. Factors determining proper PR, such as community presence and social engagement, served as important criteria for our judges in selecting finalists. Blueforest is going to announce who the finalists are really soon!

What do you think public relations stand for? Press releases? Corporate social responsibility? Two-way communication? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

About the author: Vlad is an intern at Blueforest Studios and a 2nd year grad student at NC State. Today he’s sharing thoughts on his field of study – PR – and how the purpose and functions of PR in his home country – Russia – differ from the U.S.

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The Power of the Play Button

I find myself scrolling through pictures on my iPhone often. I like to reminisce. Mixed in with the pictures are some videos I’ve taken — mostly of my kids. Both my toddler son and daughter love to grab my phone any chance they get. And I find it fascinating to watch what they do once they get it. Sometimes they immediately go straight to one of the apps I’ve downloaded for them. But, other times they head to the photo section. Their little fingers scroll through quickly from picture to picture. Occasionally stopping to giggle for a second or to turn the phone towards me to show me something they want me to see. “Gook” my daughter says instead of “look” smiling. But, any time they see a play button it’s game over. No matter how quickly they’ve been scrolling, if they catch a glimpse of that triangle they stop mid scroll or scroll backwards to find it again.

The power of the play button.

It’s like a magnet. You have to know what’s behind the thumbnail. On YouTube it’s even red. It’s almost like it’s telling you not to click it. But you have to. And that’s why video is so powerful. If you have a well written story then you’ve got something powerful. Add an image and voila even more powerful. But, add a video and you’ve just increased your audience engagement by a lot.

Video by itself isn’t enough. The video needs to be good. It needs to speak to your audience in a way that represents you, your brand, your company. And once you put one out that people like they’ll want more.

So think about what you stand for and how you are delivering your messages in 2015. If a toddler with a very short attention span is willing to stop for a moment to click the play button then think about what your potential audience may be willing to do.

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Introducing: Bailey’s – Experience Elegance

We were thrilled when we received a call from Bailey’s and they said they were considering using us for their upcoming holiday campaign.  Who in this market hasn’t heard of the Bailey Box?  They are great marketers and we were honored to have a chance to develop a holiday TV spot for their company.  And, the fact that they let our team stretch their creative muscles made it that much more enjoyable. It’s an elegant and unique video that combines animation and live action, view below!

 

 

The purpose of this video was not only to unveil their completely redesigned store but to convey the feeling of shopping at Bailey’s in a memorable and unique way.

 

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We shot all footage using the Red Epic 4K camera riding on a Ronin 3-Axis stabilizer to get that floating feeling to the footage.  We decided on shots that were bright and sunny for the outdoor shots.

 

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We designed a animated female character and used several techniques to make it feel as though she was really part of the scene but at the same time feel as though she were part of the viewers imagination.  The character is designed to convey a stylish, carefree spirit.

The result is a commercial that stands out from other jewelry commercials in a memorable way.

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Introducing: Durham Tech Lifestyle video

Our Durham Tech Lifestyle video is one of many great projects we worked on this year. Blueforest Studios had great fun creating this video at Durham Tech and downtown Durham. We want to show you the video and a little behind the scenes involved.

This video is a collaboration between Engine Brandmakers, Durham Tech, and Blueforest Studios.

The purpose of this video was to interview real Durham Tech Students and highlight the connection between what Durham Tech is doing and all the vibrant, exciting things going on in Downtown Durham.  We wanted to connect the two things to convey how the lifestyle of downtown Durham goes hand in hand with the lifestyle of attending Durham Tech.


 

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In order to capture this, we shot on 2 Canon DSLR cameras (one handheld) and one on a tripod using all natural light.  The footage is a mix of regular student activities and regular lifestyle activities. Once we had the footage and began editing, we decided to use plain white, modern text to punctuate some of the things the interviewees were saying.


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One of the brilliant touches came from the creative folks at Engine suggesting that we shoot one of our interviewees walking in front of a large fish mural on a huge brick wall in Durham, giving them a huge amount of headroom.  We all loved the shot so much we decided to duplicate it for each interview. 

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TAB/Smart State Use Video to Grow Their Business

Keith Weaver is an established business coach for conjoined business advisor companies, The Alternative Board and Smart State. He came to us for assistance in creating a tool that would help him get meetings and close deals. Though he’s very good at his job, he was looking for something that would address prospects’ fears and issues – ones that they might not even want to speak about – such as the business problems that keeps them up at night.

Here’s the video that our team created.

After implementing the video into his sales process Keith has been very pleased. Here is what he had to say:

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 9.53.35 AMWhen I needed a boost to my revenue growth, I turned to Blueforest Studios. They developed and produced the perfect video as part of my marketing strategy to attract more clients. In the two years since I began using the video my business is up over 43%. Anyone can make a video these days but very few know how to tell your story or deliver your message in a compelling fashion that gets viewed and truly impacts the bottom line.

Keith Weaver, CEO
Smart State, LLC

http://www.smart-state.com/

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Rebranding: The Why and the How

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There comes a point in nearly every business’ lifespan where rebranding becomes a necessity.  Whether that change comes in an attempt to gain more customers, influence investors, stay ahead of the competition, or a combination of all three, a company will ultimately face the day when their current brand no longer reflects those needs. A company rarely maintains the exact same identity over time, and rebranding is a strategy that allows that company to communicate to the market how their brand has evolved. It can include modifications to the name, logo, design, and various other features that encourage others to see that company in a new light. When done effectively, rebranding can rejuvenate your company and make it stronger than ever. Sometimes, however, rebranding can be detrimental to your company’s image, which is why it’s essential to figure out the right way to rebrand.​

 

DBD International provides a list of nineteen insightful questions that every company should consider during rebranding. Some of these items revolve around the company itself, such as:

  • Is our brand associated with something that is no longer meaningful?
  • What do we want to convey? To whom?

While some items deal with questions involving the customer base:

  • Has our customer profile changed?
  • Is our brand out of step with the current needs and desires of our customers?

And some deal with the grand scheme of the rebrand:

  • Is the goal of this rebrand a stepping stone (evolutionary) or a milestone (revolutionary)?
  • Will this solution work in 5, 10 and 15 years from now based on what we can anticipate?

These are all significant questions that every company should ask themselves before beginning the rebranding process. Visit the article for the complete list of rebrand questions.

 

 

 

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Video SEO Done Right

I love learning!  There I said it – it’s no secret.  I have attended 7 institutions of higher learning and looking to attend another as soon as I can!  But while I love the institutions of higher learning not every single class provides knowledge that you can apply right away.  To gain practical knowledge – especially in a somewhat new field I rely on workshops, articles and meetups.  Thanks to my friend Phil Buckley who organizes the local SEO Meetup I have been able to learn from experts in the field of Video SEO – people who have had great successes for themselves, like Gregory Ng or for their clients, like Bob Walton.  So I’ve been using all the tips that they’ve provided – some of which are included on our 27-point checklist that we use for every client who requests video SEO help.

So as you might have gathered, I’m a bit of a geek.  I don’t get to see immediate results for the operations work that I do so when I get positive results for my efforts I’m thrilled to share them.

The screenshot above is a sample of excellent Video SEO.  All but one of the recommended videos are produced by Blueforest Studios so if the viewer has time and wants to check out more videos, I am not sending them to my competition – I am sending them to see more videos by our team.

This is not the most important part of Video SEO but controlling the message – including what comes up after your message or video can be very important.  Depending on your viewers YouTube knowledge they may assume that the ‘recommended’ videos are related to you anyway so don’t you want those videos – or at least the thumbnails to reflect positively on your company?

Stay posted to learn more about Video SEO or reach out to our team to see how we can help you!

Kathy Langfield

 

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Using Case Study Videos to Shape Brand Perception

Guest Blogger Dane Frederiksen

You’re on your way to interview for your dream job, so obviously you’ve donned your favorite sweatpants and ripped tee shirt. You’ve got the skills to do the job, so the way you present yourself shouldn’t matter at all, right?

Mmm. Maybe. Or maybe you should suit up in something a little less Saturday morning. Stand out for the right reasons. Perception matters. And the same applies to your branding efforts.

Let’s get back to the job interview scenario. Suppose you could walk into the hiring manager’s office and show him this. Not only do you look great, but you’re telling a compelling narrative with real-life characters, dramatic images, music—the works.

In their “interview video” above (call it a case study if you must), architecture firm Quinn Evans doesn’t just show off a series of standard portfolio images. Sure, they absolutely have a portfolio worth showing off, but their video marketing strategy goes deeper. They’re showing their value, not just their capabilities. They’re bringing more than diplomas and blueprints to the table; they’re bringing real-life impact, community involvement, and a narrative of who they are. I think it’s fair to say that, with this piece in their video marketing arsenal, they’ll ace the interview and get the job. Or, to break from the metaphor, they’ll be generating lots of online leads with this video.

There are a number of things to know before rushing into any project; video marketing is no different. Before you get started, here are a few tips and thoughts to take into consideration.

Find your focus. Decide what you’ll be using this video for and produce it accordingly. We’ve been talking case studies, but there lots of video marketing options: promoting a new service or product, recruiting, recording and sharing a live event. Whatever your topic, stick with it. Our rule: one video = one goal.

It’s not all about shooting. You can supplement video with cutaways to graphics or slideshows of images set to music or with voiceover. Not only can this lessen the expense and length of shoot times, but it offers some variation to the viewer. A single static shot of an interviewee, however sincere, rarely holds your audience’s attention.

Budget. This one’s tricky. Until you’ve found your focus and come up with a strategy, it’s impossible to determine your budget. And of course the production value comes into play here as well. A short, quirky video done by a start up could likely get away with a self-shot video—maybe even done on a phone. But a larger company or one with more gravitas will likely need the works: a high quality camera, lighting equipment, and professional editing tools. The best way to determine your budget is to find a partner with experience in the realm of video marketing or film production. Let them help you flesh out your focus and your concept, the length of your project, and the various logistics. Once this is done, your budget will be clearer.

Appeal to the heart and the head. There’s no one single way to succeed with case study video marketing. In the end, though, making something that both conveys information and tugs a little at the heartstrings will go a long way to convincing your potential clients to work with you. Video, with it’s ability to convey lots of info quickly is a great way to convince audiences of your qualifications; add the emotional elements: heartfelt testimonials, non-verbal cues, dramatic imagery, music… and your viewer goes from convinced to compelled.

About the Author: Dane Frederiksen owns Digital Accomplice, a Bay Area digital media company focused on creating video content for the gaming, tech and marketing industries, as well as partnering with developers to help produce and market their apps. Dane has been creating content for over 20 years and has worked with clients across the world, including Google, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Adobe, Verizon, Nokia, Microsoft, Sony and many more. Over the past decade, he has produced hundreds of video-game-related features for game developers around the globe. His work has won several national awards. A big idea entrepreneur with connections across the games/tech/geek media and marketing communities, Dane specializes in helping creative and technology businesses tell their stories and grow.

 

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Differentiation

When I meet people in a networking environment I am often asked what sets Blueforest Studios apart from the other companies in town.  First we share our stories and talk about the company’s that we work for or own.  Then as we delve deeper the question comes up: Why should people choose Blueforest Studios rather than one of the hundred other production firms in the area?  I usually talk about our gifted staff – award-winning, creative, dedicated, and innovative.  If they let me I will tell them about the award that we won for this touching American Heart Association video.  Or I will tell them how that video touched someone so much they remembered it over a year after the ball.  I will tell them that our video producer created the music for that video because he just couldn’t find the right piece.  And that he did that on his own time because the client didn’t have the budget for custom music.  If they care, I will tell them that we have the best combination of creative folks in the Triangle and that they can’t go wrong with our company.  But some of those characteristics are prerequisites to be in this field.  After your first year – you better have an award or two to show for your efforts, and you have to be creative if you’re in video production and we all like to think that our staff is dedicated – at least most of us say that.  So what’s the difference?  Since I have never worked for another video production company I can only say that anecdotedly not all companies are as focused on client success and long-term gain as we are.  When we realized that some of our customers were using their very expensive videos once and then posting them in a hidden place on the internet we went back and asked ‘Why?’.  Could they repurpose the video to get a larger return on it?  Did they just need to optimize the video to get more views online?  Then we started working with clients up front to determine how they could get the most out of their investment in the video.

So in summary – we are not just into a transactional relationship.  Our team loves making videos but they really enjoy videos that are creative and effective!  Month-after-month we have repeat business from customers who could go anywhere in town and if we win new business we rarely lose them to a competitor later.  Now we’ve added another differentiator with animation and our own in-house illustrator who helps explain even the most complex issues – like Tax Reform!

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The Newest Tool in Marketing: LinkedIn Video Ads

A source from Reel SEO recently reported on a blog from LinkedIn Marketing Solutions that stated the professional networking site would now accept video ads in order for their clients to market to other business professionals. All it requires is a YouTube URL to a video of maximum 30 seconds and some simple text to go with the video.

As we all know, the primary appeal for advertising on LinkedIn is its targeting power. Fortunately, video ads allow you to target by a wide variety of factors such as location, company, job title, school, skills, group, gender, and age.

According to the source at Reel SEO, LinkedIn’s establishment as a social network of professionals could ensure it’s suitability to reach the exact audience you want in the realms of company, job title, and skill set. Video ads could serve as the perfect targeting solution for products like business software and services, online video platforms, and video production services. Check out the article and see what you think.  Tell us what has worked for you!

Your next question might be who can create short effective ads for use on LinkedIN?  You might have guessed that we would be happy to help.  Check out this 15-second TV spot that we created.  If we can convey all that information in 15-seconds we can certainly help with LinkedIN ads!