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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Super Bowl 2015 Ads – Why did they do that?

Let’s be honest, the Super Bowl is not only about football but all about the advertisements. They’re everywhere whether we are aware of them or not: months before Super Bowl, during the playtime, and after the game. What makes the Super Bowl so grand is how it connects Americans through this one social event. Even though it’s suppose to be about football, it is really about being a part of this cultural event – the advertisements, the products, the pre-game and game-day rituals. Everybody is talking about the game, and the best and worst commercials of the night.

The commercials are what make many people tune in as they are known to be amazing, well thought-out ads with familiar faces like celebrities and fan commercial favorites from certain companies. Many of last night’s commercials have people talking about the good and the bad ads – which is the sole purpose of these ads, to get everyone remembering and talking about their advertisement and company. Everyone has their own opinion about which ads were a hit and which were a miss. Many big companies have multiple commercials to target different audiences and portray different messages.

 

A favorite of the night was the Budweiser Lost Puppy commercial. This ad was so heartwarming, a short story of a puppy lost then brought home. The purpose of this commercial was to evoke a happy and inspiring emotional response in the audience tied to their traditional Budweiser Clydesdales horses and their puppy. They did an excellent job to telling a story that people want to relate to.

 

Another commercial Budweiser had was a different style. The “Brewed the Hard Way” took an interesting attack on craft beer. In contrast with the Lost Dog commercial, this ad focused on distinguishing Budweiser beer from craft beer. There advertisement didn’t work as well as they hoped and their has been some backlash. As craft beer continues to become increasingly popular, they are trying to play up their traditional tasting beer by mocking craft beer. They admit that their beer is not to be “fussed over” or “dissected”, but this says their beer  that they mass produce has no differentiating taste because it’s sending the message that it’s “just beer” so just drink it. Not a smart advertising strategy to admit that Budweiser beer is a one note, uninteresting beer.

 

Another well done ad was “Invisible Mindy” by Nationwide. It featured celebrity Mind Kahling and Matt Damon and uses comedy and relatability to connect to the audience. The concept is that Mindy is “invisible” so she does whatever she wants, but in reality she’s not invisible, people just ignore her and the message is that Nationwide doesn’t do that to customers. It’s a light and fun ad that people enjoy as it uses familiarity with well known celebrities and funny ideas which is a great advertising tool that makes the commercial memorable.

 

Nationwide had another advertisement that has been very controversial called “Make Safe Happen”. It features a young boy not having any experiences because he died in an household accident. They tried to evoke an emotional response to make the audience connected to the commercial but the commercial was poorly done as many people have experienced this lost. Many are angry that they chose to do that ad to sell their product, especially as it was shown during the Super Bowl which portrays insensitivity and just wanting business. They were trying to convey the message that accidents happen and can be prevented but it looks like they are using the death of children to sell insurance. This shows how using ads for an emotional response doesn’t always work and can bring controversy. Sure people are talking about their company but it’s not the good kind and it will hurt their business.

 

Advertisement is important for companies to show their products and have their name out there. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do so. The main point to remember is that your advertisements should clearly portray your company’s goals and products. The Super Bowl commercials are entertaining and great to watch, but companies need to make sure the audience knows what they are trying to say and sell.

That being said, over here at BlueForest Studios we LOVE craft beer!

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Everyone’s Favorite Day for Commercials: The Big Game

My favorite commercial in the last several years comes from the “Big Game” of 2011. I’ve been a humongous Star Wars fan since my parents took me to see the films in the 90’s when they were being digitally remastered and shown in theaters again. If you’re reading this you probably know which commercial I’m already talking about.

 

Volkswagen truly captured the same childhood imagination (and desire for learning how to control The Force) I felt at that age. I’d like to think I’m going to buy a car that can turn on with the press of the button in hopes to do this to my future children.

 

Of course, who could forget the sweet story of friendship told in a minute time frame by Budweiser last year? I’m a sucker for anything with dogs in it but this is a legitimately beautiful piece of work.

 

Sure I’m bringing this up because Sunday will bring commercials filled with humor and sincerity. But does this only have to be during one day of the entire year? Absolutely not!

 

We take pride here at Blueforest Studios in creating content that is both engaging and informative. The most engaging way to capture the attention of your audience is to tell a story.

 

We certainly think adding a pinch of humor also works too.

 

So as the new year continues to roll on consider us for your marketing needs. We are storytellers that want to tell your story!

 

And if you are part of a non-profit in the Triangle area reading this consider applying for our free video giveaway! The window for submissions is closing on the 31st of this month. To check out more information visit our blog post from December here: http://blueforeststudios.com/blog/blueforest-gives-back-triangle-nonprofit-video-giveaway/

-Dustin

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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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Hello From The New Audio Guy! (read: amazing composer)

Hello to all of you out there reading this on your computer screens, phones, tablets, and all forms of electronic devices! My name is Dustin Painter and I’m the new audio producer at Blueforest Studios here in Raleigh, North Carolina. The higher ups wanted me to write a blog post to introduce myself so here it goes!

I started workiIMG_0715ng here in November teaming up with our insanely talented lead audio producer Donald Best. Together we work on tracking and editing voiceovers, audio mixing, and audio production for clients that come to us for video production. We also produce any kind of audio production that you can imagine.

We take pride in producing excellent quality audio work for our video production team here at Blueforest Studios. Have you ever watched a video online, maybe even on TV, and thought to yourself “something doesn’t seem quite right here…?” The production value of the video looks great, the acting is superb, and the story the company is trying to convey is being told in a solid manner, so what is it? It’s probably because the audio has been thrown on the back burner during the production process and simply placed in. I can tell you one thing: that does not happen here!

The purpose of audio is so much more than just you hearing what someone is talking about in a marketing campaign. Nobody wants low quality audio in their videos. Even when you watch TV how many times are you actually watching? It’s easy for us to flip the tube on and go about working on different tasks. Maybe you’re cleaning the house, or cooking, or even just have it on for background noise. Why is it so easy to still enjoy TV even if you aren’t watching it? Perfect audio is why! Audio, even without the visual aspect, can bring you into whatever medium you are exposing your attention to. Audio is a vital part of storytelling and very well may be the most immersive part. What else in the audio realm is important for videos? Music! This is where I hope to come in and and to help you out personally here at Blueforest Studios: original music designed specifically to YOUR needs.

Outside of my work here at Blueforest Studios I work as a freelance composer and sound designer for film, TV, videos games, and any form of media possible. I studied “Commercial and Electronic Music” at Western Carolina University here in the mountains of NC and was lucky enough to do graduate studies at the University of Southern California in the “Scoring For Film and Television” program. During my time in Los Angeles I had the chance to study with some pretty incredible composers such as Christopher Young (Spider-Man 3, The Rum Diary, Sinister), Bruce Broughton (Silverado, Tiny Toon Adventures, Lost In Space), and Garry Schyman (Bioshock Series, Dante’s Inferno, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor) among many others.

As a composer my purpose is to bring you into the heart of the story. Music should help to propel the piece of media forward into a part of your brain that will make you remember what you just saw. It is all about making a personal connection to the viewer! Once again, how many times have you had something on in the background while working and have known exactly what is on because of the music that’s playing? Music not only works directly on viewers but can access a subconscious level of the brain to tell them how to feel, what is happening, and can engrain itself into the memory without you even knowing it’s there.

With all of that said I want to help bring your story, your product, your ideas, or anything you want to tell to the forefront of people online and everywhere! I feel very lucky not only to make music and sound as a career but to also have the chance to do it here at Blueforest Studios with some of the most talented, creative, and kind people you’ll find in the business of marketing and video production.

Of course there are some times when trying to create that right piece of music feels like this:

Then an idea comes along and it feels like this:

Finally a music track that fits just right is made and both I and the client I’m working for can sit back and know their video is ready for everyone to see!

Now that I’ve talked your ears off, or I suppose typed your eyes out, feel free to check out this playlist of some various work I’ve done on projects!

I hope you enjoyed what you’ve heard. Thanks for a few moments of your time and I hope to work with you all very soon!

Cheers,

Dustin

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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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Better Safe Than Sorry

Have you ever seen a commercial where an important piece of information, such as a website or phone number, wasn’t fully displayed on the screen? This is a big problem that not nearly enough production companies pay attention to. The issue here is that footage isn’t being edited with respect to Center Cut Protection.

What’s Center Cut Protection?

Great question! This applies to Standard Definition footage that was filmed in High Definition. HD is meant to be viewed in 16:9 aspect ratio, however SD is only 4:3. So since many SD channels still exist, footage edited in HD need to be down converted in order to be aired on these channels. Specifically, Center Cut Protection refers to graphics or text that’s edited into commercial spots. In the photo on the left, you can see how HD footage is supposed to be viewed, with the website clearly within the safe areas. The photo on the left, however, shows how that same footage would be viewed on an SD channel. In this medium, the website gets cut off.

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How do I fix CCP errors?

It’s important to be cognizant of title safe and action safe areas. These are lines that indicate that what’s within the boundaries will be completely viewable by audiences. Anything outside is at risk of being cut off depending on the viewers’ TV. These areas differ for HD and SD.

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In this photo, the outer line is the Action Safe area and the inner is the Title Safe area. The tiny vertical dashes on each line represent the Center Cut Protection.

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I’m sure that at some point you’ve been watching TV and the screen appeared like the one above, with black bars on the top and bottom. This is to keep HD in 16:9 aspect, even though it’s being displayed in a 4:3 frame. Some channels want to get rid of these bars and adjust the picture to 4:3, like the photo below.

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In this photo, the blue lines coincide with the small dashes in the first photo. This is why it’s important to stick to Center Cut Protection when editing for SD. Because while your normal safe boundaries may be ok for HD, when that same footage is viewed in SD you may lose important information. This makes the commercial less credible, and thus, your company in the eyes of your client.

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Why Storytelling is More Influential Than Selling

storytell_image_webIn part one of our Infomercial vs. Commercial debate, we talked about how the main idea associated with infomercials is ‘annoying.’ Let’s be honest, there’s no quicker way to get us to switch channels than hearing the familiar Oxyclean advertisement, or one similar to it. Infomercials are highly identifiable by their traditional approach to selling items.  But one thing that you can’t ignore is that they work! Otherwise people wouldn’t spend the amount of money producing the videos or airing them if they didn’t.

We start with a demonstration of the product: what it does, why it’s amazing, why other brands don’t live up to this one. All of that is well and good; obviously it’s the type of information you’d want to include in any kind of marketing technique. But then they start in on the irritation…

“You get all of this for only $19.99! That’s right, everything you see here for just $19.99! Similar products are going for more than double that! But you get it all for – wait for it – $19.99!”

Come on, is anyone really fooled into thinking that this is some killer bargain? But then, of course, they try to sweeten the deal…

“But wait! Call now and you’ll also recieve this (fill in random useless item here) for no extra cost to you! That’s (product and useless item) for JUST $19.99!!!

And then they repeat their phone number about 500 times, so if you’re still tuned in by this point you’re spending a lot more time praying for the infomercial to be over than thinking about the product.

Now, think about that technique and ask yourself – wouldn’t an engaging and entertaining commercial go so much farther in persuading the consumer to buy the product than annoying them into submission? You might think the benefit of an infomercial is that it highlights the benefits of the product, but a well-made commercial can do all that and more. For example, we like to create a narrative around the product. We enrapture and enlighten through visual storytelling. This is a great option to think about if you want to appeal to customers through entertainment. People often remember more information when it’s embedded in an interesting story. This video explains why.

As an example of the storytelling advertising technique, you can look at the Evolvemint fundraising video we produced.

At Blueforest Studios, we love to tell stories – we’d love to tell YOUR story. Give us a call or check out our portfolio for more inspriation.

 

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Jingles All the Way

Imagine: you’re lounging on the couch watching the Panthers dominate in last Sunday’s football game. At the halftime commercial break, you hear the distinctive voice of your worker on television. Suddenly you realize…it’s YOUR commercial! That’s the experience our CEO, Russ Reynolds, had last weekend when the spot for the Leith Toyota came on. Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 12.40.26 PMLeith came to us with the request to include a jingle in their commercial that was catchy and would get viewers’ attention. So like a dutiful production company, we started brainstorming how to produce a commercial incorporating a memorable tune that would run through viewers’ heads and entice them to head over to Leith. We took our inspiration from other popular commercial jingles and eventually came up with an idea that we thought would appeal to consumers. Not only did we do the instrumental work and recording, but we even gathered up half our team and got them in the audio booth to start chanting. The vocals you hear belong to none other than a group of diversely talented Blueforest Studios staff. We even coerced our account manager, Meredith Duncan, into sipping pepsi and milk on-camera (it was supposed to look like an iced latte). This is one way in which we’re demonstrating how dedicated we are to producing the best possible product for our clients. We’ll go the extra mile to ensure that what you receive is the pinnacle of our creative abilities. Check out the Leith commercial below and let us know what you think! If you’re interested in having a video that features a catchy jingle, give us a call – we’d love to help you in any way we can.

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The Top 4 Reasons You Should Care About 4k

If you are reading this article, I assume you’ve heard of 4k at this point.  If you’re still not sure what it is, here’s a brief overview. You’ve heard of 1080p which is a video with a resolution of 1920×1080. That’s a lot of pixels and produces some great images on your home TV if you have HD content like Blu Ray, HD cable or Satellite, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 etc.

Now imagine multiolying that resolution by 4! Now you have 4k or Ultra High Definition (UHD.) The term 4k comes from the hollywood film industry because they have been scanning and projecting film prints at 4k resolution for many years now.

So, why should you care?

  1. It might be the next big thing.  There’s always a “next big thing” in technology. Eight years ago (in 2004) 1080p HD was introduced. Seven years before that was when DVDs became the next big thing. If you follow that pattern in technology, we are due for a “next big thing.” The industry tried to push 3d on us (mainly because it’s harder to pirate,) but that has proven to be more of a niche thing.

If you’ve followed CES 2013, you may have learned that almost every major TV manufacturer has just announced a 4k TV set. Sony in particular seems to be going all in on it announching 4k TVs, 4k broadcast and disk formats, 4k camcorders, and there’s a strong rumor that the PS4 will be the first 4k gaming platform. Many signs indicate that 4k UHD will be the next big thing in media.

        2.  For some of us, it already is the next big thing.  We’ve been filming TV commercials, web videos, and documentaries in 4k for about a year now. There are at least 2 other video production companies in town doing so as well. I’ve had many people ask me why we are filming in 4k. Here are the top 4 reasons I give them:

  • Acquiring footage in 4k gives us sharper 1080p images.
  • Future proofing our library. In 5 years, when 4k is mainstream, our clients will have a 4k library of footage to draw from.
  • Flexibility. I can film a wide shot and later change it to a close up and still be well over 1080p resolution. I’ve done it before and it’s gotten me out of a couple of pinches.
  • Bragging rights. It’s a character flaw. I’m an early adopter. I like being out on the bleeding edge. It costs me time and money sometimes, but it also means I can write this article so you can learn from my mistakes.

         3. Movie Theaters. You may or may not know that movie theaters have been projecting 4k movies for several years now. So how does that affect you? Well, if you are producing a TV commercial or documentary that you ever want to play in theaters, you will be able to take advantage of the power of 4k UHD. There is a company called RED (who happens to manufactuare the 4k cameras we use) and they have jumped in the 4k theater distribution game. What this means is that in a couple of years, there may be a way for you to very easily screen a low budget film in a local theater at 4k UHD.

         4.  It’s Beautiful!  A funny thing is that even though I have been filming in 4k for over a year, up until last month I have never SEEN any of my images in 4k. That all changed when we discovered a high end home theater company in town who has a 4k projector installed in a $200,000 home theatre demo at their office. They too had never seen 4k footage on their beautiful set-up. That’s because there are still no devices that are capable of playing back 4k footage.

We spent several weeks building a custom computer rig that was up to the task of 4k. Last month when we sat down to finally see true 4k projected I was blown away. I saw details in the footage I had shot that I have never seen before and I have looked at the footage for hours upon hours. This was good and bad, because I realized that I am going to have to raise the bar in some of the ways I am shooting because 4k shows off every mistake you make.

 So, the bottom line on 4k for consumers is that it’s coming. I imagine the TV sets will be starting at $5,000-$7,000 and will drop in price from there in much the same way 1080p did. TVs are getting larger, so an 84″ screen will soon cost the same as a 60″ 1080p screen did a few years ago. Content is also on it’s way as several companies have introduced formats that can pack 4k into a bandwidth similar to bluray discs or even less.

For companies that are producing videos, commercials, etc, you can hire a local company like ours and have us produce your video in 4k for not that much more than producing it in HD. (There’s about a 10-20% increase in cost due to equipment and data storage costs.)  Here’s a commercial we recently finished that was shot in 4k and was broadcast in HD last month on local TV.

If you have any questions about 4k, email me Ammon Ehrisman at ammonATblueforesstudios.com because I love talking about it!

(Ammon is the Creative Director at Atlantic Creative located in Raleigh, NC.)