Cracker Barrel’s Hard Lesson

By Emily Hayden, Account Manager

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is learning a hard lesson in social media best practices this week.

A month ago, an Indiana man named Brad left a simple post on the wall of the corporate Facebook page, “Why did you fire my wife?” There was nothing else. Initially, just a few responses to the original post added more details, including that Brad’s wife (now identified as Nanette) had been let go on his birthday after 11 years of service.

Once these details came out, the story went viral, and internet trolls have now taken over the corporate page. The campaign has spread across Twitter and Instagram, with the rallying cry of #JusticeForBradsWife.  Within 24 hours, there have been thousands of posts and comments, and national media are beginning to take notice.

The only action taken so far by Cracker Barrel has been to turn off the ability to comment directly on the wall of its page. Scroll through the comments section of anything that has been posted recently, and you can see how that doesn’t really slow down the wildfire once it has started.

While Cracker Barrel is attempting to figure out a response, we thought this was a good opportunity to point out the value of strong corporate social media management.

First, don’t take the decision to approach social media lightly. If you aren’t prepared to commit the resources needed to properly maintain and monitor your presence, it creates the potential for these PR nightmares. If you don’t have someone highly skilled on your team, hire professionals who can establish pages, create content, monitor and respond for you.

Next, a few safeguards should be put in place on all corporate pages to prevent this situation.

  1. Set pages so that wall posts must be approved by an administrator before going public.
  2. Have a team in place to continually monitor page activity.
  3. Keep an eye on comments to things you have posted. There is no way to filter these through a pre-approval process, but someone monitoring the page can hide inflammatory posts and comments and even ban abusive users from the page.

Last, and possibly most important as far as Cracker Barrel is concerned, respond quickly and accurately to any posts or messages. A simple statement from Cracker Barrel on the original post would have gone a long way in preventing this whole situation. While Facebook and other social streams seem larger than life, real people are on the other end of all interactions, and each has the potential to stir the general public to either hate or love your brand.

Cracker Barrel, we feel your pain and wish we had been there to help prevent it. The Hirons team is ready for any questions you have about social media or crisis public relations.

From theory to practice: The value of real-world experience

By Hannah Riffle, Communication Management Intern 

Would you get into the car with someone who learned to drive only by reading a book? A strong foundation of knowledge does not fully prepare you to sit behind the wheel and hit the interstate. As we heard growing up, “Practice makes perfect.”

CPC_6125Just like driving, learning communication strategies from a book is only the first step in becoming a practitioner. I study public relations at Ball State University, and diverse classes in writing, design, media ethics and campaign management have given me an understanding of important theories. With some basic knowledge, I jumped into my first internship, at a digital marketing agency, where I was immersed in the day-to-day of agency life. Three internships and dozens of classes later, I am creating content and implementing social media strategy for real-world clients.

In my first month at Hirons, I applied some of what I learned in a case study course to compile award submissions for some of the agency’s innovative client work. I used lessons from a media research course to analyze best practices in specific segments of the industry and share insights that would guide future strategy. I utilized findings from a media analytics course to create engaging social media content and evaluate its performance.

My experiences were key to developing my skills and building confidence in myself as a practitioner. I know I have chosen the career path that best aligns with my interests.

Are you studying for a future career in the communications industry? Here are a few ways to apply your classroom knowledge:

Join relevant student organizations at your university. Does your university have a Public Relations Student Society of America or American Advertising Federation chapter? These organizations allow you to make an impact at a local level and engage with thousands of peers across the nation. Plus, when employers look to recruit, these affiliations make you stand out!

Volunteer your time with a nonprofit. No matter where you are in your educational journey, it is never too early to test your skills. Don’t let feelings of inexperience hold you back from growing. The only way to gain experience is through practice. Do you see a nonprofit that could benefit from some strategic social media initiatives? Or is there one that has a story waiting to be told to the media? Sometimes the best experiences come from opportunistic outreach.

Apply for a summer internship at Hirons. Interested in learning more about communications management, digital media or creative services? Check out our available internship opportunities and apply by March 15.

How Many Friends Do You Have?

By Tom Hirons, CEO 

Robin Dunbar makes a compelling case in his TEDx talk that the human mind has the capacity to manage about 150 meaningful relationships at a time. It has become known as the Dunbar number. Hence the question, how many friends do you have?

When Hirons started working with Ruler Foods, a division of Kroger, we knew that Facebook would be a critical platform and that building a network of individuals who like and follow the page would be one measure of success.

In less than a year and a half, Ruler Foods’ page likes went from 0 to 35,579. And they are still growing. That’s good for Ruler Foods and good for Hirons.

President Trump has 22.3 million followers on Twitter. I have 98. But how many friends?

Dunbar views friendships in a series of concentric circles. At the center are your closest friends, primarily comprised of a few family members. For most people, this may number five to seven.

In the next circle are those 10-15 individuals you might describe as best friends. These are people with whom you communicate on a regular basis.

In the third group, Dunbar describes individuals whom you would be genuinely happy to see if you bump into them at the airport or grocery store.

Beyond that are those who might be on your Christmas card list, with whom you might communicate once a year.

In total, 150. Curiously, the math is reliable. Through centuries, across technologies and across cultures, the number is generally around 150. The average number of Facebook friends? About 150. Dunbar holds that this is based on the capacity of the human mind. It’s how we are wired.

Why is this relevant?

Hirons does extensive grassroots and grasstops outreach. Knowing the Dunbar number and other principles, we can more accurately project the number of meaningful contacts we must make to achieve the reach and results we desire over time. We shape content to significantly increase the likelihood that it will be shared.

It also is relevant as we know the capacity of the computer extends far beyond 150. And through customer relationship management (CRM), we can help clients behave like friends, greatly enhancing sales and customer relationships.

Yet the most powerful application might be for each of us in our own lives. Knowing the natural limitations of our capacity, we might work to push the boundaries of those concentric circles. Imagine taking the time to communicate and expand your list of best friends, or those with whom you maintain regular contact. Imagine never avoiding eye contact or hoping someone you recognize doesn’t see you. I write this hoping I’m not the only one who has done this and equally hoping I won’t do it again.

If I can only have 150 friends, let them all be good friends.

Fine-tuning Facebook Ad Data

By Olivia Crum, Digital Coordinator 

More than ever, consumers are engaging with ads across a plethora of platforms. Due to the increase in digital channels, Facebook has expanded its measurement partnerships to increase cross-channel comparability and, later this year, third-party verification. By partnering with companies such as Nielsen and ComScore, Facebook is taking strides to ensure accurate ad delivery data.

Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM) is a statistical analysis that measures the impact of media tactics. It specifically allows advertisers to measure performance across media types, enabling comparisons among TV, digital and print ads. Advertisers will be able to determine which ads performed best and which ads yielded the greatest ROI. This information becomes more powerful when used to create subsequent advertising plans.

The concept of MMM originated with consumer package goods advertising. It has proven so useful that Facebook is encouraging advertisers to utilize the analysis to make tactical decisions about future campaigns.

These additions will benefit our advertisers throughout the planning and evaluation process. MMM will allow Hirons to look at all data in a synchronized platform to better evaluate a client’s ad performance. With Facebook’s measurement partners, we can now verify and measure specific outcomes for Facebook impressions. This will better inform us, as well as our clients, as we begin planning future campaigns.

Living a Sustainable 2017

By Leigh-Ann Pogue, Executive Assistant 

With the advent of the new year comes resolutions large and small – ranging from physical fitness to economic growth, stronger relationships to overcoming fears. At Hirons, we not only believe in working in a sustainable environment but also living a sustainable lifestyle. If you are still looking for the perfect resolution (and it’s never too late to start), here are five small changes that can make a huge impact on our environment.

  1. Buy and Eat Local

Supermarkets give consumers the advantage of getting fruits and vegetables year-round. However, this uses an enormous amount of resources. Buying local not only decreases the amount of fossil fuel energy used to transport locally out of season produce but also puts money back into your local economy by creating jobs and competition in the marketplace. And while you’re at it, make sure to pick up reusable grocery bags.

  1. Use Alternative Transportation

Bikes are not just for triathlon enthusiasts anymore. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 26 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the transportation sector. If you live close to work, consider walking or biking during fair-weather months. In winter, consider carpooling with friends, family or co-workers or research your local public transportation options.

  1. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Do you have an old college sweatshirt sitting in the back of your closet or a book on your nightstand that you know you’re not going to read? Clothes, as well as other items, that are no longer useful to you can be donated to your local shelter or through organizations such as Goodwill  or The Salvation Army. Also, think about ways to give items around the house, such as bottles, Mason jars and cans, a new life. Just check Pinterest if you need #UpCycle inspiration. Most of all, remember less is more. Practice being a conscious consumer by researching the hidden costs behind purchases and reducing the amount of products you buy with plastic packaging.

  1. Conserve Water

This step is pretty simple: Find ways to reduce the amount of water you use on a daily basis. This is not only good for the environment but also good for your wallet. According to National Geographic, you should opt for showers over baths as baths can take up to 70 gallons of water. Switching out standard shower heads for low-flow models can save up to 15 gallons of water during a 10-minute shower. Other simple ways to conserve water include turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth, fixing leaks, taking quick showers and not running the dishwasher until it is full.

  1. Maintain an Energy Efficient Home

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends conducting a home energy audit to determine how your home uses energy. This will help you determine where energy efficient upgrades are needed – whether it be a new water heater, new furnace filter, more insulation, low-flow toilet or simply a complete switch to LED lightbulbs. Keep in mind that upgrading your home could save 5 percent to 30 percent on your energy bill, which is some serious cash.

I Have a Dream!

By Ana Kotchkoski, Account Manager

Each person shares human dignity with others and therefore all equal rights before the law. That means that no physical or cultural difference can justify any limitations to that equality. In other words, equal rights before the law guarantee the right to be and to think differently.

However, the widespread acceptance of this idea is fairly recent in relation to the thousands of years of human history. Even after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the covenants and conventions that ensure its validity today, we still see many situations in which the physical, cultural and ideological interests of some individuals are used to deny the equal rights of others. In all cases, these situations have been the result of the imposition of some kind of power – economic, political or ideological – of one group of people over another. There is also the assumption by those who are denying the rights that the targeted group is somehow “inferior” and less deserving because of it.

Today, in commemorating the life of Martin Luther King Jr., let us remember his lifelong devotion to the struggle of African-Americans for equality. Let us remember the violence that he and many others suffered and the discrimination that many still feel today. And let us recommit ourselves to fight for the dream that cost him his life.

Let the bell of freedom ring as the hands of all the men and women of the world unite fraternally.

Business Development in about 500 Words

By Mike Murtaugh, Business Development Manager

According to Forbes, business development is the “creation of long-term value for an organization for customers, markets and relationships.” To us at Hirons, it means exploring the ways we can challenge our capabilities while driving the growth of our clients and agency. It’s more than just finding a way to meet our clients’ base expectations; we strive to uniquely outthink, outwork and outperform for every client we work with, going above and beyond the initial request and final desired result. Business development, for us, is opening the doors for our clients to grow to a level they’ve never reached. It’s about mixing strategy and creativity to create “wow” moments and jaw-dropping experiences.

So what does that mean?

In simpler terms, our business development team is responsible for reaching out and bringing new clients to the agency. We can’t create “wow” moments without clients, so in the grand scheme of things, we are the first step in this exhilaratingly hectic process.

Are we sales?

Kind of. If you consider our services our “product,” and our business development team to be salespeople, then yes, we are sales. More importantly, the main thing we are selling is ourselves. Many agencies like us do great work, but that is not the sole and determining factor for a new business opportunity. Clients not only want the best work; they also want a reliable agency who can get their work done in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Every client that we work with has different preferences, demands and needs. As a research-based firm, we start by learning as much about a client’s situation as possible, so we can tailor our proven services to their specific goals.

Is that it?

We are constantly trying to expand our agency, which means that we’re also always evaluating the market for new opportunities. As an agency with experience in branding, public relations, digital media, media buying, creative development and more, we are able to serve a wide variety of clients. With a long list of specializations, it is important for us to explore and generate new business opportunities that allow every member and department at our agency to “outperform.”

Internally, we are always exploring ways in which we can better promote our services across all departments. As we approach our 39th year in business, you could say that Hirons has lived and seen it all. We rode the wave of digital and technological breakthroughs and assessed their potential for the communications industry, and we have incorporated these new trends into projects for new and existing clients.

We continue to explore ways to creatively generate new business online. Having an established online and social media presence is one way to generate buzz and attract new clients. By focusing heavily on the digital presence of not only our agency but also those of our clients, we can establish ourselves as a leader in the industry.

Final thoughts

Business development varies among agencies, industries and companies, and while we all have different definitions, the goal is always the same: fostering growth. Let’s get to work.

4 Tips to Prepare for the “Big Feast”

Emery Barnes, Business Development Intern

It’s that time of the year! Turkey Day for most, but for many young millennials across the country, it’s the time of year when graduation is approaching. As all of us have learned, there are many things to do to prepare for the “big feast” (first job).

  1. Adequate Preparation

A Thanksgiving feast (full-time position) requires sufficient preparation. One cannot expect an extraordinary meal if no preparation goes into it. Investing ample time beforehand in things such as “cooking lessons” (industry-related experiences) will allow you to fill your plate (resume) with a variety of delectable dishes (skills). The earlier you start, the more food you will have on the dinner table.

  1. Master Your Craft

Adequate preparation not only allows you to prepare more food, but it also increases its overall quality. The more experience you have preparing delectable dishes, the better you are able to perfect your craft. Instead of indiscriminately packing your plate (resume), find the dishes (skills) you love and learn how to execute them with perfection. Study them, teach them and continue to learn more about them each and every day. When you put your heart and soul into something, you will be blown away by the end result. Persistence pays off.

  1. Variety Is Key

While it’s true that mastering one dish (skill) will set you apart from the pack, it will still only get you so far. You may cook a killer turkey, but what about those people at the table who are allergic, vegetarian or simply do not have room on their plates? The more dishes you learn to prepare, the more people you can not only serve but also satisfy. In other words, the more skills you develop or experiences you have, the more attractive you become to a wider range of recruiters and future employers. With an increase in competition and fluctuating demand for entry-level positions, having a varied skill set will allow you to confidently and competently walk into any interview and convey how you are able and eager to make an immediate impact.

  1. Patience

Some people who come to your table may have already eaten their Thanksgiving meals. DO NOT LET THIS DISCOURAGE YOU OR MAKE YOU ANXIOUS! Your dish is still delicious, and many people are eager to try it. While some students may attend graduation with job offers in hand, there are many others that will still be waiting for their meal. Everyone has a different plate and will start their feasts (first jobs) at different times. Patience is key for a great Thanksgiving dinner: One should never rush a good meal.

With humility, adequate preparation and persistence, you will set yourself up for an extremely bright future. Although the next “feast” isn’t until 2017, it’s never too early to prepare!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Designing Efficiently

By Chris Costidakis, Associate Art Director

Photoshop vs. Illustrator vs. InDesign

From photo editing to typography tools to sound design, the industry-standard Adobe Creative Suite gives creators of all kinds everything they need to create professional work fast – for literally any type of design project.

 

Whether you’re creating a logo, designing social media graphics or putting together a brochure, Adobe has created perfect app solutions with Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.

 

Before I dive in, here are some vocab words so you’ll know what I’m talking about:

 

Raster ImageRaster images are made of pixels. A pixel is a single point or the smallest single element in a display. If you zoom in on a raster image, you may start to see a lot of little tiny squares.

 

Vector Image – Vector images are mathematical calculations from one point to another that form lines and shapes. If you zoom in on a vector graphic, it will always look the same.

 

So how do you know which app to use? Here is the breakdown:

 

breakdown-update

 

When should I use Photoshop?

Well, it’s in the name … photos! The app was originally designed as a comprehensive solution for creating, editing and retouching any type of raster image.

 

When should I use Illustrator?

Illustrator is used to create vector images. Anything created in Illustrator can be scaled to teeny-tiny favicon thumbnails or ginormous Times Square billboards – all without losing any quality or adding any weird pixelation. A design created in Illustrator will look identical on a business card or a bus wrap.

 

When should I use InDesign?

Adobe developed InDesign for the desktop publishing market, and it’s primarily used to lay out newspapers, magazines, books, posters and fliers. Pretty much anything with large amounts of text should go straight into InDesign.

 

What makes the Adobe Creative Suite superior is that all of these programs work together seamlessly! For instance, if I was designing a pamphlet, I would edit the photos in Photoshop, design the logo and icons in Illustrator, then bring them all in and finish up the text in InDesign! Cool, huh?

 

 

What’s Next?

By Malcolm Weaver, Communications Management Intern

It is no surprise that consumers are changing how they consume information. So of course advertisers have been changing with them to reach their clients’ target audience. In recent years consumers have been using digital: online, mobile, streaming and apps. Why? Your advertising needs to always reach the decision-maker, and the decision maker is all over the digital space.

As technology develops, digital has become one of the most efficient forms of media to increase consumer awareness and spending. By using mobile advertising as an example; news, social media, videos and multiple apps are all accessible on your smart phone.

According to studies (www.smartinsights.com) on “time spent for adults digital media use per day,” 51% of total adults studied use Mobile and 42% of total adults studied use desktops/laptops. Smart phones contain the same qualities of a desktop – in a portable form. Enabling advertisers to reach out to “on the move” consumers as well as those who are actively consuming media from their computers.

As advertisers strategically place their messages across multiple media platforms, the overwhelming problem is getting consumers to actually engage with the message. For example, with pre-roll ads, your consumer is right where you want them to be, on YouTube. Your consumer is doing exactly what you want them to do, searching for entertaining videos to watch. But, when your perfectly placed advertisement pops up… your consumer no longer does what you want them to do. In most situations, after 5 seconds your consumer is given the option to skip your advertisement.

Problem: How do you fit 15 or 30 seconds worth of content into the first five seconds of the advertisement? Solution: Geico’s ‘Unskippable’ Campaign. Ad Age named Geico’s ‘Unskippable’ 2016 Campaign of the Year. A series of ads were created with the overall theme of “You can’t skip this ad, it’s already over.” Within the first five seconds of the advertisement you’ve heard from Geico that “15 minutes could save you 15% of more on car insurance.” Their main message has been delivered to consumers within the guaranteed five second window provided.

 

As a brand Geico found a way to successfully adapt by thinking outside of the box. Success is measured in the aspect of this campaign by not only measuring the overall quality of created content; but through Geico’s ability to adapt to the changes in the market, all while providing comedic relief to potential consumers.