Advertising on Instagram Promises High Visibility and Return

Instagram Ads


By Ethan Thomas, Communications Management Intern 

A picture is worth a thousand words… Or maybe it’s better to say a picture is worth a couple thousand dollars? Paid advertising has finally tapped into the 400 million user photo-sharing community smartphone app, Instagram. “Instagram is now an end-to-end advertising solution that drives real business results. Increase awareness and message association, or get visits to your website or downloads of your mobile app.” – Quote from Instagram’s website. Basically, the Instagram game has changed. No longer held down by your businesses ability to only show your followers your best advertisement with the low-fi filter. Now you can place your ad right into millions of mobile user’s hands without the necessity of a “follow.”

The set up actually offers advertisers more variety to post content than a normal user. Not only can the advertiser post photos and videos, but there is a “carousal” function that allows users to swipe through several photos in one advertisement. These all have the ability to drive users to a website, suggest app installs, and create general mass awareness for your brand. An added bonus: Advertiser videos can be up to thirty seconds long, while the regular user can only post up to fifteen seconds.


This is a game changer for several reasons. Facebook isn’t the cool social media site to use for Millennials. Trends have shown young social media users are shying away from using Facebook, and focusing on getting news from twitter and photo or video experiences from Instagram. Maybe it’s due to the fact that everyone and there grandma has a Facebook account. Overpopulation and the excessive amount of information about its users may turn some away, but I digress. Yes, Facebook does own Instagram. They’ve actually been great owners after purchasing the app for nearly 1 billion dollars. They’ve allowed Instagram to develop naturally, and have not bogged it down with overbearing Facebook features.

From a user perspective, the advertisements so far have not seemed overly invasive. It’s just another picture to scroll through on your feed. When you think of it from a business perspective, that’s the best part. It’s a nearly guaranteed view of your advertisement. How often can you guarantee the visibility of an advertisement like that? To get to the next picture they have to pass your ad with little to no distraction that you normally find on twitter, Facebook, or any other social media site. Fortune magazine discusses how this, along with Instagram advertisings other features, has shown that users are two and a half times more likely to click on these ads than all other social media advertising platforms ( I’m not a gambling man, but I will take those odds every day.

Instagram has already developed their ad space for over thirty countries. Taking this global has been a foreseeable next step, and there are no real signs of Instagram slowing down. So watch out Insta-world, it’s not just your best friend’s brunch or that sweet nature picture on your feed any more.



How to be a Media Buyer’s Best Friend…a Note for Sales Reps

It is important to note that the relationship between media buyers and sales representatives is both sacred and selfish. It’s sacred because we are constantly depending on each other. For me, it’s because it’s my job to build the best plan possible, to meet our goals and ultimately make the client happy; and for reps, because you’re responsible for bringing in the business and earning your company money. So being able to work well together day in and day out is essential! On the other hand, It’s selfish because we normally only communicate with each other when we need something, normally ASAP. So, if the advice below seems a little harsh, think of it this way—the easiest way for you to get what you want is to give me what I need.

  1. Please – for the love of all that is holy – read your emails!

You know that fancy schmancy RFP (Request for Proposal) I sent you? I didn’t send it just for fun. We work hard to put together Cost per Point or CPP goals, flight dates and directions on which ratings books to use based on the client’s needs. Therefore, before sending the next 15 emails with questions, stop & ask yourself– have these questions already been answered in the initial RFP? At the end of the day, something as simple as reading our emails carefully can save both of us hours of precious time. Which leads me to my next point…..

  1. The client’s business has to be earned

The CPP goals listed on the RFP aren’t numbers I made up for the heck of it. They were researched and they have a purpose and they really are a GOAL. I don’t know about you but I’m a fan of accomplishing goals that I set for myself and even more so when it’s a goal I set to benefit a client. So, if you submit rates that aren’t even close to the goals outlined and then don’t understand why you’re not included on the buy, this might have something to do with it (so please don’t throw any fits!!) I might go one round of negotiations with you if necessary, but would you see a reason to go back and forth on a submitted $500 CPP when my goal was $98? The answer is NO! There’s likely no way we’ll be able to meet in the middle, so if I can meet all my goals without it, then that’s what I’ll do. Plus, there’s always one station that really comes in strong—and as a result of its efforts and a little “CPP low-high” sorting function, it often gets rewarded simply by following directions.

Oh – and the era of multiple rounds of negotiation is over…. Hallelujah!  If we go more than one round, then I’m probably trying to add to your schedule; I just need a little help in doing so. Therefore, are you willing to sacrifice $10 to gain $1,000?

Side note – It’s never personal. It’s business. The client’s business has to be earned and their goals are my goals and I was hired to meet those goals. I’m simply doing my job. So, let’s not make it personal on your end either.

  1. A quick turnaround means I needed it yesterday!

I wish these requests didn’t happen as often as they do, but unfortunately that’s how the media business works. Sometimes the clients send us Friday afternoon requests to get spots on the air or ads posted by Monday. Media buyers have to depend on their vendors to make things happen. We can’t do it ourselves, so always keep track of your phone messages and emails because of these types of unexpected requests. This brings me to the next point…

  1. If you’re out of the office, please leave me with a backup person’s contact information

In the quick turnaround situations, I need to be able to get in touch with someone quickly and if you’re on vacation and don’t leave information for someone else to contact, it costs the client (and me) precious time. And most buyers would agree the following has happened at least once in his or her career—they get an out-of-office response, contact the backup listed and then get another out-of-office response. It’s like playing a game of schoolyard tag.

  1. No “Poaching”

Sales reps are always looking for more business. That’s common knowledge, but sending multiple emails a day/week/month about the client list on a company’s website won’t get you anywhere. Very, very rarely do we respond with “Why yes, let me shift the entire media plan around to include you simply because you asked.” Client media plans are put together based on research, client request, ratings, data, timelines and even gut feelings, so please rest assured that we will always reach out to you if there is a need or interest in your product. That being said, however, please also keep in mind we don’t always have unlimited funds & that not everything will be a perfect fit.

  1. “Latest and greatest” blah blah blah

In the past month, I can’t tell you how many meetings, emails and voicemails we get from people pitching the “latest and greatest.” Just because you saw that we handle advertising on our company website or did a search on LinkedIn, for anyone who handles media that doesn’t mean there’s going to be a relevant application. For example, a vendor has repeatedly reached out, but has failed to realize that the product being sold doesn’t even cover the state in which we handle most, if not all of our business. We urge you to do your research and truly find where and how you’d be a good fit & what your competitors are doing. I’ve heard the same pitch too many times to take you (and your company’s capabilities) seriously.

  1. Share

Don’t ask me what your share is because I’m not telling you.

  1. Client Budgets

Don’t ask me what the client budget is because I’m not telling you.

When one works with sales reps for long periods of time, you can become great friends and even better colleagues. Every media buyer and every sales rep works differently, so these tips don’t apply to everyone but they always help! Sales reps who take the time to learn how their buyers operate are wonderful to work with. I even had a rep who added a note on her calendar to send pre- and post-logs every single week so I never had to ask for them. It was so helpful! So, a huge shout-out and a big THANK YOU to sales reps for sticking with this sacred, yet selfish, relationship!

Black Friday Backlash

By Ethan Thomas, Communications Management Intern 

It’s finally November! Hell, it sure doesn’t feel like it though. Indy is deciding to extend the warm weather even further and we’re sitting at a fantastic 70-ish degrees this first week of what should be the start of a stark Midwest winter. What November really means is that it’s almost time for Thanksgiving. The amazing holiday where abnormal consumption of high-calorie food is encouraged, awkward family hello’s are made, football and parades are watched, and of course Black Friday.

Black Friday originated in the 1960s as way to mark the official beginning of the Christmas season shopping. The “Black” comes from the glory days of accounting being done by hand with a pen (Wait, that was a thing?!) If there was a loss, it was written in red and profit was written in black. In retail, Black Friday marks the date when an accountant’s ledger goes from red to black for the rest of the year. Nowadays, it means ridiculous sales, insane lines and overly congested stores at the crack of dawn.

It seems that in the past ten years or so, the start time of these sales are getting earlier and earlier, almost to the point of a sale beginning several days before Thanksgiving. What gives? Do offering more insane sales at earlier times give a company that much of an increase in profit? The Wall Street Journal did some digging and found that many of the deals were never meant to sell at the original price, but were intended to be sold at a fix point and marketed as a sale. Fishy stuff is going on here. The most terrifying aspect of this glorified, materialistic day is the amount of people who have been injured or in the worst cases have died while trying to buy these products on sale. There’s a website that actually keeps track of these growing statistics. Black Friday Death Count has up-to-date figures on injuries and deaths and the added bonus of a link to the original news report of the incident.

After all of these years of madness, one store has finally stepped up and said enough is enough. Outdoor recreation supply giant REI has launched a strong digital marketing campaign telling consumers they will be closed on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday and everyone should go outside instead. A press release says that all 143 of its retail locations, headquarters and two distribution centers will be closed and all employees will be on paid leave and encouraged to go outside. They have a countdown clock and everything. CEO Jerry Stritzke is the spokesperson in their simple, but powerful video spot posted on YouTube.

With some further research, there are many companies that actively tell consumers they’re not open on Thanksgiving Day, but unlike REI, stop short of taking Black Friday off as well. Here’s the full list:

  • Staples
  • GameStop
  • Costco
  • BJ’s
  • Nordstrom
  • J. Maxx
  • Marshalls
  • Home Goods
  • Sam’s Club
  • Home Depot
  • Barnes and Noble
  • DSW
  • Pier 1 Imports
  • Crate and Barrel
  • Burlington Coat Factory
  • Patagonia
  • Sur La Table
  • Jo-Ann Stores
  • C. Moore
  • Sierra Trading Post
  • Harbor Freight
  • At Home
  • Von Maur
  • Mattress Firm
  • Half Price Books

It’s always impressive to see retail stores so actively and aggressively standing up for their employees. Ensuring holidays and paid time off can only be encouraging factors when it comes to employee loyalty and productivity.

REI has competently approached this topic and zhave avidly integrated each aspect into their social media outlets. Using YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and most recently Reddit. All outlets have promoted and encouraged tons of feedback from news sources and blogs alike. So far, the only downside has been the Reddit Ask Me Anything or AMA online forum CEO Stritzke recently held. While most outsiders could see his intentions were for people to ask him questions or comment on how great the #OptOutside movement was, the Q & A devolved into complaints about poor working conditions and hours being cut. With an open forum such as Reddit, you can only hope that Stritzke understood questions and concerns like that would arise and was prepared for them.

At the core of this campaign, REI is sticking to its values and staying consistent with its marketing practices. Staying outdoors, finding adventures, doing good things for your body and the world are principles that make REI different from the rest. One of my favorite professors used to say, “Great companies stay great, because they do good.” Never mind the grammar issues with that line, but it has always stuck with me. My final thoughts on REI: Keep playing outside, doing good and challenging the status quo on what the holidays really mean to your consumer.


PR People Pet Peeves: Part Two

I put out a call on my personal Facebook page asking my friends who still work in TV news to tell me what PR people do to annoy them. Here are the rest of their responses.

“Don’t start a press conference 10 minutes late because one of the stations isn’t there yet. If they’re late, that’s on them. Don’t punish the people who are on time.”

“Don’t guide us to your most sterile conference room with walls of white board. I know offices are messy, but they’re visually interesting. The ‘mess’ actually shows you are working and gives me interesting cutaways.”

“When they send an email to you and to every station email address they have. I often get numerous copies of the same email since I’m on multiple lists. If there are five emails from one agency, all with the same subject, I typically don’t give it a good read.”

“Bad photos embedded in words docs. No website info. Not being available in the days following a release.”

“From the morning news groups, give me at least a couple of bullet points about why (the public) should care about this enough to write a :25 story about it. I second the notion of attaching some pics or video to that email…need visuals! And don’t put it in some crazy format that takes the entire IT department to figure out.”

“Sending embargoed material is rarely welcome. Also, letting another media outlet, most often a morning paper ‘preview’ the event to the extent that there is nothing new at the event beyond what has already been printed.”

“I find it really frustrating when I’m covering an event, especially as an MMJ (multi-media journalist), and the PR person gives you five different people to interview when you only need sound from one or two. Also, when they ask the best time to set up an interview and you tell them you have a 5pm newscast so the earlier the better. Then, they ask if 3:45pm will work.”

“When trying to personalize a news release, get my name AND station call letters right. Chances are if I see you’ve got one of those two things incorrect, I don’t read the full release. I also agree that you should send bullet points about why the public should care.”

“When they try to micromanage what I shoot. Oh! Get a shot of this! Oh! Get a shot of that! When I’m shooting a perfectly nice moment in front of them. Trying to guilt trip me into shooting something, especially a person you posed to mug for the camera, right in front of my camera, blocking the actual cute shot I was trying to get. And then taking a pic on your phone, saying, ‘Well, if they won’t take your picture, I will!’ That sort of thing only make me leaves faster.”

There you go… Out of the mouths of (news) babes.

Connect to your Customer

By Ethan Thomas, Communications Management Intern 

IKEA marketers hit the nail on the head with their most recent fundraising efforts. They turned children’s drawings into well-made soft animal toys. They combined several key marketing techniques into a very impactful worldwide campaign. They involved consumers, raised money for a good cause and showed the integration of the entire process.

IKEA only has a small market for selling plush animal toys. It makes sense. Drag your kids through the maze of home furnishings, then reward them with a cute and lovable toy! But this goes beyond that. The company has successfully involved a consumer that many would ignore in the furniture industry: children. IKEA uses children’s drawings as the inspiration for new plush toys and recognizes those kids for their drawing efforts. Fantastic. I may be generalizing, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s every child under 12’s dream to have a toy he or she personally made.

What really stands out, though, is how IKEA is using these toys to raise money for schools in need. Every year, the IKEA Foundation donates €1 for every soft toy sold in participating IKEA stores in November and December. The donation goes to Save the Children and UNICEF and is spent on children’s educational projects. It’s refreshing to see a company take up a cause that’s outside of its business interests. It exemplifies how IKEA wants to have a global reach with its fundraising efforts.

There are many ways to reach a consumer. What’s great about this campaign is the focus on the specific product and the organizations IKEA wants to support. Look through every single video produced by the company and you will not see one mention of their other furniture products. IKEA’s focus is solely on raising money for Save the Children and UNICEF. Kudos to you, IKEA. Many organizations would try to turn it into a campaign that might as well say, “Look at us donating money. Aren’t we awesome? Come on. That’s pretty awesome of us!” Through positive engagement and strategy, the company effectively removes that notion and creates a greater connection to its audience.

Honestly, we’re all kids at heart and I believe that’s why a campaign like this will resonate with so many. Here’s a quick tip though: Relate and connect to your consumer through an integrated, positive and emotion-triggering strategy, and you’re likely to do pretty well for yourself.


PR People Pet Peeves

When I worked in TV news, there were quite a few things PR folks did to annoy me. I am sure there were a lot of things I did to annoy them as well, but this is my blog and they can write their own if they’ve got something to say.

Apparently, I am not alone when it comes to PR People Pet Peeves. (Perhaps I will trademark this phrase. It is rather catchy.) I put the call out on my Facebook page to some of my friends who are still in the biz to help me make a list of behaviors to avoid. Once again, my very opinionated FB friends had a lot to say on the matter.

“Don’t call me at 4:45. I’m a little busy.” (Editor’s note: Don’t call the newsroom 15 minutes before any newscast. So, the best windows of time to call are 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. or 1 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.)

“Also, don’t schedule news conferences for Noon/5/6pm. I know they’d like us to cover it live, but that’s not going to happen. 9-11am and 1-3pm are the optimal times if they want coverage. And the morning ones are better because s#$! hasn’t hit the fan yet so we probably have a photog available.

“Setting up podiums in front of huge windows!!! Ugh.” (Editor’s note: You can’t backlight an interview subject. It looks terrible on TV. We know what you are going for is a nice backdrop, but the results of putting a speaker in front of a window are disastrous.)

“Trying to guilt trip you into talking to 5 different people for just a simple VOSOT.” (Editor’s note: VOSOT means Voice Over Sound on Tape, in case you didn’t know. Some newsies call it a VOB for Voice Over/Bite. I always thought they were weird. Anyway, it means an anchor will read over the video and then throw to a sound bite, ONE soundbite. So, it’s not necessary for the crew covering your event to interview more than one person. It’s a time-waster and if one of these extraneous interviewees is expecting to see themselves on TV later that night and doesn’t, feelings get hurt, especially if they told everyone on Facebook to watch. So, as a PR person, don’t promise every member of the board they can talk to the TV people. Pick one person, maybe a second for backup in the event Mr. or Ms. Telegenic can’t fulfill his or her duties, then tell everyone else, sorry, maybe next time.)

“Include visuals or at least a link to visuals if you can’t make the said affair! I hated having to call PR folks for visuals.” (Editor’s note: This former reporter left the business to work in PR at an amusement park where his promotions team ALWAYS provided visuals in advance. Bragger. If everyone did everything they were supposed to, no one would pay me to write blogs.)

The same former reporter also added the following:

“Even if they don’t have photogs or videographers on staff, I feel it’s so easy at this point for PR folks to shoot photos or videos with their mobile devices, that there really isn’t any reason they shouldn’t.”

He has a good point there. Sometimes I think PR people worry too much about having the perfect picture to send, but I argue perfect is overrated (and not just because I am currently finding my winter clothes a little snug.) Some marketing research shows the coveted Millennial demographic is more trusting of images that are less slick and more authentic (Think corporate video vs. YouTube.) So, keep it real, folks.

Finally, the same former reporter, let’s call him Ethan Spyder, left us with this tip:

“Also, have someone available to speak for the company on camera. I detest dump and run press releases.”

Doesn’t he sound a li’l angry about it still?

You will be happy to know that Ethan Spyder left both TV news and PR and is living happily ever after and way chilled out with his family farming some holler in the Shawnee National Forest. Ahh, the good life.

Until you have the courage to hatch and execute your escape plan, please keep some of these tips in mind. I will publish the rest of them in my next blog.


Yep, It’s Still All About Whom You Know

By Ethan Thomas, Communications Management Intern

In just six short months I will be graduating alongside, give or take, 1.6 million undergraduate students attending colleges and universities across the United States. That’s an overall 9 percent increase since 2005 and an incredibly terrifying number of Millennial 20-somethings… but The Institution of Education Sciences says that having some form of a degree in higher education does show a higher percentage of employment than those without. Well, that’s fantastic! The question is: Are all 1.6 million of us going to find one of those jobs? To answer that, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that those with a college degree only have an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent. That’s 10 points lower than those without a degree. OK, I’m starting to like the odds a little better now.

“So I am about to graduate with a degree. Still, with all of these other college grads, how the heck am I supposed to separate myself with a simple resume and cover letter?” Thanks for asking. While I am merely a college senior, I have to tell you, a big piece to this puzzle is networking.

First, we have to be honest with ourselves and ask a few questions. Have you been going to the career fairs at your school? Have you contacted your school about alumni in the field you’re interested in? Have you had any internships? All of these are opportunities to meet more professionals to expand your network and networking are an absolute game changer in terms of finding a job after graduation.

Let’s talk about what networking is not. Networking is not adding more friends or followers on your personal social media. Kudos to you if you get 300 plus likes on an Instagram photo, but that isn’t really helping your cause in finding a job.

Networking is not just handing out your resume or business card and hoping to hear back. You can do the same thing online and will probably have the same negative outcome.

Networking is not only meeting professionals so they can give you a job. Entrepreneur magazine says that networking is how you as an individual can add more value to more people in a shorter amount of time. If you’re trying to network for any other reason, you’re missing the point.

Networking is about building positive and influential relationships. Opportunities arise from these; that’s the real trick. The more impactful professional relationships you have, the more likely your name may come up for a job opportunity. At the end of the day, that’s what you’re looking for.

So, get out there. Join the national society or organization of the industry you’re interested in, attend a career fair, find an internship, or just grab coffee with someone. Do everything you can to meet more professionals for the right reason. Show them that the relationship is a two-way street and you’re not just poaching them for a potential job. It may take some time, but the right opportunity will come your way.


When It’s More Than Like

By Ethan Thomas, Communications Management Intern 

Let Me Introduce You to Facebook’s Dislike Button

OK, so let’s get this straight. It’s not really a thumbs down, “Your post sucks,” dislike button. Also, it has yet to cross the pond and hit American soil. Facebook officially revealed it is testing several new alternatives to the “like” button in Ireland and Spain.

The new options are emoji-like responses that include “love,” “haha,” “yay,” “wow,” “sad” and “angry.” They are similar, but don’t resemble Facebook’s current “stickers” that can be posted in the comment section of a post. Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox released a video about the testing in the two European countries.

While adding a new delightful element to Facebook’s ever-expanding repertoire, this actually has interesting potential for any organization or business that has a Facebook page. As consumers, we are in an age where digital customer feedback can make or break a company. Now we have another way to give feedback to the companies we love or hate. We can give a little more emotion than just “liking” or ignoring social media content. Look for companies to start gathering this data and using it to influence future content.

So get ready, America, if the Spanish and Irish like and use this feature enough, we could be seeing it very soon.

Pitching Stories to the Media: Part Three

I know what I used to like and not like from my very long career in TV news when it came to story pitches, but I know my advice isn’t universal, so I asked via my Facebook page some of my newsie friends who are still in the biz to weigh in on what works for them. I heard from several reporters, producers, photographers and assignment editors in several markets.

“Do your research on whom you’re pitching to. Don’t pitch an investigative reporter a fluffy feature piece.”

“Make it timely. I’m more likely to respond to something if it coincides with breaking news or some current event, or the release of a new study (We love studies!) such as national car seat safety week OR following up on a recent child death in the news, a new study released on car seat safety.”

“Don’t make it a commercial for your product. I can’t do a story about how cool your product is.”

“Catchy slug! A clever headline gets ‘em every time.”

“Get my name and call letters correct. Don’t bug me by phone asking I received the email. It’s OK to call the day before or the morning of the event. Get to the point. Know it is not cool to call during the bomb runs, the 30 minutes before and anytime during a newscast. There. Whew.”

“Two words. Send food.”

“I like the what, where, when to be clear, so I don’t have to search for the date to file it under. Also, do not make me open an attachment to get the info, or I will hate you forever. And yes, send food.”

“I agree. If I am trying to get to an event, I don’t have to search through lengthy, rambling text to find the info I need.”

“From a TV/digital standpoint, you need to list elements that will make it easier to write/shoot/edit story. Right down to visuals, interviews/SOTs and even a suggested script.”

Resending, calling incessantly is just annoying. I’m like ‘Did you get a bounce back?’ Then yes, I got your 3 emails.”

“Tell me why this is going to be interesting or important to my viewers. And, how is it going to be visual? I agree with the comment about a good slug. ‘A local tech company develops an app that calculates you caloric intake’ sounds very different than ‘A local tech company creates an app to help you lose weight.’”

“As soon as I see something like, ‘I thought your readers might like this,’ I’m done. At least know whom you’re sending the release to and what they actually do.”

“KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) rule on releases to the Assignment Desk. Tell me the five W’s and keep it short. I would blow it out if it was verbose as I simply didn’t have time to mess with reading your three pages long email.”

“Don’t tell me where you want me to do the interviews. We’ll pick out own background, thank you very much!”

That last one was less about a story pitch and more of just a general pet peeve of any crew in the field. I agree with it wholeheartedly. The less pushy you are, the more you will be beloved by the media and that will be one of your greatest accomplishments because they can be a picky bunch.

World-renowned Crisis Expert at Hirons

The Hirons’ team was lucky enough to have a 90-minute session with the man who wrote the proverbial book on crisis communications. To be more accurate, Vincent Covello, Ph.D. has written or edited more than 25 books and published 75 articles on risk assessment, management and communication. He is the founder and director of the Center for Risk Communication, a job that takes him all over the world. Covello said last year he earned the third most frequent flier miles in the nation, an impressive 4 million. He still works part time at the World Health Organization (WHO) which sent him onto the front lines of disaster some 30 years ago when he was working there while on sabbatical from academia. Since then, Covello has managed crises such as Ebola, nuclear power plant meltdowns and the threat of pandemic influenza. He has a lot of advice on how to deliver the best messages during the worst circumstances.

During his early years in the field, Covello said crisis communications were merely based on conventional wisdom, but now neuroscience has allowed researchers to “open up the black boxes” of our minds. For instance, they’ve found that one negative equals three positives or what Covello and his team now call “1N=3P.” He explained that since our brains tend to focus more on negative information, it takes at least three positive messages to undo the harm of only one bad one. You need at least four to pull ahead. After that, the economic law of diminishing returns goes into effect and positive messages become less mitigating.

The research has also found that in most high-stress situations, around 95 percent of the questions affected people ask can be predicted in advance. Covello said there are 120 frequently-asked questions about Ebola and a whopping 420 when it comes to radiological disasters. Nuclear power plants can’t even be licensed anymore without having what’s called a “dark website” ready to go live in the event of a leak that will answer some of those questions. Covello said it just reinforces how important crisis communications have become in the modern world, even for problems as old as time. For example, there are 50 questions that have been identified to give peace of mind to the terminally ill. Once again, the rule of three applies here as Covello said the best way to answer the question of “How long do I have to live?” is by giving worst, average and best case scenarios.

The power of the number three is also evident in the “27/9/3 Rule” shown on the Periodic Table for High Concern Communication that Covello helped developed. He credits media mogul Ted Turner for making this rule back in the early years of CNN. Turner told researchers that TV news would only use a nine second soundbite from most officials, no matter what the topic. So researchers recommend to whittle down your message to 27 words you can say in nine seconds that contains three points. During the recent spread of the mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus, for instance, WHO told the public to remove standing water around their homes to kill mosquito larvae, wear protective clothing to prevent bites and use insect repellent. Each point can be expounded upon with three sub points, if needed, in what’s called “Message Mapping.” At least 50 national agencies are training their spokespersons to use this method. Listen for it next time you’re watching a news conference to see who’s putting Covello’s expertise to good use.