In the Office

What Brands Can Learn From Target’s Latest Designer Collaboration

brand partnershipsNearly three months ago, one of the biggest announcements to come out of Target hit the Internet. The popular retailer was partnering with Lilly Pulitzer for their next designer collaboration. That’s right, THE Lilly Pultizer. Queen of American resort wear and floral prints that leave you daydreaming of sunny beach vacays and drinks in coconuts. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest exploded with the news! Devoted Lilly fans get a new wardrobe of springy floral prints to add to their closets while admirers, like myself, who’ve been priced out of the brand, can now live the Lilly life. Life was good. Everyone was happy. Well, almost everyone.

Turns out, some Lilly loyalists were very upset, even insulted that their beloved brand would consider partnering with a mega store. And following millennial fashion, they took to Twitter to voice their frustration. #LillyForTarget

Their comments were even echoed in some of my social groups. Which led me to think. Are designer collaborations a good brand strategy? Do they help or hinder brands in the long run? Is the payoff of penetrating into a new market worth the risk of offending your brand loyalists?

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 Was Lilly for Target a Winning Idea?

This weekend, preppy girls everywhere descended on their nearest Tarlilly pulitzer for targetget Stores to purchase a coveted item from the Lilly Pulitzer for Target collection. The mania rose to Black Friday hysteria among 20-45 year old women. Target stores sold out in minutes and the retailer’s website went down temporarily. Now, there are thousands of Lilly items listed on eBay, selling for three to five times the original retail prices.

So, was this designer collaboration a winning or losing idea for Target? Let’s take a closer look.

1.    Since Target’s announcement of the collection back in January, news outlets, fashion blogs, and social media have covered the story. There was even a celebrity launch party with a fashion show, covered by media around the globe. The retailer was able to generate massive public relations and social media buzz leading up to the product launch and engage key influencers for their overall brand demographics. #winning

2.    Now that the collection has debuted and sold out, Target is getting even more news coverage related to the frenzy in stores, the website failure, shoppers reselling items on eBay, and customers being upset about not having the opportunity to purchase items. Some may think these stories are negative PR, but we think otherwise. #winning

3.   Lilly Pulitzer broadcasted news about its collection at Target on all of their social media channels, thus promoting and elevating Target to a new customer base. #winning

In my opinion, the Lilly for Target collection was a smash hit for Target because everyone is talking about them and has been for months. At the end of the day, we all have Target on the brain. #LillyforTarget #LillyonEBay

Calling All Intern Candidates!

HowardMerrell intern

Are you a responsible, motivated, hardworking individual? Do you like to write, conduct research on the internet, and do some creative thinking? Are you ready to get some hands-on experience in the field of Public Relations, Social Media or Advertising? If so, you should consider applying for an internship with us this summer.

We are looking for interns to work 10 – 25 hours a week. We prefer students who have taken a few communications classes and/or have some previous internship experience.

If you are an eligible candidate, please send your resume to

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Week In Marketing: Apple Watch, Latest with Instagram, Facebook & Snapchat, #InternationalWomensDay,


1. Marketers Now Post More on Instagram than Facebook

A new report shows that brands now post more on Instagram than Facebook. The photo-sharing app has become popular because content is more visible and guaranteed to be seen in users’ feeds, unlike Facebook in which brands have to pay to promote their posts. Instagram now boats more than 300 million users – many of whom belong to the coveted millennial audience that is often hard to reach.

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Three Secrets to a Successful Pitch

Using the same old media pitch formula over and over isn’t effective when it comes to securing top-notch media placements for a variety of clients. For PR wins, it’s all about creativity, strategy and a little ego stroking. Here are three simple media relations tips to keep in mind when crafting your next pitch.

How to pitch the mediaFrame your angle

A successful pitch is one that contains compelling content – give the media something their readers will find useful and interesting. But creating compelling content can be a challenge. One sure-fire way to create an angle is by exploiting pop culture. Today’s generation is obsessed with the entertainment industry and is often the source of social media sensations. So leverage pop culture’s reach and popularity and apply it towards your pitch. It may require creative thinking, but if done correctly, piggybacking on a current trend could be the golden ticket.

Media Lists and the 80/20 rule

No pitch can be successful without a targeted media list. Without it, all the effort you put into creating your pitch is wasted. When creating a media list, be sure to prioritize three journalists per outlet. This ensures that you have back-ups in case your first pick is unresponsive. It also places your pitch in more than one inbox. However, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t send the same pitch to all three reporters. Each pitch should be relevant to that reporter, their beat and their audience.

Now that you have created your media list, how do you know where to focus your efforts? The answer is to apply the 80/20 rule- spend 80% of your time on the top 20% of your media list. Applying this rule will enable you to focus your media relation efforts on five to 10 crucial influencers. How do you know which outlets are top-tier? Simply look at their metrics and apply them to your public relations goals. Is your goal to increase revenue for your client? Is it to increase brand awareness? Or is it a combination of both? Identifying the answers to these questions will help you create a target media relations strategy.

Start with a Compliment

The first few sentences of your pitch are the most important. Journalists receive hundreds of pitch emails every day and often only glance at the first few sentences and decide right then and there if they will continue reading or hit the delete button. So how do you get a journalist to keep reading? Sincere and specific compliments.

Journalists and bloggers, like the rest of us, like to talk about themselves. So when you acknowledge their work (new and old), it gets their attention. It also shows them that you have done your research and aren’t just sending them a generic pitch. After genuinely commending them on a story or post relevant to your pitch, ease into an explanation of how your story idea relates. This approach works even better now than in the past since many journalists moonlight as bloggers for the publications they work for and can extend that coverage with your new story angle. Just be sure to keep your pitches short and succinct. A long drawn out pitch is a quick way to get deleted.

Three Cheers for Julie!

Howard Merrrell career account executiveJulie started out as our favorite intern when she spent the summer with us right before her junior year at Elon University. Then she worked part-time during her senior year and after graduation joined us as an Account Coordinator.

Now she is has been promoted to Associate Account Executive. Congratulations Julie!

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The Week in Marketing: Online Ad View Standard, #TheDress, The Oscars, Instagram


1. Marketing of Brands Wins Big During Oscars

Lego, Farmers Insurance and Cadillac came home as the big marketing winners of the night during the airing of the Oscars this week. Lego was able to not only have a song from The Lego Movie nominated for an Oscar, but also gave out Lego replicas of the famous Oscar statues to key audience members.

Farmers Insurance gained positive attention when its spokesperson, J.K. Simmons won an Oscar and host Neil Patrick Harris hummed the insurance company’s jingle. Cadillac delivered the best media effort during the airing of the Oscars, showcasing the brand’s new attitude that it has begun rolling out.

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Congratulations to Amy!


Amy Needham has been promoted to Management Supervisor.

Since joining the Howard/Merrell family more than a year ago, Amy has led complex marketing campaigns, managed media, customer and partner meetings, as well as counseled clients on strategic plans, product launches, crisis situations and national events. Managing a number of accounts including CORDURA®, Ajinomoto and National Humanities Center, Amy works hard to always do the right thing for the client and the agency.

She is a leader and a team player, a hard worker and a dedicated employee, and a true PR professional with strong writing and media relations skills. We are lucky to have her at Howard/Merrell. Congratulations Amy!

Learn more about Amy and her promotion in this press release.

The Week In Marketing: Retweeting Value, Facebook Updates, Effective Press Releases, Snapchat

Get More Retweets

1. Cornell creates ‘Retweet’ tool

Researchers at Cornell University, supported by the National Science Foundation and Google, generated an algorithm that determines what makes a specific tweet more popular than others. It uses word construction, keywords and other elements to predict how popular or ‘retweeted’ a tweet will likely be. The tool gives users the ability to create multiple versions of a tweet to then select the one that will be the most popular. One defect of the tool is that the algorithm equates the length of a tweet with how informative it is.

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Master Public Speaking in 3 Easy Steps

public speakingAccording to a number of surveys, most people’s number one fear is public speaking. For context, #2 is death. Whether giving a Ted Talk or presenting to a small room of executives, standing in front of a crowd with all eyes on you can be terrifying. Here are three ways to get comfortable with public speaking:

1.) Come Prepared

First: Keep it simple. If your speech has more than three to five main points, you have too many. Scale-back the amount of information you’re covering to keep your audience interested.

Second: Preview your points, state your points, and summarize your points. It may sound like overkill, but remember that your audience likely doesn’t know nearly as much about the topic at hand as you do. So, let them know what your going to talk about, talk about it, and then summarize what you talked about.

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