In the Office

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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The Week In Marketing: Social Media Channels, Super Bowl Ads and More

1. Brian Williams Apologizes for Inaccurate Statement

NBC Nightly News anchor, Brian Williams apologized Wednesday night to Stars and Stripes for an inaccurate statement made on- air last Friday. Williams said he was a passenger in a helicopter that was brought down by enemy fire while covering the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Truthfully, Williams was in a helicopter following the one that was shot down. Was Williams’ apology effective? Watch the video here and decide for yourself.

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Weekly Wrap-Up #156

#Facebook, #SuperBowlCommercials, #DeflateGate, #SOTU, and #PR — All in this week’s #WeeklyWrapUp.

1. PR Professor Says PR Students No Longer Need Advanced Writing Classes

Last week, Shannon Bowen, a professor at the University of South Carolina, stirred up some controversy by saying that current PR majors no longer need to worry about taking advanced writing courses to prepare for the professional world. Bowen argues that the PR field has shifted its focus more on the management side, and that time could be spent taking classes related to this instead. Despite Bowen’s suggestion, several PR sites including PRNewser have argued that writing is now more important than ever in the field due to the varied types of content now having to be drafted by professionals.

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Happy Anniversary to Stephanie!

Congratulations to Stephanie Styons on her 10th anniversary with the agency.

Stephanie started the PR and Social Media offering at Howard/Merrell. From helping companies discover their potential, to crafting and implementing engaging marketing programs, she channels her creativity and experience to ensure clients receive quality service and effective results.

During her time at the agency, Styons has developed strategic marketing campaigns that integrate social media and public relations efforts to drive business objectives in a unique way. Stephanie has worked with many clients such as Georgia-Pacific, BASF, Southwest Windpower, Invista, Safe Quality Food Institute, Butterball and Kioti Tractors. Her ability to analyze the needs of clients in relation to the services of the agency, allows the entire team to function smoothly and provide clients with exceptional services.

Happy Anniversary to Stephanie! Here’s to another 10 years!