Giving Tuesday 2013

giving tuesday

Halloween is barely behind us, and already the Christmas ads and holiday displays are popping up everywhere. While few of us are feeling truly ready for the holidays, it’s a consideration that is already top of mind for businesses; there are client appreciation gifts to pull together, holiday cards to design and print, and employee appreciation parties to plan. (Does anyone still do those? Ah, the good ol’ days…)

That’s not what this post is about, though.

Giving Tuesday

Over the past few weeks, I have been proud and inspired to help a number of clients and colleagues prepare for a new annual tradition: Giving Tuesday. What is Giving Tuesday? Only in its second year, “#GivingTuesday™ (#GT) is a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season added to the calendar on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday…In the same way that retail stores take part in Black Friday, we want the giving community to come together for #GivingTuesday.” (Learn more at the official GT website.)

FINALLY, an answer to the overwhelming and exhausting culture of consumption that seems to dominate the secular holiday season. Let’s all be thankful for what we have on Thanksgiving, and carry that spirit of gratitude into GIVING BACK.

Does your company participate in this movement, yet? Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to invest in your community, and show your clients which causes are important to you. The Giving Tuesday site provides “toolkits” to help you plan and prepare for December 3rd, including creative implementation ideas and visual assets like logos and web banners. From a visual perspective, you can have a lot of fun and inspire others through shareable, branded social media images.

And of course, non-profits can leverage the movement to aid their annual giving solicitations. As a Giving Tuesday partner, Tacoma Art Museum has pulled together a really great set of shareable images that both reflect the museum’s character, and encourage social sharing of their Giving Tuesday message through playful art-lover “profiles”:

giving tuesday

TAM’s profile: “STRATEGIC. I love the Seattle Sounders, Tacoma’s Frisco Freeze burgers, and my pet iguana named Romeo…”

giving tuesday

“SOPHISTICATED. I love sailing, learning to roll sushi, or shopping for a hat for the Boardwalk Empire season finale party.”

“PLAYFUL. I love food truck rallies and my dodgeball team is going to nationals.”

“PLAYFUL. I love food truck rallies and my dodgeball team is going to nationals.”

View more profiles at TAM’s website.

Giving back to the community is no longer an option for the socially responsible business; it’s essential to sustainable success. Giving Tuesday can be a company’s annual celebration of generosity; give generously throughout the year, and highlight your giving efforts this December 3rd.

For non-profits, this Giving Tuesday could be a key opportunity to publicize your organization’s mission and fundraising goals, and to inspire the community to take a break from consumption and rally around a greater cause.

As an individual, I look forward to seeing where this movement goes…and I already feel a bit more energized for the upcoming holidays. Now, which organization will I give to this year?…

Happy Giving!

Lawsuit against News of the World to Impact European Media industry


In one of Britain’s most high profile court cases in years, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, both former editors of Robert Murdoch’s now defunct News of the World tabloid, are accused of conspiring to illegally access voicemail messages on mobile phones belonging to politicians, the rich and famous, and victims of crime and ordinary people, to obtain exclusive news. While both deny the charges, the phone hacking accusations and lawsuit against News of the World are damning and likely will have widespread implications on European media operations.

A Culture of Vicious Paparazzi

Phone hacking is nothing new for News of the World.

Milly Dowler was 13-years-old when she was abducted and murdered in 2002. In July 2011, it was reported that employees of News of the World had hacked into her telephone while police were still searching for her, giving her parents false hope that she was alive.

In 2011, actor Hugh Grant accused News of the World reporters of breaking into his home, accessing media records, and harassing his family as part of a “cowardly, bullying and shocking” press culture.

lawsuit against news of the world

And in 2011, Manchester United football star Wayne Rooney had his phone and video baby monitor hacked by News of the World, which leaked grainy, black and white images of his infant son in his crib. Not long thereafter, Rooney visited the Nike campus where I was working in corporate communications. His visit was treated with top security to protect him from ravenous UK media, which were thought to have trailed him to the states.

News of the World isn’t the only UK offender. The entire press culture in Britain makes American tabloids look tame. Can you imagine the Twitter rant from Kanye if USWeekly printed hacked video images of baby North in her $4,000 crib?

One hundred and twenty five people have been arrested and 40 have been charged in this case, which is expected to last at least six-months. The sheer magnitude of the trial positions it to change this blood-hungry press culture for the better. Until then, Kim and Kanye should steer clear of the UK.

Just Do It!


Nike is known for having a lingering PR headache. With oversea child sweatshops and troubled sponsored athletes, I can only imagine Nike’s PR team is on overdrive most of the time. This weekend was no exception. On Sunday I ran in the Nike Women’s Marathon down in San Francisco. 30,000 people (majority women) gathered at Union Square at 6:30 in the morning to run the foggy streets of San Francisco. Every element of Nike was perfect to a T – from the limited edition marathon shoes, to the Nike signage throughout the course, to the finisher necklace from Tiffany & Co. There were no complaints from me, except maybe to lighten up on all of the hills! But for those who had complaints were in for a surprise. With music blaring at 5:30a.m. throughout the course, roads blocked surrounding the 26.2 mile course and the extra 60,000+ people in the city, it’s no surprise there were a few complaints filed.

Wrong number, please try again

Residents and runners who wished to file a complaint from the weekend’s festivities were instructed to call 800-RUN-NIKE. Unfortunately, when disgruntled callers tried to reach that number, they were greeted by a sultry voice and charged $2.99 per minute. The city had inadvertently given out a phone sex line, as opposed to the Nike line, which was actually 866-RUN-NIKE.

While this may not be as severe as some of the PR blunders Nike has endured throughout the years, it definitely does not sit well with the citizens of San Francisco. Was this a complete accident or a clever move made by a disgruntled intern? Whatever it was, it’s holds a couple of good lessons for PR professionals. First off, Nike’s lack of official comment toward this mishap has left more people upset and wondering how the error occurred. Second, it is important to triple check all phone numbers you supply your press and consumers – that includes on websites, in emails and through 3-1-1. At the end of the day, it brings a whole new meaning to ‘Just do it!’

Beyond the piechart: Infographics’ rising popularity

good infographic

They’re everywhere lately: infographics. There are beautiful examples, and there are terrible examples. But I must say, I love a good infographic. As a designer with a passion for reading and learning, these graphics are the perfect blend of content and design, hard facts and artful interpretation. And when done well, these graphics become a handy marketing tool—one that is both educational and engaging.

We are bombarded with information every day; we are increasingly forced to digest and act on information FAST in order to keep up with the speed at which technologies are changing how we do business. Grabbing attention, then inspiring content-sharing is a must when it comes to modern marketing. A compelling infographic is highly shareable, and it also creates a virtual “keepsake” for a brand (don’t get me wrong–a branded pen is great, but a cool, inspiring graphic/message that I can print out and keep on my desk creates for me a stronger emotional tie with a given brand.) Infographics allow a business the opportunity to tell a story or share its mission, in a concise and visually attractive format.

A good infographic will present complex information clearly, allowing the reader to quickly review and digest the material. That’s where so many poorly executed examples fall flat; they’re too complex, difficult to follow, muddied by ugly typography or colors, or they fail to stay focused on the core message. But a good infographic can make even the most mundane or silly topic eye-catching, and before you know it, you’ve learned all there is to know about a winning rock-paper-scissors strategy:

How to win at Rock-Paper-Scissors, according to cha

How to win at Rock-Paper-Scissors, according to cha

Sure, it’s non-essential information. And I don’t know where they got their data. But it’s something that will likely be shared on social media, because it’s a quick, fun read about a game we’ve ALL played. And as you can see, the graphic elements can be super simple—line art and some well-balanced typography could be all you need.

So many people are visual learners. You may get true readers to download a whitepaper, but you will catch a broader swath of viewers with visuals. Visual aids have been a key element of sales pitches throughout history. Did you know that Florence Nightingale leveraged infographics to help make her case to Queen Victoria, to improve hospital conditions during the Crimean War?

Making her case. Florence Nightingale used infographics, too.

Making her case. Florence Nightingale used infographics, too.

These graphics can be incredibly elegant and detailed, even poster-worthy:

National Geographic has long been a master at infographics.

National Geographic has long been a master at infographics.

They can be ridiculously technical, and impossibly dense (I think it looks cool, but is it useful? Maybe after a long study…so I would argue it’s not the most effective):

There's a lot going on here. Technical elements look great, but this graphic requires time to dissect.

There’s a lot going on here. Technical elements look great, but this graphic requires time to dissect.

They can incorporate crazy amounts of color:

use COLOR!

use COLOR!

Or they can fully embrace the style of the artist creating them, like this beautiful hand-drawn example from chalk artist Olivia King:

good infographic

A graphic all about inks…drawn in chalk.

Now, let’s be clear: well-done infographics are not fast or cheap to create, and should be handled by a professional. A designer will create a layout that allows the content to flow correctly, and one which incorporates graphic elements that support and highlight key content pieces, as well as eye-catching typography and a color palette that leverages existing brand rules, all while pushing artistic limits where appropriate. (Please, no clip art or poorly kerned type!) But such a piece could be considered a branded investment; it will be shared, printed, referenced, and potentially utilized as a visual aid during presentations and sales pitches.

I love maps, and maybe that’s another reason infographics appeal to me. They provide a little “You are here” for the reader beginning to navigate their way through all the information you have to share. Where will they go next? You can guide potential customers straight to the [hopefully not so hidden] treasure that is your business.

(I know, I just wrote a bunch of words about visuals. So to get really meta, I’ll sign off with an infographic about infographics…)

Press Association's infographic about good infographics.

Press Association’s infographic about infographics.

PR: Family Style

PR: family

As PR professionals we’ve learned how to position, couch and direct certain messages so that they are received in the most desired manner. It’s how we interact with external influencers – media, clients and even colleagues. But what about when it’s family?

I recently had an interaction with a distant family member that I haven’t seen for several years. Family circumstances brought us together and it was eye-opening to see how badly people can behave when they just don’t care. While there, this family member asked me if I was pregnant. Considering that I am not, this didn’t exactly sit well with me. I know I’m not the skinniest person in the world, but pregnant…really? I know what I look like pregnant, and this isn’t it.

The next day I got what I thought was a sincere apology email. I responded in typical Ann-fashion – quickly dismissing any hard feelings, infusing a bit of humor and moving on to other less-sensitive topics. I thought the issue was over. Boy was I wrong. The next morning I got a second email from her, this one dismissing anything nice I had to say and going on a rant about how I could lose weight – suggesting apps, exercise programs and even some personal commentary about “being fat.” Wow.

Of course my initial response was to want to send her back a parting shot that would truly leave an impression. I said out loud what I’d like to say, told it to friends and was all but ready to let her have a piece of my mind. But then I stopped to breathe. After consulting with my own advisors (aka parents and friends), they assured me that no response would be the best response – and what would have the greatest impact. So I put on my PR hat and did what I’d tell a client to do – control the message, which in this case meant stop communicating with a person who had her own agenda and simply enjoys a fight.  If only I was always this strong.

What do you do when personal communications break down? Do you bring out your PR skills and manage the message, or do you just let it all come out?

The Future of Retail . . .

The Future of Retail

Last night I attended a Portland Design Week panel discussion on the future of retail. It wasn’t quite what I expected, as the discussion skewed more towards what retailers could do to increase value for their consumers through services and technology, rather than the more design-oriented aspect of the retail experience (space, visuals, product display, in-store communications), but it did raise some interesting food for thought. Panelists from Nordstorm Innovation Lab, REI and Ziba discussed everything from the rise of e-commerce, Amazon and dreaded OMNICHANNEL, to technological innovation, their biggest successes and inspirations and what they hope for the future.

The take-home message was that retailers, innovators and designers need to continue to think of new ways to stay competitive by adding more value to the consumer experience. Does that mean that you provide personal stylists that will consult with you via text as you put together your outfit for the evening, a la Nordstorm? Find a way to eliminate check-out lines as the REI panelist suggested, while uncovering new ways to get local influencers to hang out in your store? Do you scramble to implement the latest technology advances that will put you just ahead of the curve? Or do you hunker down, eschew the push to look like the next big thing and create a special community through a really great space, quality products and personalized, friendly service?

I don’t know. But it did make me think about the ways that all businesses, retail or not, should really be thinking about the services and value they provide, the ways that customers experience and interact with their business and how and whether they’re using technology to provide those services. With the lightning fast turnover of trends and ever-increasing technology options, I think there’s real opportunity to be deliberate about what you’re doing, choose your path with conviction, and stick to what’s most important to your business. I’m excited to see what the future of retail will look like, and for that matter, everything else.

Beacon – A New Site to Fund Writers


An interesting find I thought I would pass along – Beacon!

Beacon, the Netflix for journalism, is a site where the public can access articles by personally funding their favorite writers. For $5 a month, readers can log on to and decide what writers and stories get published instead of advertisers. Public relations professionals may be breathing a sigh of relief.

The writers on Beacon are all professionals and have written for publications such as The New York Times, Harpers, TIME, Vice, and The New Yorker. The majority of subscription fees go directly to the writer. When funding a writer, readers get access all of them, including the new writers that come on each month.

This new site comes from tech pros Adrian Sanders and Dmitri Cherniak, along with former Times writer Dan Fletcher. The main premises of Beacon is to be an avenue where journalists are empowered to write about their passions, not the number of page views.

I am fascinated by this model – after years of deadlines with reporters who are conflicted in their stories due to publication expectations or viewership, it is refreshing to see a site that will bring our writers’ true passions to life. I am also curious to see how well the site does with a $5 a month charge. Many readers today cringe over the idea of paying $.99 for content from the Times, will they be willing to pay $5 a month for Beacon? Only time will tell!

#Hashtags: The New Communication Tool #hmmmm #skeptical #hungry

hashtag abusers

Earlier this summer New York Magazine’s Jeff Wisler wrote a piece called “The 7 Types of Hashtag Abusers” which so brilliantly put into words a deep, personal animosity for hashtags that has been growing ever stronger in my heart.  Wisler puts hashtag abusers on blast, calling out several categories of misuse, including:

  1. The Hashtag Stuffer: The most common form of hashtag abusers. The Stuffer is incapable of simply sharing a photo of his July Fourth fireworks; he festoons it with #firework #fireworks #july4th #July4 #pretty #boom! #red #white #blue #1776bitches!
  2. The Verbal Hashtagger: Someone who actually says the word “hashtag” in conversation. Exhibit A: Kasey, the Bachelorette contestant, who charms women with phrases — spoken out loud! — like “hashtag marriage material” and “hashtag let the journey begin.”
  3. The Hack-tagger: Created by a company, brand, or political organization. The classic example is McDonald’s, who used #McDStories to ask for heartwarming stories about the golden arches. The result? A gleeful backlash of tweets like “Ate a McFish and vomited 1 hour later …. #McDstories.”
  4. The Gratuitous Event Hashtagger: You no longer go to the beach, now you go to the #beach, where we’re more likely to play with our phones than play in the waves. If you’re grilling burgers and dogs? Step one is to pour the charcoal, step two is to hashtag #bbq. It’s only a matter of time before, on Sunday mornings, the pious whip out their phones while at #church.

I thought I hated hashtags; I thought they were a lazy excuse to avoid full sentences and proper punctuation (is the pound sign considered “punctuation?”), and to string together totally unassociated thoughts and concepts. But Mr. Wisler has helped me understand that it is not the hashtag itself that I despise, but the misuse of it. The hashtag as a language tool is actually quite effective in efficiently communicating emotion and context

hashtag abusers As Julia Turner of the New York Times writes, “[T]he hashtag gives the writer the opportunity to comment on his own emotional state, to sarcastically undercut his own tweet, to construct an extra layer of irony, to offer a flash of evocative imagery or to deliver metaphors with striking economy.” With minimal characters hashtags can add depth, link and build communities, and fuel movements.

So, on the heels of Tuesday’s National Punctuation Day and in honor of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s fabulous #Hashtag skit, I ponder how hashtag abusers might someday slip them into journalism and literature. They’ve managed to slime their way from Twitter to Facebook to text message, spurring commentary in all aspects of media. The day when hashtags are used to cull data and add color to traditional news media might not be far off. Look out parentheses and semicolons, the pound sign is moving in.

Miley Cyrus, PR Genius or Wrecking Ball?

Miley Cyrus, PR

I think most of America is in agreement that what happened on the VMA stage between Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke and a foam finger was an utter trainwreck and something we’ll be trying to erase from our memories for a long time to come.  However, now that the dust has settled (a bit) and we come further to terms with the new Miley (Hannah Montana who?), it’s been interesting to watch public opinion form and shift around her.

In the seconds, minutes and days following the performance the outrage could be heard around the world – even within the entertainment world, which isn’t an easy one to shock.  Pictures of Will Smith’s family gaping in horror from the audience were plastered in tabloids, Cher blasted the outfit, performance and singing as “all just terrible,” and even Miley’s good friend Kelly Osbourne said what we were all thinking: “Put your f–king tongue in your mouth!” But who really will get the last laugh?

This week Cher went on the TODAY Show and admitted that perhaps she was a bit harsh and should have kept her mouth quiet.  Justin Timberlake was also on the TODAY Show and when asked for his take on Miley, he chose his words very carefully but all in all offeresmithsd support by calling her “smart and talented,” and noting society’s desire to label someone every 10-15 years as the kind of person “we do or don’t want our daughters to be.”  And really – who doesn’t trust JT?  If she had to have someone offer a level-headed comment about the debacle, she couldn’t have found a better spokesperson.

The girl has already managed to go from child star to superstar; create her own successful brand apart from her very famous, mullet-wearing, Achy Breaky dad; have most of us forget about a creepy, too-close-for-comfort daddy/daughter photoshoot in Vanity Fair a few years back; and offer up some nonsense about a salvia bong. Maybe all this current chaos shouldn’t be so surprising, but instead seen as part of the Miley Cyrus, PR master plan.

What can’t be denied is that Miley’s single is at the top of the music charts and there has never been more buzz about her.  Some say “no publicity is bad publicity.”  I for one don’t buy that, but I have to wonder if in this case Miley might just prove me wrong – again.

How a Portland Company Put Instagram to Work


What’s your social media protocol at this point? The standard Facebook and Twitter with the occasional LinkedIn post? Is it productive or does it feel like it’s going out into the vacuum? With social media platforms, use and trends constantly shifting, standard doesn’t necessarily mean effective. The opportunities are endless when you’re willing to step away from the usual and try something creative. Take Poler, a Portland-based outdoor goods company, as an example.

Poler Stuff: Outdoor Gear

Started in November 2011, Poler Stuff began offering a modest collection of tents, backpacks and apparel via an e-commerce site. A departure from the super technical bend of most outdoor gear, Poler’s items are aimed at “travelers, couch surfers, regular surfers, skateboarders, snowboarders, bicyclists, parents, kids, car campers and anyone else looking for something that looks good, is a good value and is all about having fun on road trips and in the outdoors.” Eschewing ads or catalogs, they used creative photo essays to showcase their gear and more importantly, the Poler lifestyle. Grown entirely through word of mouth and social media, Poler has gone from those humble online beginnings to a flagship store in downtown Portland, a devoted following around the world, an ever-expanding line of offerings, and collaborations with companies like Stumptown and Nike that sell out in days.


A Social Media Star

Their Instagram presence is especially noteworthy. Early on, Poler established a few hashtags to promote their gear and the outdoor lifestyle. Using #campvibes (inspiring camping photos), #adventuremobile (interesting recreational vehicles), and #beneaththebrim (shots from below the brim of their signature trucker hat) to label Instagram posts, they soon created a unique situation. Not only were they sharing photos with these tags, but fans of the brand were consistently using the tags on their own photos as well. Poler began to cull and repost their favorite images from followers and were soon able to keep up a steady stream of posts featuring their gear in beautiful, exotic locations around the world. Fans are excited that their photo is selected to be shared with the Poler community at large, and the company is provided with free advertising. It’s a win-win. Currently boasting over 100,000 followers and at least 4,000 likes per post, Poler is getting consistent positive exposure and engagement without spending a dollar.

It’s a pretty inspiring model. How could you put your fans to work for you? Poler’s path may not work for everyone but it’s a good reminder that when it comes to planning your social media strategy, it can pay to think outside the box.