#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.

A 9/11 Rewind: How We Communicate 12 Years Later

9/11 flag

It was twelve years ago today, and I can still remember the exact moment the first airplane hit the World Trade Center. I spent that entire day glued to the television watching every detail of the day’s events unfold. It was like time stood still. 9/11 affects every American in one way or another, and with that, I think it’s important to reflect on what we have accomplished in the past 12 years. I’m not talking politics, military or foreign relations – for me, I like to reflect on my personal accomplishments and the professional achievements the communications industry has gained. Over the last 12 years, I have been fortunate enough to graduate high school and college, marry an amazing man and build our dream home, have a beautiful son and thrive in a career I am truly passionate about.

12 years, in leaps and bounds

While 2001 seems like it was just yesterday, the communications industry has successfully grown leaps and bounds. The days and months following 9/11, most of the information we received about recovery and rebuilding efforts came directly from media outlets. While we were fortunate enough to have 24 hour coverage, we were forced to only hear the messages the media selected. Fast forward to today, and we have blossomed into a country that thrives on information sharing via blogs, social media and citizen journalism.

In 2001, there were only a handful of blogs in existence and the term “blogging” was far from our vocabulary. Social media sites Facebook and Twitter weren’t even created until several years later. Eyewitness accounts were only offered via an interview with a reporter. With these tools now in existence, our country has the ability to streamline communication in a way that not only allows multiple outlets to share their experience, but also instantaneously.

I think back to the how crucial our country needed to find ways to communicate quickly, accurately and effectively and am grateful to see how far we’ve come. Technology has given individuals a large voice to convey their perspective to the masses. I am grateful to be a part of this generation of communication, and ultimately, have gained an incredible amount of appreciation for life and how lucky I am to live it. I’m sorry for those who had that opportunity taken away 12 years ago.

Chobani Yogurt Offers Lesson in Crisis PR

Chobani’s PR team yogurt

Chobani’s PR team offers a lesson in crisis management do’s and don’ts.

As so many things do these days, it all started on Facebook. In the last few days of August, fans of Chobani’s Facebook page began reporting “puffy lids” and a “carbonated” taste from the top-selling Greek-style yogurt maker in the U.S. The company quickly realized it had a problem.

It took baby steps to remedy, first asking stores in Oregon and elsewhere to pull containers over an unspecified “quality problem.” One week later, as its Facebook page and the media erupted with stories of “poisoned” yogurt, Chobani issued a voluntary recall through the Food and Drug Administration.

The problem, as it turns out, was fairly benign. The culprit was a species of mold called Mucor circinelloides, which is commonly found in the dairy environment and is not considered a foodborne pathogen. Yet it still causes illness. Neither the FDA nor Chobani will release the number of people reporting to have been negatively impacted, only saying “its not in the hundreds or thousands.”

Chobani’s PR team

Mold caused Chobani containers to swell. Photo credit:

Chobani’s PR team response

As a PR case study, Chobani did many things right. They put their compassionate and endearing CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, front and center, using his name and image to release updates and statements to customers. They were honest and educational, issuing beautiful infographics on the Mucor circinelloides mold strain and how to identify if you had yogurt impacted by the recall. The apologies were heartfelt and honest. “I’m sorry I let you down,” the statement from Ulukaya began. He signed it with his first name only, “Hamdi.”

Here’s where Chobani’s PR team missed to boat: they tried to sugar coat. Literally. On Aug. 31 they posted a note to their Facebook page acknowledging the voluntary removal and replacement of some products from store shelves. Good move, Chobani. Many companies hate to admit there is a problem before all the facts are on the table. They took the reins, and put themselves in position to own the story and to serve as a trusted resource. Then they botched it by waiting five days to make another announcement, filling the void with recipes for smoothies and Crème Brulee Cheesecake Bars. Customers weren’t happy, filling the comment boxes with demands for more information.

Here’s the lesson: In times of crisis, reconsider your regularly scheduled soft marketing campaigns. When people can’t even buy your product, and as it turns out, shouldn’t be eating what they have in their fridge, it’s poor form to tempt them with Crème Brulee Cheesecake Bars. Communicate often and communicate honestly, even if its only to tell customers you have nothing more to share but work continues to provide them with an answer. But, whatever you do, don’t let the story tell itself for you in the form of angry customer comments and speculative media reports.

How’d Chobani’s PR team do?

As the air seems to be clearing, the net-net is that Chobani’s PR team did great work. And they should have: Chobani reported in July that it had just amped up its internal marketing and communications teams, with plans to up its marketing spend to around $70 million next year, according to AdAge. But there is always room for improvement, and in this case Chobani’s initial hesitancy to update and its unnecessary filling of the void with fluff could have been a major misstep.

Selfie is Officially “Liked” by the OE


It’s come to this. “Selfie”, the term for mobile phone self-portraits generally aligned with vain teenage girls, has now entered the lexicon and joins proper words like “forsooth”, “serendipity” and “horse” in the Oxford English Dictionary, otherwise known as the OED and grandfather master of all dictionaries. The inclusion reflects an acceptance of other tech-related words no one over the age of 20 thought were actually words, various fashion trends you’ll recognize from the past few years, and a wide and somewhat bewildering array of acronyms and abbreviations generated from text-speak. “Twerk” (the dance move most recently appropriated by Miley Cyrus) was included as well, along with “unlike” (in reference to withdrawing your social media approval), “fauxhawk” (it’s not like these are going away), and “srsly” (seriously?).


The full list:

Here’s the full list of words most recently accepted:

Apls, A/W, babymoon, balayage, bitcoin, blondie, buzzworthy, BYOD, cake pop, chandelier earring, click and collect, dappy, derp, digital detox, double denim, emoji, fauxhawk, FIL, flatform, FOMO, food baby, geek chic, girl crush, grats, guac, hackerspace, Internet of things, jorts, LDR, me time, MOOC, omnishambles, pear cider, phablet, pixie cut, selfie, space tourism, squee, srsly, street food, TL;DR, twerk, and unlike.

What do you think about the addition of selfie? Only a matter of time? A helpful reference as millennials take over the world? Or is this the destruction of the English language as we know it?

Once The Dust Settles, Will The Moda Center Be Worth It?

identity transformation

It’s a dark day in the Rose City.

As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, the home of the Portland Trail Blazers will no longer be called the Rose Garden. In an attempt to bring in more funding, the president of the Blazers announced last week that their home, deemed the Rose Garden in 1995 when the arena opened, has been renamed the Moda Center. The name change comes as a result of a corporate sponsorship with Moda Health (formally ODS), the local insurance company headquartered in Portland.

As you can imagine, this hasn’t set well with Portlanders. Not only have there been social media rants and petitions swirling around the internet, but from a PR perspective, I don’t think it was a great tactic in keeping the community’s support.

An identity transformation

A year ago, the Trail Blazers began their identity transformation with a new president, new general manager and a new point guard. So why not throw in a new name for the arena? This 10-year partnership with provide the Blazers with $40 million, which is apparently significantly larger than multiple naming-rights deals in some mid-sized NBA markets. And after watching a successful sponsorship/name change with PGE Park to Jeld-Wen Field, I can understand why the Blazers thought this could be seamless.

Is money the answer?

But it wasn’t for the Blazers, and it won’t be for a while. So, I have to ask – once the dust settles, will the Moda Center’s money be the right answer for the Blazers? And not just for the Blazers, but for Moda Health and the Rose City? A decade ago, I think the Blazers could have made the change with limited backlash. But in today’s era of social media with instant, overly-vocalized opinions, I think the repercussions may be too large. While it is evident the Blazers need a corporate sponsor, it may not have been necessary to have a complete renaming. This move may go down in Portland’s history as one of those bad decisions we never let them forget.

AT&T and Herzog Join Forces on PSA

It seems an unlikely match. Werner Herzog, director of bizarre but awesome films and documentaries such as “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” and “Grizzly Man”, has joined forces with AT&T to create a documentary on the devastating consequences of texting while driving. Sharing the stories of both victims and perpetrators of texting and driving, the documentary is meant to raise awareness about an issue that continues to impact lives in our technology-driven culture.

In the past, Herzog has been outspoken against product marketing in creative mediums, but explained to the AP that this was entirely different. “This has nothing to do with consumerism or being part of advertising products. This whole campaign is rather dissuading you from excessive use of a product. It’s a campaign. We’re not trying to sell anything to you. We’re not trying to sell a mobile phone to you. We’re trying to raise awareness.”

PSA or ad campaign?

But is it really possible for a company like AT&T to launch any campaign completely free from the ties of consumerism? I would argue that it’s not. They are a company and they sell things. While such a campaign deserves to be noticed and hopefully will have a positive effect on those who can’t put their phones down, anything that AT&T puts out into the world is building their brand and their emotional connection with current customers and would-be customers. That’s just the nature of branding and public relations. While the use of Herzog, a talented, famous and famously anti-marketing director, adds star power and credibility to the documentary, it doesn’t necessarily negate the company’s ultimate connection to the campaign. And why should it? There’s nothing wrong with a company doing something good and predominantly altruistic once in a while; AT&T and Herzog is a great PR move. Having nothing to do with consumerism may be stretch, but let’s hope this particular campaign has some positive impact.

How to Get Away with Cheating: Does The Right PR Save Our Country’s Elite from Their Lying, Cheating Ways?

cheating scandals

From politicians, to athletes, to celebrities, our country is fascinated by the downside of being in the public eye – the skeletons in their closet. I will admit that I, too, am drawn in to breaking news about celebrity affairs! One of the most infamous cheating scandals of our generation is none other than Tiger Woods. We all remember that Thanksgiving his wife chased him down the street with a golf club, uncovering what is now one of the most talked about and expensive divorces ever. Tiger was not only drug through the mud and sold out by more than a dozen women, but professional sponsors pulled out losing a reported $22 million in endorsement deals. Four years ago, PR maven Howard Rubenstein even said that “[Tiger] is beyond PR redemption. He is in public relations hell right now. There is not a PR man on Earth who can restore his image.”

Cheating scandals

Howard may know PR, but he certainly didn’t have a crystal ball. Fast forward to 2013 and it’s time to re-evaluate. Has his image finally recovered from the infidelity scandal? I’d say yes! Not only is he back on top of Forbes’ list of the world’s highest paid athletes, he’s returned to the top of the World Golf Rankings with a lovely lady by his side.

Tiger was certainly not the first to be scrutinized by the masses, and he is definitely not the last. In the last couple of years, cheating scandals have been thrust into the public eye, often leaving the one at fault to be judged under a microscope. Let me just preface the term ‘cheating’ doesn’t necessary mean infidelity; I am clumping professional cheating and irresponsibility as well. For instance, Lance Armstrong’s public outing for doping, Paula Deen’s reckless words, A-Rod’s suspension for performance enhancement abuse, Anthony Weiner’s multiple (multiple!) indiscretions with women, and most recently, Portland’s own Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen’s highly exposed affair with another woman. In a day and age where public figures’ private lives are no longer private, how do they successfully come out the other side?

cheating scandals

Cheating the system?

As someone in the industry, I can guarantee the image refresh people like Tiger receive is all due to careful planning by a team of highly skilled public relations professionals. Good PR is what saved Tiger Woods. And it’s what can either save or destroy all of the other cheaters mentioned. Look at Paula Deen at her time on the Today Show – either she rejected her counsel’s suggestions or she needed to find a new PR team. So the question I must ask is: What does it take to erase your cheating scandal when you’re in the public eye? Is it timing, the type of scandal or is it simply the skill set of your PR team?

Marketing on Pinterest

Addicted to Pinterest

Hello, my name is Kelda, and I am addicted to Pinterest.

It is not a healthy addition. I am guilty of hoarding recipes for sinful desserts and images of $10,000 handbags.

It is not a victimless addiction.  My family regularly falls prey to my cooking experiments and crafting disasters, all of which were inspired by Pinterest.

It takes away from time with my family. “Just one more page,” I mutter at night on the couch, lacking the willpower to shut my laptop.  My only solace is that I’m not the only one.

Addicted to Pinterest

A new audience

Pinterest is now the third largest social media network after Facebook and Twitter, yet brands have struggled with how to tap into Pinterest as part of their marketing efforts. It is a daunting and seemingly shallow platform, and unlike Facebook, it is wholly driven by the community. Oh, and that community? It’s dominated by women. In fact, women are five times more likely than men to use Pinterest, according to the Pew Research Center.

Addicted to Pinterest

Addicted to Pinterest

As an addict, I hope Pinterest stays pure and is never tarnished by the marketing efforts that have transformed Facebook into the cold and unsecure environment it now is. But as a person working in marketing and PR I am interested to see the ways Pinterest may evolve.

Today, a successful brand is using Pinterest altruistically. They are not exclusively promoting one product or service. The most successful brand shares the best of what’s out there – pretty things and good ideas – all which subtly and carefully represent the brand aesthetic.  It may not always be so philanthropic, but for now all that pretty, community-driven content fuels my addition like no other.