Peek into our daily lives with entries on trends, events, tips, timely topics, client campaigns, and snappy musings that reflect what's going on in our world.
Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
With Seattle’s temperatures on the rise, we’re looking forward to a HOT Cinco de Mayo weekend. If you’re ready to celebrate like we are…
Throw on your finest poncho for Sparkle Donkey’s Cuatro de Burro celebration in Capitol Hill. On Saturday, May 4th, our favorite tequila brand will be traveling from watering hole to watering hole with a live mariachi brand and REAL donkeys. The fun begins at 5 p.m. at Fogon Cocina Mexicana. Participants can track the event all night on the mobile app Glympse.
Sunday morning, celebrate Cinco de Mayo in a tasty way at Fresh Bistro’s La Caja Style roasted pig buffet brunch! From 11am – 2pm, hungry brunch goers can recover from their Saturday night out with a buffet accompanied by specialty cocktails (a.k.a. hair of the dog) and sides such as Mexican Colache, chilaquiles, habanero guacamole, grilled tortillas, Spanish rice, chipotle frijoles negros, house pickled vegetables, salsa verde, cilantro lime crema, and Pastry Chef Maya’s Flan. $16/per person for food. The buffet will be served on a first come, first serve basis, so reservations are recommended.
If you’d prefer an at-home celebration, spice up a meal with Field Roast’s Mexican Chipotle Sausages. Made from a blend of smoked Chipotle and Chili de Arbol peppers, onions and other seasonings, these artisan grain meat vegan sausages are perfect for a south of the border breakfast.
What’s on the agenda for your Cinco de Mayo this weekend?
Friday, April 19th, 2013
One of our favorite yearly events starts this weekend – Sleep Country’s Pajama Bowl for Foster Kids. We’ve been hard at work promoting the dual-city events for the past several months, and we’re so excited they’re finally here! Portland’s Pajama Bowl events take place this Sunday, and next week we’ll be bowling (hopefully strikes!) in Seattle’s PJ Bowl!
This year marks Sleep Country USA’s eighth Pajama Bowl. To date, the events have raised more than $615,000 for Northwest foster children. All of the funds donated during the event go towards providing everyday essentials and fulfilling local foster kids’ “little wishes,” such as learning to play an instrument, taking dance classes or attending summer camp, where they are often reunited with siblings.
PR has played a big part in generating awareness, excitement and participation for Pajama Bowl. Check out a few of this year’s top hits, and stay tuned for more as we begin sharing donation totals with local media!
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
As social media mavens and PR pros know, Facebook has been changing rapidly over the past year. From Timeline’s rollout, a Newsfeed update and the upcoming Search Graph functionality, the way businesses reach fans has been altered drastically.
It’s no secret Facebook will continue evolving. What we’ve gathered from industry knowledge, our own research and chatting with social media insiders, is that it’s going to become much more difficult for smaller brands to reach their fans. Why? It’s speculated the social networking powerhouse is slowly shifting to a paid marketing model that benefits large businesses (i.e. mega corporations with big budgets who can easily pay for Facebook ads).
The good news? Facebook advertising, for now, is relatively inexpensive and easily affordable for small businesses. Our advice: pay while you can to grow your fan base!
For a Facebook brand page with several thousand ‘likes,’ Note the difference between an unpaid post and a “Promoted Post”:
For just $30, we’re able to reach nearly 6,000 additional people (including our fans and friends of fans), which helps spread brand awareness among a relevant audience.
Paying to promote content, whether through Promoted Posts or Facebook ads, also increases ‘likes.’ While we’ve always touted the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to social communities, it’s rumored that once Search Graph is fully released, the number of ‘likes’ a page has will become more significant than ever before. Facebook will supposedly treat ‘likes’ the way Google treats back links – the more you have the higher you’ll result in search.
Need help navigating these Facebook changes? Give us a shout!
Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
Whether a brand’s goal is to draw in moms with messy kids or appeal to potty-training pet owners, their website needs to both convey their message and set them apart from their competitors. With just one chance to make that first impression, our clients called on us to overhaul their website and….
Create a fun reflection of a vibrant brand:
KIDS ‘N’ PETS is a very popular line of cleaning products aimed at parents and pet owners. They have a loyal following of over 23,000 on Facebook, and a legion of moms that swear by their flagship product, Instant All Purpose Stain & Odor Remover, to clean up everything from diaper blowouts to stained onesies. Their old website did not reflect the fun, bright tone of their brand or the community that rallies around their product. We set out to fix that!
New website goals:
- Properly reflect KIDS ‘N’ PETS’ brand and appeal to their customers
- Create awareness of the company’s entire line of products
- Encourage customer feedback and a sense of community
- Be easy to update
- Create a theme for the website (For Every Mess, KIDS ‘N’ PETS) and develop a fresh look and feel
- Build a unique Mess Assesor tool that recommends the best KIDS ‘N’ PETS product for any mess
- Allow users to submit feedback through the custom Love Letters page
- Build the site on the WordPress CMS for easy updates
Here’s a look at the before and after home pages.
Home page before redesign:
Home page after redesign:
Visit kidsnpetsbrand.com to test the Mess Assessor tool and see why thousands of moms love KIDS ‘N’ PETS! You may just want to pick up a bottle for yourself.
Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
For our first Inside Scoop of 2013, we’re thrilled to be interviewing freelance lifestyle writer Hillary Quinn. While Hillary is based in Seattle, her reach is far with articles published in Bride’s magazine, Family Circle, Huffington Post Brides, Self, Maxim, More, and more. We are particularly interested in interviewing Hillary because we pitch freelance writers frequently and unlike a writer on staff it can be hard to pin down the exact pitch angles that will result in a story. Here’s an inside look at the professional life of a freelance writer and a couple of secrets on the right approach to pitching them.
For starters, tell us about your role as a freelance writer and how it is different than a staff writer?
I spent many years in NYC on the staff of national magazines—like McCall’s, Elle, and Mademoiselle. (I was Copy Director at the latter–in charge of an entire department of writers). If I had to articulate the biggest difference (besides going to an office and getting a regular paycheck!). it would be that magazine staffers are responsible for creating the ideas and content of the book, whereas, in most cases, a freelancer simply contributes the words. Mind you, some assignments do come from the pitch of an idea to a magazine editor, but that’s a long and arduous process (More about that in a minute). It’s more common for me to get a call or email from one of my editors, asking me to write a particular story for them. When people ask me if I miss being on staff, I frequently quip, “Well, I miss knowing who got fired three days before it happened!” The staff of a magazine is a fast-paced, team-like structure in which ideas are created, approved, and assigned (either in-house or to a freelancer), then edited and shaped for publication. We wield a lot of power and enjoy a lot of creativity. The freelancer, on the other hand, has almost no control over what happens to a piece after submission, and that lack of control is often frustrating and something we have to come to terms with. Especially so when you think your story has been edited poorly…or all the fun taken out of the idea…or it sounds bland and not at all like you wrote it. In fact, one of the reasons I started my blog was simply to have “ownership” over a space, so prospective editors would have an accurate sense of my voice and writing.
On the plus side, I control my own schedule, can sit in my office in sweats, and can choose not to write a story if it doesn’t appeal to me or doesn’t pay enough.
How do you find your story ideas OR What is the process for a freelance writer to write a story in a media outlet?
My story ideas can come out of anywhere—a news article I read; a conversation at a party; a teenage trend I witness with my kids; a friend asking me for advice about a problem. For example, I once had a neighbor who was sort of ruling the ‘hood…pitting people against each other, behaving in a competitive manner about kids, finances, etc. And in discussing/gossiping about her, an idea was born, called “Beating the Bully”—dealing with people in your life who operate in a hostile or dictatorial manner and how to navigate their nonsense. The story ran in Family Circle.
But as I mentioned above, getting an article assigned can be a tough sell. It’s not at all uncommon for me to send pitch emails to ten different editors before someone bites, and because I have to wait for a yes or no before I send to someone else, this can take months and months. I’m almost jubilant when I get an assignment based on an idea I pitched—because it’s difficult to do—but on the other hand, I much prefer someone just asking me to write a piece…far less work involved!
“Lifestyle” defines a broad category. What specific topics are you most interested in writing about?
I went into the business with a passion for fashion and beauty writing, and, for many years, that was my focus. Once I got to Mademoiselle, I was in charge of all the “service” copy in the magazine—and that meant creating the words for not only beauty and fashion, but also fitness, diet, and profiles. As a freelancer, you typically have to broaden the field or you’re limiting the work that’s available to you. I ultimately branched out to different topics that interested me—including parenting, relationships, food, and weddings.
Are you interested in receiving pitches from PR professionals?
Sure…but note that I receive upwards of 100 emails a day from PR pros all over the country—the majority of them come from NY and LA. I routinely take a quick peek and register if it relates to anything I’m currently working on, or seems like it might be a good source for a future piece. But there are PR people who send me a dozen or so emails a week and I often delete those without looking because the person is inundating me with stuff and I start to dread their name in my inbox.
If so, what are the key elements of a pitch that you need to be successful?
I’ll answer this and the pet-peeves question, below, in one fell swoop (And please note that I’m answering only from my perspective—but I’d be willing to bet that most successful freelancers would concur):
- Please only send me pitches that relate to the kinds of stories I actually write. Many PR emails are sent en-masse to a media list, but if I don’t write restaurant reviews, I’m not even going to look at your email, and you might even discredit yourself with me if I start associating your name with useless topics (Magazine editors feel the same way about freelancers who pitch story topics that would never appear in their publications). It’s much more effective if you actually look at my website and check out my area of expertise.
- To that end, a personalized email that says something like, “I noticed you recently wrote a story on budget beauty for Self, and I wanted to make you aware of my client, xxx, in case you’re looking for other beauty deals in the future.” To me, that’s much more effective than some general email blast.
- Please do not call me. When you think about how many pitches I receive a day, you’ll understand why it would be a disaster if every PR person picked up the phone and gave me a ring! Even worse are the people who call and say, “I’m calling to follow up on the email I sent you the other day about cardboard toddler blocks.” It actually annoys me because I’m put on the spot and have to tell the person that I can’t remember the content of every pitch I get, and ask them to stick to email—that makes me sound testy. Know that if something is of interest to me, I will either reply by email, or file it away for future stories. If you’re really chomping at the bit, send a follow-up email.
- Try to pitch a product or a person, but not an actual story idea. Nine times out of ten, the “story ideas” that come from PR pros are super narrow, i.e.: “I’d like to suggest a piece about monogrammed lipstick tubes.” Because the press release is only telling me about the monogrammed lipstick tube that comes from your client (and rightly so), it doesn’t a story make. I would much rather see an email that talks about the trend of personalized makeup products—if there actually is such a thing—and your client’s product as a fine example. Then, if it fits into something I’m writing, or sparks an idea, I might follow up. But I can’t tell you how many releases I get that suggest I write a story on their product; unless I’m, say, a regular blog columnist who does daily product updates, it’s just not going to happen. But that goes back to tailoring your pitches to the writer.
- Please spell-check and make sure your pitches are well written. If you don’t have confidence in your ability to craft a great press release, maybe best to have someone look it over before you send it out. I’ve actually forwarded press emails to my husband because I was amused/aghast at how horrible they were. That’s not the kind of attention you want from a writer (It almost—almost—makes me want to touch base with the client and warn them that they aren’t being well represented)!
Any PR pet peeves?
Please see above.
For more information about Hillary or to read her blog, please visit www.hillaryquinn.com.