#OpportunityDetroit: A City’s Saving Grace

When a once-booming city is on the brink of extinction, what is the one thing that could bring it back to life? I bet “hashtag strategy” wasn’t on the tip of your tongue but a single integrated 360 degree campaign is what’s helping Detroit to become a Phoenix, of sorts.

Image#OpportunityDetroit speaks volumes to what this city is trying to achieve. First, to get back into the good graces of those who have been served only the negative stories and second, to provide a motto to those brave enough to live and work in the Motor City.

During the 2012 World Series, the Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants were fighting for the title. Unfortunately, the series didn’t go in Detroit’s favor but the city did come out of it with a win; Quicken Loans produced an inspiring spot with an accompanying social strategy to a level that had never been seen before.

With an entire arsenal of social channels and a strong hashtag strategy, #OpportunityDetroit exploded not just within Detroit but nationwide. With a following of socially savvy millennials, ready and willing to support the revitalization and rejuvenation of Motown, #OpportunityDetroit has become a rallying cry.

The next time someone says to you “social media is pointless,” point them to #OpportunityDetroit and tell them to think again.

To learn more about #OpportunityDetroit, please visit the following links: Twitter, Facebook and OpportunityDetroit.com.

“Never the Woman Who Focuses on Playing House or Finding My Prince Charming”

I was recently accepted into Wayne State University in Detroit for a Graduate Certification program in Communication and New Media. Words cannot express how thrilled I am to once again take my life in a completely different direction than expected (heck, I’m already in Detroit!

I wanted to share my opening paragraph from my personal statement because I feel as though it accurately sums up my passion – my passion for all things new, exciting, unexpected and challenging.

I have never been the type of woman who focuses on playing house or finding my Prince Charming. While friends were planning weddings at the age of fourteen, I was keeping myself occupied with countless band practices, oratory competitions and editorial meetings. I haven’t lost sight of that ambition; throughout my collegiate years at Temple University in Philadelphia, I challenged myself to go above and beyond what was required or expected. Even while working four part-time jobs and securing several unpaid internships which all required a four-hour commute to and from New York City, I graduated on time. After college, I won a coveted internship with the Philadelphia Eagles that then transitioned into a full-time role on the communications staff. I have since picked up my entire life and moved into the heart of Detroit to once again further my career in Motor City without looking back. It is my desire to continue to push myself to achieve greatness in as many ways as I can, and the next step is continuing my education.

Here’s to yet another new chapter of my life beginning.

The Art of Sibling Rivalry

My younger brother and I were born two years and seven months apart. That is a weird gap — it isn’t short enough for us to be best friends and it isn’t long enough for us to be “strangers.” Growing up, it seemed like we’d certainly head down similar paths. School was always first, followed closely by music. Of course we diverged slightly when I was interested in acting — he wouldn’t be caught dead on a stage in a (gasp) costume! But in general, we had similar life goals.

I went to Temple University (as I’m sure you’ve heard me proudly proclaim several times). My brother followed me to Temple during my senior year. He joined a fraternity — at my request — and started to make friends. All seemed dandy.

However, going into his junior year, I noticed that him and I weren’t as similar as I had thought. My senior year, I had taken 18 credits both semesters, had two internships and worked four part-time jobs. He was content taking 12 credits, playing guitar and occasionally hitting the library to chill with his bros. It became clear that school was no longer his forte and his heart wasn’t in it.

He approached me one day and dropped a bomb — “Cris, I’m going to join the Army.” Umm — excuse me? He spent the last three years in college and was now ready to throw it away? But as he and I argued our points, he started to convince me — why continue with something that he wasn’t passionate about? I helped him tell our parents and had him meet with my friend who is a recruiter.

The point of this post was to remind myself that you must ALWAYS follow your heart. You cannot excel at something for which you have no passion. Never thought he’d teach me anything (no offense, Tim) but he did without realizing it.

McFail or McGenius? Or McGrath? No, just kidding.

As public relations practitioners, we are in a creative and very network-oriented field; PR pros inform the media, brainstorm with the best of them and frequently dabble in the eloquent art of schmoozing. We must be confident in our capabilities, our relationships and our clients.

I’ve always been enthralled with public relations if just for the fact that we have no true control over our messages once they reach our audiences. We raise awareness, deliver larger-than-life campaigns and develop priceless relationships – but once our product, service or brand is recognizable, we have limited control over the opinions of others.

Rick Wion, social media director of McDonald’s, recently found himself in the middle of a consumer-generated PR debacle when he developed a social media strategy allowing fans to share positive experiences using the hashtag, #McDStories. As I stated earlier, however, PR practitioners have limited control over the opinions of consumers and unfortunately for Mr. Wion, #McDStories was met with quite a bit of the snarky wit for which Twitter has become infamous.

While McDonald’s diehard fans were sharing positive experiences, the brand’s critics delved into the hashtag too. Sharing stories of unknown ingredients, violent nausea and borderline unbelievable horrors, the campaign was instantly hijacked. The story went viral and after just one hour, Wion redirected his campaign.

As the dust was settling, Wion took to his personal handle to diffuse the situation and save face.

Negative feedback should be expected in every social media campaign. So I ask the following question: Is 2% of the total consumer response enough to consider the entire campaign a failure?

Can’t Beat ‘Em? Pretend You Don’t Want To.

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly” – some say this phrase shouldn’t be uttered until after we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving but it is difficult not to don a Santa hat when wherever you look, you’re met with Bing Crosby singing sweet melodies and a glistening Christmas tree in every store. 

Nevertheless, Nordstrom has taken a very strong, uncommon and dignified stance in its rebellion against American’s desire to celebrate Christmas for almost two entire months. Over the past four years, Nordstrom has stressed its desire to keep Jolly Old Saint Nicholas out of stores until Turkey Day has been celebrated fully.  

“We believe in celebrating one holiday at a time,” said Nordstrom’s spokesman Colin Johnson.

Now, this appears to be a very noble gesture but as a skeptic, I feel this “Scroogery” has been orchestrated to compete with the hullabaloo of Black Friday, Door Busting Sales and any other holiday ploy to lure shoppers.

In a sea of red and green, sales racks and credit card debt, what is the best way for one store to stand apart from the rest? Go against the grain, of course. Nordstrom’s steadfast stance against premature holiday cheer is without doubt, strategic, to say the least. Remember those kids in high school who tried way too hard to be “uncool” that they actually made themselves exceptionally cool? Nordstrom is that group of hipsters in a sea of less cool Macys, JCPennys and Boscovs. By taking a stand against the popularity of hasty holiday revelry, Nordstrom has actually rocketed to the forefront of coolness. If you can’t beat ‘em…pretend you don’t want to.

In my opinion, this is a perfect example of how to wholly position a brand as rebellious and modish, yet overtly classic. And as much as Nordstrom wants to pretend they are just too cool to care, I’m catching on to their trickery and appreciate every single “unintentional” choice that lead to this cool lack of holiday spirit.



Egos and the Eagles

Football season is in full swing and I’m happier than a pig in…well, you get the point. At the office, I’m but a lone football enthusiast surrounded by 22 fanatical Phillies Phans (I shudder to think I just typed that) – to go from 24/7 football talk to 24/7 baseball talk is a hard, undesirable transition, but I digress.

With autumn, there are four things I always expect – the beautiful transitioning leaves, sweatshirt weather allowing me to show off my TU Pride (go Owls!), my birthday festivities and last, but certainly not least, the blatant disregard from NFL players for advice from PR camps and the never-ending “He Said, She Said” battle of wits – or lack thereof.

The most recent display of brilliance comes from the one for whom I have so much pent-up hatred and aggression. Michael Vick, in my personal and steadfast opinion, is a poor excuse for a human being who hasn’t changed but only became a better actor. After the Eagles 29-16 collapse on Sunday – GO GIANTS! – Vick took to the media in a fiery fit. Whining is certainly an understatement and it was obvious that his PR camp had no say in this post game interview. For a man who preaches responsibility, leadership and accountability, Vick threw caution to the wind and ragged on everyone from referees to the Giants’ D-line – the only person unaccountable for his poor play and countless injuries was himself. Vick had this to say while driving off in his overpriced Tonka truck:

Looking at the replays, I’m on the ground every time, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated. The refs have got to do their jobs. And I mentioned it to the refs in training camp when I talked to them. I’m on the ground constantly, all the time. Every time I throw the ball, I’m on the ground. And I don’t know why I don’t get the 15-yard flags like everybody else does.

Really, Mikey? Your version of a great play is scurrying into a wall of linemen three times your size because you genuinely want to play every position on the field.  As soon as you leave that pocket, you forfeit your quarterback rights in my personal opinion and begin playing a different position, altogether. I am honestly astonished that you weren’t more seriously injured. Could the reason that you are on the ground “every time” simply be because your offensive line is weak? No – couldn’t be.

I imagine sirens were blaring in Joe Banner’s bat cave because less than 24 hours later, Vick had a huge change of heart (almost as quickly as when he realized “dogfighting is a terrible thing” and that he “rejects it”).

The refs have to do their jobs, and they have tons of things to look over. I was kind of out of character and being too candid in that aspect. Ultimately, I have respect for the referees and their decision to make calls. You won’t hear me complaining about it no more.

Ah, yes. The ever celebrated Eagles PR team to the rescue once again. I wonder if it was known just how much of a time-sucking vortex would be created since PR is responsible for monitoring Vick and Jackson, along with the newest acquisition of Vince Young, who genuinely enjoys referring to himself in the third person and laughing at his own jokes. One bang-up dream team you got there, coach.

It is sad if only for the reason that a select few ruin it for the rest of the league. There are a ton of guys who participate community days, help Habitat for Humanity or visit disabled children, but all of that is lost with one or two exaggerated, annoying and uppity mumbles that completely consume media coverage.

“…it doesn’t love you anymore.”

While scanning through my Facebook friends, a quote stood out and struck me as pure brilliance. Maybe it is because I’ve seen so many women give up their aspirations for men or maybe it is because this quote accurately sums up my life and my fear of relationships, but I had to read it twice.

Some women choose to follow men and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore. – Lady Gaga

I am certainly not converting into a “monster,” or whatever she calls her fans, but this quote is simply too Marilyn Monroe-esque to pass up.

Mom Knows Best – Son Knows More? Who is a Better Hire?

The status of our economy has certainly had its hits, both big and small. Even the tiniest hit hurts – it tightens wallets, wreaks havoc on budgets, but more often than not, obliterates pride. Accountants with 15 years of experience are taking ad spaces out in the classifieds – women with a bachelor or master are babysitting for spoiled brats whose parents have yet to feel the economic blow. The economic condition is affecting spending habits, but more importantly, is responsible for a waning sense of worth.

Professionals with 10 years of experience are competing with entry-levelers for positions – this should not be happening.  It is not fair to either party. Recent grads are bringing to the ring vast knowledge of emerging media, new tactics and fresh lessons; seasoned pros are representing traditional knowledge and present impressive track records. Both are capable, in their own sense, of completing the job adequately.

So what ends up happening? The seasoned pro gets the job over the fresh-faced graduate, but will quickly grow unhappy with the reduced pay and revoked responsibility.  For a person who has spent the past 10 years closing deals and launching campaigns, the thought of merely monitoring placements and analyzing coverage may induce a slight gag reflex.  A position like this could provide key training to an up-and-coming young professional; instead, it is being given to an overqualified individual who will undoubtedly leave the position after a whirlwind tenure.

I am not criticizing organizations for choosing the candidate with several more years of experience, but perhaps quizzing candidates on innovative trends may produce surprising results. In this new economy with fewer positions, I firmly believe that the hiring process should undergo a makeover.

Who Is Best?

To Get Minds Off of the Recession…

…how about a little musical interlude?

While interning at Jive LG, we were starting to pitch a new artist.  I had the pleasure of working on the press kits for a newly signed R&B superstar named Miguel. He is FABULOUSLY talented, an adorable guy and I cannot wait until he blows up!

I also had the privilege of listening to a phone interview between Miguel and a journalist. He is a doll and I hope when fame comes to this kid, he won’t let it go to his head (cough) Drake (cough).  His answers weren’t rehearsed but still addressed the questions at hand (a PR practitioner’s dream) and he treated my supervisor with the utmost respect. He is still humble and I just pray he stays true to himself…a half Mexican, half African American who can sing his heart out and is destined for success.