Tag Archive | blogger relations

Under Armour’s “What’s Beautiful?” Project Engages Female Athletes

Earlier this year, Under Armour launched the “What’s Beautiful?” Project – an initiative to “redefine the female athlete.” UA kicked off the new campaign with a video featuring powerful language about women and sports:


My favorite line is, “Take it back… from those who think watching us play is boring.” Damn right: now that’s some motivational copywriting that is sure to make the target audience want to get involved.

The video set up a nice story arch that is currently being carried out through a competition housed on a microsite.  Here, UA encourages women to state their fitness goals, create profiles on the site, and work to achieve the goal while documenting the journey and completing 19 challenges along the way.

The visually appealing site is still functional with several ways for visitors to learn more about the competition and watch demos on how to set up profiles and complete challenges, making for a nice user experience.

To promote “What’s Beautiful,” UA has been leveraging its existing social media platforms, specifically the Under Armour Women Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Additional promotion stemmed from a key partnership with BlogHer, the female-focused publishing network. UA has a dedicated channel on the BlogHer website that aggregates the articles bloggers post about the challenge as well as their readers’ comments. A sweepstakes offering the chance to win a $500 Under Armour gift card helped increase participation among the bloggers’ readers, generating more than 600 cumulative responses to the fitness-focused prompt each post included.

Of course, incentives are a necessary component of this competition due to the time commitment required to participate – it takes a lot of guts to publicly declare a fitness goal and then quite a bit of time to create and maintain a profile. The team behind “What’s Beautiful” clearly recognized that as the prize package for three overall winners is significant.

At the end of the competition in July, UA will announce 10 finalists who will then be whittled down further to three winners – two who UA will select and another that public voting will determine. All three winners are set to receive a one-year sponsorship deal that includes Under Armour gear, access to special events and celebrity trainers, and more. The other finalists won’t walk away empty-handed, though – they’ll automatically earn a place on the Under Armour Women’s Ambassador Team and receive $1,000 worth of UA swag.

That incentive package combined with the strong promotional elements ensured the “What’s Beautiful” Project received attention from the target audience of female athletes, but the strong emotional tie to the story arch is what captured the audience in a more meaningful way.

  1. Have you been participating in the “What’s Beautiful” Project?

The Mezamashii Project | Mizuno Leverages WOM and Social Media to Get Runners to “Join the Quest for More Brilliant Running”

Running hurts. It’s no secret. From elite athletes to newbies, everyone knows running hurts. When the pain seeps in, the mind races with excuses to quit, to give up, to feel less… but we runners power through it to get to the other side, where the euphoric “Runner’s High” is waiting, patiently, to remind us why we keep at it.

All runners experience the pain no matter how long they’ve been doing the sport – there are bad runs, tough workouts, goal races that leave your lungs strained and legs heavy. But there are also amazing runs – adventurous jaunts that make us crave the next time we’ll experience the “Runner’s High.”

It’s those runs, and the blissful sensations that take over when the pain stops, that drive runners to keep lacing up our shoes day after day. We’re all seeking that elusive high.

Enter Mizuno’s new campaign: The Mezamashii Project. Aside from being a fun word to say, mezamashii means “brilliant” in Japanese. It touches on the concept of something being “eye-opening,” awakening a sense of awe and inspiration in your surroundings.

Mizuno says “a more euphoric, ‘mezamashii’ running experience is out there…” and the brand is encouraging the running community to join the quest to find it.

The short video below does a great job of introducing, and showing, mezamashii running:

With this new initiative, the company is hoping to change the way people try on and eventually purchase running shoes.  On the campaign microsite, a pop-up window greets visitors who click the “request an invite” prompt with this message:

“We are on a quest to deliver more mezamashii – more ecstatic, electric, wind-in-your heart running. So instead of spending millions of dollars on advertising to talk about our shoes, we’re putting our money where your feet are and putting our shoes on runners’ feet.”

Mizuno believes its shoes are the vehicle needed to bring about more mezamashii running – so much so that it is giving away thousands of free pairs of shoes to runners, banking on the “try-it-and-you’ll-love-it” approach to marketing. In doing so, the company is hoping to build a community of running enthusiasts who will receive inspiration, early access to product launches, and invites to exclusive events.

In the absence of a major advertising campaign to promote and support the project, Mizuno is relying on word-of-mouth and social media to spread the word. They’ve tapped influential running bloggers to kick off the project as founding members, who not only receive a free pair of Mizuno shoes but also have the opportunity to give away shoes to their readers.

I have to commend the team behind this campaign for creating stunning assets that can be easily shared via social media channels. There is inspiring imagery (that I expect we’ll see going viral on Pinterest soon) and short, nicely executed videos.

In addition to relying on runners to launch the project on their own social channels, Mizuno is using its official YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter profiles. There is also a Pinterest account, but there isn’t much content there yet.

Knowing there are always runs that are going to hurt, the message of this campaign is a great way for runners to remember just how amazing the sport can be. We runners get it:  we’re all on that quest for the brilliant run, for that “runner’s high.” It’s what binds us all together, right?

  1. What do you think about the mezamashii project video?
  2. What do you do when you’re in the middle of one of those “tough” runs?

runDisney Heavily Promotes Princess Half Marathon Online, Builds Community Along the Way

A week later, I’m still riding high on finishing my first half marathon. By the time these feelings finally wane, I’ll be gearing up for my next race – the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half on St. Patrick’s Day.

After posting what might be the wordiest race recap in the history of race recaps, I don’t want to bore my readers with more thoughts about my experience with the race. Instead, I’d like to take a look at runDisney’s digital marketing campaign for the Disney Princess Half Marathon. (Note: these are my own opinions and observations as I did not interview anyone for this article.) 

A company like Disney has significant marketing budget to throw behind race promotion compared to other, smaller organizations that put on races. Therefore, it’s no surprise that I’m generally impressed with how runDisney used social media to build awareness for the event, drive it to sell-out status for the fourth year in a row, and – most importantly – foster a sense of community among runners and spectators on various social channels.

Facebook

Before I even thought a half marathon could be in my future, I “liked” the runDisney Facebook page to stay updated on events, announcements, and participate in the community of runners who also love Disney. The team does a great job of updating the page on a regular basis with relevant content and news, but also posts status updates the foster conversations about active lifestyles, running, and training. When I finally registered for the race, this Facebook page became my go-to source of information regarding the race and to get ideas for my training plan.

What I really enjoyed about runDisney’s page is that that it’s become a true social community. Fans use the Wall to communicate openly with each other, sharing tips and asking questions. Fans quickly answer others’ questions thoughtfully and correctly. When you’re on the page, you notice a real sense of community as you see strangers offering words of support and encouragement as people post their accomplishments to the page.

Twitter

While there is no official runDisney handle, the @DisneySports account is used to share news and updates about Disney races. Leading up to race weekend, the profile pushed out numerous runDisney-related Tweets to keep runners informed. However, I didn’t find the Twitter channel as effective of a resource as the Facebook page.

One aspect of the runDisney Twitter strategy I did like is that the team promoted the #runDisney and #princesshalf hashtags, resulting in heavy usage throughout the weekend. While on the road to Orlando, I tracked these conversations on my phone to get an idea of what people were saying about the Expo, traffic, and the race, which help keep me better informed about the event in real-time.

At the start line of the race, the emcee told runners to use the #runDisney tag. Once I crossed the finish line, I had fun going back through the #runDisney stream to look at photos and Tweets other runners had shared during the race (I still don’t know how they Tweet and run at the same time!). It was fun to send and receive congratulatory notes from other runners who finished their first half marathons or achieved personal best times. Like on Facebook, runDisney used Twitter hashtags to foster the community, which left me with even more positive feelings about the race.

Blogger Engagement via FitFluential

About 2 weeks before the Disney Princess Half, I noticed a few of my daily must-read running bloggers posting that they would be running the race, staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and attending several special events on behalf of runDisney. This came about through FitFluential, an organization that introduces fitness brands to relevant online influencers.

As I’ve said before, blogger engagement – when done well – is an effective means of social marketing. I enjoyed the FitFluential  group’s runDisney coverage and think it helped improve my experience as well as built awareness among their readers about what a full Disney race weekend could look like (and cost).

In addition to reviewing extra events like the Pasta in the Park party and The Race Retreat, these women used their blogs to share little tips and tricks I never would have known otherwise, such as that Disney hosts free first-come, first-served meet-up runs with Olympian Jeff Galloway that are announced on the Disney Parks blog or that the family 5K events aren’t chip-timed (um, no way will I be paying $50 for a race that doesn’t include official times!).

Heather, one of the FitFluential bloggers, organized an independent meet-up the day before the race that allowed bloggers, social media enthusiasts, and readers to all meet in person. This event apparently went well and, coupled with the runDisney/FitFluential partnership, showed the importance of bringing the online offline when developing an active and engaged community.

The heavily integrated social media campaign that runDisney executed for the Princess Half Marathon succeeded so well because it didn’t focus solely on pushing out content. The marketing team used social channels to build a community of engaged people with similar interests and then provided them with various ways to communicate with each other, making for a better overall experience during the race weekend.

Personally, I already can’t wait to cross the finish line of another runDisney event.

I swear this race photo is totally relevant to this post… because… I found out that official race photos were online on Twitter and then posted my photos to Facebook to share with my friends.  See, social media marketing in action… or something like that. :)
If you ran the Princess Half, did you follow along on social media?

RAM Racing Turns to Blogger Relations to Improve Reputation After “Epic Fail” in D.C.

Crisis communication plans are important. A simple, obvious statement, but one that companies tend to overlook until they find themselves in the middle of a crisis. With how quickly information travels online, small issues can rapidly snowball generating negative press and reviews that can severely damage reputations (and search results).

Ram Racing, an events company most known for its Hot Chocolate 15/5K series, suffered such an event last December when its inaugural Hot Chocolate race in Washington, D.C. proved to be, well, an epic failure. I had the unfortunate experience of running this race and can confirm that the bad reviews are accurate. I won’t rehash all that went wrong here as there were numerous issues that day. The bottom line is that when people pay good money to participate in a race they expect certain things: a timely start, an accurately measured course, fully-stocked aid stations, and ensured safety. While some races, like all events, have glitches, RAM Racing failed to provide any of these back in December.

Because of this, many bloggers posted negative reviews of the race. Runners took to Yelp, Facebook, Runners World, and Twitter to express their distaste in the event.

How did RAM racing respond? Not so well. Here’s a rundown of what the company did after the race:

  • Deleted negative comments from its Facebook page
  • Did not address the user-created Facebook page “Epic Fail – Hot Chocolate 5k/15K” that gained more than 1,500 fans in less than 24 hours
  • Failed to respond to users on Twitter
  • Issued an apology 36-hours after the race that placed blame on quite a few other organizations, people, and circumstances
  • Did not follow-up with dissatisfied customers with any sort of compensation (which didn’t have to be monetary, in my opinion)

Yikes. As a public relations professional, I remember watching all of this unfold and being completely shocked at how the company handled this crisis, especially since the race is part of a national series with upcoming events in other cities. Knowing that many runners look for race reviews before forking over registrations fees, I wondered how RAM Racing planned to rebuild its reputation after such an onslaught of negative press.

Curious, I sent a note to RAM Racing suggesting the company donate the majority of registration fees to the charity partner. Since only a small portion of each runner’s registration fee went to charity, I thought RAM Racing could redeem itself by making a more significant charitable contribution and taking a smaller profit.

I received a casual “thanks-for-your-suggestion” email, but never heard anything else. It’s been two months since the race and so far I haven’t heard of RAM Racing trying to alleviate the disgruntled D.C. runners.

So, why am I writing about this now?

Over the last week, I’ve noticed a few blog posts pop up mentioning RAM Racing. From what I’ve read, it looks like the company put together a pretty nice dinner for influential running bloggers to build awareness for the Hot Chocolate 15/5K race in San Diego, CA.

I commend the company for proactively trying to generate positive buzz around its future races. Engaging these bloggers is a smart move as they are all widely-read with highly active communities with an interest in running and races.  A couple of the bloggers noted that the president of RAM Racing addressed concerns about the D.C. race fairly and genuinely. This is certainly a good step in the right direction as the company tries to repair its damaged reputation.

But, what about those who still have bad tastes left from the D.C. race? Why hasn’t RAM Racing hosted a dinner with influential D.C.-based running bloggers or Twitter users? This has the potential to be a great forum to address concerns, solicit feedback, and – possibly – redeem RAM Racing and its races in the eyes of the very large running community here in the mid-Atlantic.

How else do you think RAM Racing could improve its reputation with those who participated in the D.C. race? Looking back at what RAM Racing did in the days following the event, do you think a communications plan would have helped them preserve their reputation?

A Case Study on Blogger Engagement: Nuun’s Hood to Coast Team

When done well, a promotional partnership between a brand and an online influencer is mutually beneficial. Though it sounds simple, it is often difficult for companies to develop strategies on how to best engage bloggers in a meaningful and effective way. Over the last three months, I’ve watched closely as one company – nuun  – has, in my opinion, brilliantly executed a blogger engagement campaign in conjunction with the popular Hood to Coast relay race taking place this weekend in the pacific northwest.

Unless you are an athlete, you probably haven’t heard of nuun. As an avid runner, even I hadn’t heard of nuun until late May of this year. That’s when all my favorite running bloggers starting posting about this seemingly obscure product. My interest piqued, I did a bit of digging and discovered that nuun is an electrolyte-enhanced hydration product.

“Okay… I don’t get it,” I thought. Yes, the product is certainly relevant to runners. But it didn’t look big enough for all these major blogs to start posting about it almost simultaneously.

Through some additional research, I learned the reason so many blogs had mentioned nuun was a contest of sorts had been announced:

Nuun is putting together an ALL FEMALE, ALL BLOGGER team for the 30th anniversary running of the Hood to Coast epic relay event

A blog post on the company website provided more information about the contest, which asked bloggers to submit creative applications on why they should be chosen for the Nuun Hood-to-Coast team. Those selected for the team would have everything taken care of during race weekend, except for travel costs to and from Seattle.

Image from the 2010 documentary "Hood to Coast"

As the bloggers began submitting applications, they began promoting their entries through their own, very established social channels. I was hard-pressed to browse my Google reader that week without seeing mentions of the Nuun Hood to Coast team.

In late June, Nuun announced the bloggers who had made the team – and to everyone’s surprise, the company ended up selecting two teams comprised of 20 bloggers (and four nuun employees).

As a runner who one day hopes to compete in a relay as exciting as Hood to Coast, I was excited for all those selected, eager to read their posts as they trained and planned for the event.  As a communications professional, I couldn’t help but admire nuun’s genius campaign. Through the initiative, the company handpicked 22 influential fitness bloggers with large communities to be ambassadors for nuun in the months leading up to Hood to Coast.

When nuun announced its teams of bloggers, I added all the blogs I wasn’t already reading to my RSS feed.  Since then, I’ve noticed weekly posts from each of them covering their training, packing plans, team bios, information about their specific relay legs and, of course, the nuun product. A couple of weeks ago, nuun sent the bloggers a care package filled with products. Around the same time, the company provided a 25% off promotional code the women could share with their readers.

The best part? The bloggers’ posts never seemed overly promotional. From what I read, they did not feel taken advantage of or under-compensated. Instead, they were all genuinely excited to be a part of nuun’s team, which made me – as a reader – excited about Hood to Coast and even got me to check out the nuun product website several times. In fact, I’m planning to make a trip to Washington CitySports soon to pick up my own tube of nuun as I hit the homestretch of my Army 10 Miler training plan so I know the program gained nuun at least one new customer…

Kudos to the nuun team – this certainly made for a great blogger engagement program. To all the runners, good luck this weekend!

17 Links to Bookmark So You Can Pitch Like a Pro

Pitching is integral to any young PR professional’s career. Despite it’s importance, many of my peers (myself included) find this to be the most challenging aspect of our profession. The only way to truly get better is to have experience, and many companies have policies that don’t allow interns to pitch.

So how do we learn about pitching without practicing? Doing a lot of research and reading numerous case studies helped me grow more comfortable when I first started doing media and blogger outreach.

Over the months, I’ve collected quite a few posts that have helped me enhance my pitching skills. They are all bookmarked and I refer to them often, especially when I’m stumped or uncertain about how to approach a new contact.

Below are some of my favorites that you might find useful, too:

Blogger Relations (and Social Media Release) Case Study by Todd Defren

How You Might View Bloggers by Chris Brogan

A Day in the Life of My Inbox – and When E-mail Marketing is Spam by Josh Bernoff

Open Letter to Fitness and Health Brands Pitching to Bloggers by Stephanie Quilao

Anatomy of a Bad Pitch by Dave Fleet

Great PR Manners Go a Long Way by Chris Brogan

Putting PR People on Notice by CityMama

e-Book: The Art and Science of Blogger Relations by Brian Solis

PR-Squared’s Blogger Relations Bookmark by Todd Defren

How Do I Get Placement on Blogs by Jason Falls

5 Wrong Ways to Pitch RWW and 1 Great Way by Marshall Kirkpatrick

How to Pitch Bloggers: 21 Tips by Darren Rowse

The PR Professional’s Credo: 7 Promises by Todd Defren

The Bad Pitch Blog’s Compiled List of Resources

How to Talk to the Press by Guy Kawasaki

Say What? A .pdf of What Not to Say to the Media compiled by the Bad Pitch Blog

5 Tips for Media Relations Success by David Mullen

Building Relationships: The Foundation for Good PR

For the past few weeks, the blogosphere has been home to a dynamic conversation about the necessity of public relations. I know this happens every now and then: someone says that hiring a PR shop is useless, and we in the profession come together to defend our honor. While I don’t appreciate the bashing, it does allow me to step back and evaluate my role as a public relations practitioner.

I can tell you one thing: I didn’t decide to pursue a career in public relations so that I could send out spam-like e-mails to bloggers and spend hours hounding reporters about my clients. Media relations is not what drew me into PR, and even though it’s valuable, it is not why I will stay in this field, either.

I chose PR for a number of reasons. I loved the idea that I could facilitate relationships between an organization and its consumers. Me? I like people. I like helping people. I like talking and engaging in informative conversations. I love writing and thinking strategically. All of these interests translated well into a career in PR, where these interests could become a valuable skill set.

Last night put a lot of things into perspective for me. I had a great time hanging out with Paull Young, Converseon employee and fellow PR blogger. Paull introduced me to some incredibly smart, hilarious people who all happen to have blogs. As we sat there talking and eating fried pickles (yeah, I know… but they’re actually good!), I realized why I love what I do.

The most rewarding part of my job is not landing a placement in the Wall Street Journal or on a top-tier blog. For me, the gold medal comes from meeting someone and trying to figure out how I can build a mutually beneficial relationship between that person and myself, and maybe down the road, between that person and my client.

And you know what? That’s what the people we’re trying to reach want, too. You know – the important people, the consumers. They want to interact with companies and organizations that seem personal, that at least try to understand the people using their products or services. The same goes with the media: if they know and trust you, they are going to be more inclined to work with you. This is simple Communications 101, yet it seems to get lost as we struggle to get large impressions numbers and prove our contributions to the bottom line.

When you really listen to others, you start to gauge their interests and passions – with this, you can gain their trust. Trust is the building block to relationships, and relationships should be the foundation of good PR.

If you are the CEO of a major company or the president of a new start-up, you might not have the time or resources to find the right people to build quality relationships with. That’s where we PR folk should come in handy – it’s what we do, or at least what we should do. As communicators, we have an onslaught of tools and tactics that can help create worthwhile relationships, whether it’s with consumers, journalists, bloggers, analysts, employees.

Even though measurement and proving our contributions is fundamental to the success of our profession, it will be easier to do so if we start acting a little more human and a little less like impressions fiends. Don’t get me wrong – I know the value of measurement! I’m simply agreeing with others in the field who are saying that the key to these numbers depends on strong relationships and excellent communications skills. It takes time, but so does the creation of any good foundation.

A Young Pro’s Take: Media Relations and the New PR Blacklists

As a new—brand new!—PR professional, this tug-of-war between public relations practitioners and the media is exhausting. For those of you who don’t know about this already, another public outing of PR agencies that apparently spam bloggers and journalists has been created. Coming only a couple of months after Chris Anderson’s infamous blacklist, this shows that PR pros haven’t learned their lesson yet. But what exactly is the lesson that needs to be learned when it comes to media relations?

After reading the slew of posts covering this topic that popped up on the blogosphere yesterday, I think I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of core issues:

  • That’s not how I want to be contacted. These PR pros pitched the blogger at her personal e-mail address, when she clearly said this is not how she wanted to be contacted. This should be the first step in media relations—if you are trying to build a relationship with someone, you should respect their requests. All relationships are built on trust and respect, right?

**UPDATE: In this particular instance, Cision listed the blogger’s personal e-mail address as her main form of contact. Clearly a mistake on this company’s part, which might account for the heavy influx of pitches sent to this address. I’m interested to see how Cision handles this specific case. I am not making excuses as I still think it’s important for PR pros to monitor their media lists, making sure that they are up-to-date and correct.

  • 587 new e-mails…Bah humbug. Bulk pitching is, apparently, the devil. Bulk pitching equals laziness. It shows that the PR professional didn’t take the time to read the journalist’s past work, comment or engage in the material, and decided to send out mass pitch e-mails instead. Brian Solis’ post broke down e-mail pitches into three categories: spam, bacn, and tofu. The varying levels of processed (eh, or fake) meat depend on the level of connection the pitcher made with the journalist. I won’t go into too much detail because I really want you to click on the link and read the post for yourself—the post and the comments make for an interesting read. The point is that you have to know who you are pitching. Todd Defren at Shift Communications posted a terrific guideline to blogger relations and how to build these relationships before you pitch. He makes his employees laminate it and stick it on their desks—I’ll be doing it, too.
  • But I write about technology, not pet care. Another problem is that the journalist never writes about what we are pitching. This is the issue I have the most difficulty understanding, because it seems like common sense that you would only pitch those writers who have an interest in your client or product. I find it hard to believe that every agency listed on that wiki pitched an unrelated topic, which makes me wonder how broad is too broad? If you cover technology, and my client is releasing a new product related to Web development, shouldn’t I pitch you? Maybe I’m over thinking the whole process, but this is where my knowledge of media relations grows thin. How can I ensure that my message is wanted without being a mind reader?
  • What do you expect? I don’t know what I’m doing! Jeremy Pepper thinks the main issue is that PR pros aren’t being properly trained when it comes to media relations. While I can’t speak from the professional side, I can agree with him from the academic side. As a recent grad, I can tell you that I have had minimal exposure to pitching the media. This is, obviously, very difficult to do in the classroom setting, and most of my internships would let me pitch only when everyone else was swamped with bigger clients. For many of my peers, pitching is the thing we know the least about after graduation, which means it’s the area we need the most training in when we enter the workforce. What do we need to know? How do bloggers and journalists want to be pitched? Better yet, professionals, what are your media relations training programs like in this PR 2.0 world?

Back when I was a baby blogger, I wrote about this topic. I asked how to be better, and I got very few responses. So here I am, a PR professional, asking (again) what I can do to help make the relationship between PR and the media more beneficial for both sides. What’s the lesson that needs to be learned?

Because, personally, I want to stop this tug-o-war. My hands are getting blisters.