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TODD SMITH’S SPIN CYCLE: Government needs good PR firm counsel

TODD SMITH

TODD SMITH

Government, whether federal, state or local, has many arms – so there’s many departments and areas of concern and a multitude of people and organizations to keep happy.

Any help in the process is good, but specialized help from a PR firm can make or break any effort made by that governing entity. A good PR firm can also lend a valuable hand when loss of trust becomes prevalent in a situation, but let’s discuss some of the other ways a good PR firm can aid government.

When a government or agency hires a PR firm, they will give specific guidelines of what they expect from the firm. But, what the firm can do includes a wide array of options.

Many of the options could easily fit in more than one category. But here’s The Spin Cycle’s take. This area deals primarily with issues that could impact government generally or for specific areas.

» A PR firm can help anticipate possible outcomes and the best course of action to those outcomes using available information and how that information can be interpreted – including message development, tracking digital and social media regarding specific topics and training government employees about more effective use of and presentation to media.

» A PR firm can counsel management in a variety of ways. First, when the worst happens and everything needs to be focused on managing the crisis and flow of information. The goal is to ensure all the information is shared with the right people in the right order, as well as making the best use of the good that is being done in the process.

» Equally important are the day-to-day issues any entity faces, building rapport between individuals, departments and with the community that entity serves. That rapport can then be a useful tool when a crisis may arise. Also, there are issues that arise from time to time that need addressing in a way that allows calm heads to rule and keep tempers under control.

This is about marketing, fund-raising, employee engagement and how others see them, polling on issues and about departments, programs, or even a particular job title and the person holding it.

Research is customized to clarify and uncover public opinion as well as determining what changes need to be considered for better relations.

Effective government PR can be achieved by news releases, speech writing, event planning, lobbying, and any other work needed to accomplish the goal set by the entity.

New Mobile Ads Push Videos Based on News 

Harnessing mobile video is a major goal for marketers this year, as exemplified at the recent Digital Content NewFronts presentations. And as Snapchat and Facebook lure advertising dollars away from TV with new video options, smaller ad companies are following suit.

Target is the first advertiser to test a new type of mobile video ad – dubbed Kapsule – from ad company Kargo. As readers on websites like Extra TV and Hollywood Reporter scroll down the screen, a sponsored video player slides out of the right side of the page to recommend related content.

It’s a similar concept that publishers (including Adweek) already use on their desktop sites to drive traffic. First, the tool searches the article for keywords and pulls a video about the same topic from a publisher’s inventory.

The ad slides away if readers don’t touch it for a few seconds, but clicking on it expands the video to full screen, prompting a pre-roll ad to play before the publisher’s full-length clip begins.

Target is sponsoring the video promo – which includes branding on the slide-out tool in addition to pre-roll – through April. It has already used the format to promote Easter products like candy and cake decorations.

Theoretically, publishers that don’t have a lot of video will be able to monetize and drive traffic with the widget by partnering with other media companies in the future.

WSJ Video Team Cranks Out 40 Videos a Day

The Wall Street Journal is zealous about protecting its paywall, and with good reason — circulation revenue contributes nearly half of its total revenue, fueled by more than 900,000 digital subscribers. But with video, the Journal takes a broader view.

Advertiser demand for digital video is still strong, so publishers like the Journal (estimated to charge CPMs in the range of $50 to $75) are incentivized to get as many views as possible. So video sits in front of the paywall. Beyond that, the Journal also has been tweaking its formula to maximize the number of video views it gets. On the eve of its third NewFronts presentation, Andy Regal, senior executive producer for video at the Journal, shared how the publisher is making video work while staying true to its journalism and business goals.

Promotion on site

One big change is promotion. The Journal has about 40 full-time people dedicated to video and produces about 30 to 40 videos a day. The Journal has been getting about 6 million monthly video views on site over the past year, according to comScore (which doesn’t measure mobile video yet). But it trails archrival The New York Times, which has 75 full-time video staff and 18 million monthly video views by the end of 2014, up from 11 million in the beginning of the year.

Graphic treatment

News publishers have constraints that others don’t. Their traffic is, to a large extent, a function of the news cycle. News often isn’t visual in nature, so they don’t lend themselves to the video format. So the Journal has been trying to inject more graphics in videos to tell non-visual stories.

Interactive video

The Journal has also moved into interactive videos, like “Academy Awards: What to Watch for on Oscars Night” and “These YouTubers Get to Interview Obama About #SOTU.” These videos keep people on site longer by giving them other things to do while watching the video, such as read a story, sample infographics and read associated comments on Facebook and Twitter.

Keep it short

Getting shares is a way to get viewers to do your promotional work for you, so the Journal has been emphasizing shorter videos because it has found they’re more likely to be watched to the end and shared. The average video length is three minutes or less.

Platform plays

The rise of platforms has publishers trying to figure out how much of their content they should put on social media, where they can reach new audiences. While other publishers take the view that they need to be wherever the audience is, the Journal takes a more conservative stance. The WSJ uses 32 video-distribution partners including YouTube, AOL and even Apple TV, and it’s creating shorter-form video for the social networks including Facebook (see example below), Vine and Twitter, but it sees the primary focus of those as getting people to come to WSJ.com.

Handcuffed Mic | 6 Baltimore Police 

In a press conference last week, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that she found probable cause to charge six police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray. Officer Caesar Goodson, who drove the van in which Gray was catastrophically injured, has been charged with second-degree murder. The other officers face charges that include manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office, and false imprisonment.

“I assured [Gray’s] family that no one is above the law and that I would pursue justice on their behalf,” Mosby said, before saying that police did not establish probable cause for 25-year-old’s arrest. Though police found a knife on Gray after searching him, “the knife was not a switchblade, and is lawful under Maryland law.” Mosby said Gray indicated “at least twice” that he needed a medic – a request the officers did not respect. Instead, they responded to a second arrest stop in a “grossly negligent manner” while Gray was in need of medical help. The crowd broke out in cheers as Mosby announced the charges. “To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace,’” Mosby said, calling on protesters to maintain peace while she pursues justice through the courts. “To the youth of this city: I will seek justice on your behalf,” Mosby promised, calling for “structural and systemic changes.” All six of the officers are now in police custody, where they belong – and take a handcuffed mic.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

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