Category Archives: Digital

How Brands Are Embracing Emojis to Communicate

Words are the foundation on which public relations and marketing professionals base the majority of their communication for the brands and organizations they represent. While visuals are often used as enhancers to the written word, some brands are relying on emojis—icons or emoticons—to connect with their audience and tell their story in place of words.

The impact emojis have had on today’s generation has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this week, Oxford Dictionaries named the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji as its “Word of the Year.” Though it’s not technically a word, Oxford Dictionaries stated that emojis have been embraced as a nuanced form of expression, and that the chosen icon “best reflected the ethos, mood and preoccupations” of the year.


Brands have certainly been experimenting with the use of emojis as a language in their public relations and marketing campaigns this year in an attempt to connect with millenials. Here are a few examples of how emojis are transforming digital communications:

  • Chevrolet issued a press release written entirely in emojis and waited several days before decoding it for the audience. The move had people talking about the message, and made headlines for days—when it was released and when the message was revealed.
  • Domino’s Pizza debuted a “tweet to order” campaign, which directed customers to order pizza by simply tweeting or texting a pizza emoji after they create a pizza profile.
  • The World Wildlife Fund launched its #EndangeredEmoji campaign on Twitter, aimed at helping to save animals from extinction. The charity highlighted 17 emojis representing endangered species and encouraged users to donate each time they’ve used one.

What do you think about using emojis in professional forms of communication?

Tools of the Trade: How the New Google Calendar App Can Simplify Schedule Management

Earlier this week, Google rolled out a new Calendar app for the Android 5.0 Lollipop mobile operating system. The app acts like your very own personal assistant, which is certainly helpful in the communications industry, given that our daily calendars are regularly filled with client meetings and conference calls.

Through the app’s “Assists” smart word suggestion, which is similar to Google Search, as you begin to enter one of your contacts into your calendar, the app will suggest those contacts listed in your phone that are similar to what you’ve started to enter. If you begin to enter a location, the app will also recognize places similar to what you type. Select a specific location, and the app will follow by adding the address and phone number for you based on what is currently listed in Google. It’s just that convenient! You won’t have to switch between apps to copy and paste information, and you’re saving time by manually entering less information into your phone.

In everyday life, we also spend a lot of time booking our events online these days – dinner and hotel reservations, concert tickets, flights, etc. – and we receive email confirmations for those bookings. The app connects to your Gmail account, and keeps tabs on the things that you purchase so that when you receive an email confirmation, the details of the event will automatically become events in your calendar. What’s even more helpful is that if you receive an email notification regarding something like a flight delay, your calendar app will notify you through a push notification on your phone and update the details that you had previously included in the app.

With the “Schedule View,” you’ll be able to scroll through your entire schedule, which includes photos and maps of the places you’re going. Whether you’re using this for work or for home, it should prove to simplify your schedule.

Check out the tutorial of the new app to see how it works. Google plans to release another version of the app for iOS users at a later date.

Why a video for your business is important

Why produce a video? That’s a question that’s been asked by/within companies for a long time. “Give me one good reason why I should spend the money to make a video of my business…” remains a frequently-heard CEO challenge.

Well, there’s more than one reason! A quality video is one of the best marketing tools that a business can have when competing with other companies for clients or projects. A well-produced video can be used as:

  • An introduction to your company designed to attract potential new clients
  • A reintroduction for absentee clients who need a reason to become active clients again
  • A stronger, more memorable impression of your company and its services
  • Company collateral when prospecting for new business

Truthfully, some of the reasons for not making a corporate video in the past—high cost, slow turnover and viewing restrictions— were quite valid, but today’s digital age has radically changed many of the standard steps involved with making a corporate video. High quality videos can be shot on many devices and edited (with voice-over) on a laptop, and former month-long projects have been reduced to several days.

Long gone are the days of VHS tapes/players—videos now can be watched on the internet, PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets, making it easier to present and distribute your content.

We’ll explore the type of content that should be included in company videos in a future blog post. In the meantime, contact us if you want to learn more about creating a video for your business/organization!

(c) Can Stock Photo

Avoiding the Hashtag Hijack & Other Social Media Flops

There’s no question that social media has become one of the most effective ways for brands to connect with their consumers and the general public. However, if it’s not approached correctly, an attempt at social engagement can quickly backfire and get you noticed for all the wrong reasons.

Social media fails and flops occur more often than you think. Here are a few things to consider before hitting the “Post” button:

  1. Know your public perception—Once you’ve come up with a social media campaign or activity, make sure you think about every scenario that could occur. Browse social media posts to see what people already are saying about your company. Is it good? Bad? Indifferent? Brands that have hoped to engage with the masses on Twitter have fallen victim to the hashtag hijack, where users make negative comments about a company using a specific hashtag intended for positive publicity. For example, J.P. Morgan called off a Q&A last year when users posted hostile jokes and vulgar questions under the #AskJPM hashtag in an attempt to blast the bank’s ethics. Similarly, the NYPD’s #myNYPD photo campaign—intended to highlight photos of officers with the general public—backfired earlier this year when people began posting photos illustrating police brutality/misconduct.
  1. Don’t post controversial things—When you’re communicating with someone for the first time, a general rule is to avoid talking about controversial subject matters. The same could be said  for brands on social media. By staying away from controversy, brands remain objective and don’t polarize potential customers. Last month, the Washington Redskins organization encouraged fans to tweet Democratic Senator Harry Reid on Twitter using the #RedskinsPride hashtag, a move stemming from the controversy revolving around the origins of the team’s name. While many people used the hashtag as intended, the majority used it for anti-Redskins tweets.
  1. Check your hashtag before you post—It’s happened many times—companies don’t read their hashtag in every way possible before sending it out. Our brains tend to fill in the blanks, and mashing words together for the purposes of a hashtag could lead to the creation of a word with a totally different (or inappropriate) meaning. Search the internet for “hashtag fails” if you want some examples. Capitalizing the first letter of each individual word could help people read the hashtag as intended.
  1. Do your research & don’t panic—Just this week, Delta posted a pro-USA tweet after Team USA won its World Cup match against Ghana. The tweet included a photo of the Statue of Liberty with two points and a picture of a giraffe with one point. When people began pointing out that there were no giraffes in Ghana, Delta attempted to apologize—only the tweet had a typo. It read, “We’re sorry for our choice of photo on our precious ( instead of previous) tweet.”  Do your homework and make sure you’re posting accurate information. And if you do fumble, don’t panic. Take the time to construct a clear, concise message in an attempt to fix your error.

Do you have any tips for avoiding a social media fail? Let us know in the comments!

Understanding Stock Photos and Images

In a recent blog post, we discussed what you should know about purchasing usage rights for photography. Sometimes, however, all you need is a simple image to enhance your website, newsletter, blog, ad, coffee mug, or…you get the idea.

This is where stock image agencies come into play. While stock photos have their faults, they offer plenty of benefits. Here are the basics that you should know.


  • Quick and easy – Stock photos and images are ready for immediate use with a few clicks of your mouse.
  • Variety – The popular stock photo agencies provide easy access to 8 to 13 million images. Check out Can Stock Photo, iStock, Thinkstock, etc.
  • Inexpensive – Stock photos are affordable, starting at just a few bucks. To make things even easier, stock agencies offer several payment options, such as the ability to buy a single photo, packs of credits, or subscriptions. Prices are based on size and resolution, so you won’t be paying for a high-res image that’s suitable for a poster, when you only need it for your blog.
  • Licenses – A stock photo usually comes with a standard license that allows it to be reproduced up to 500,000 times. Extended licenses also are available if necessary.


  • Not a perfect fit – While you can search pages upon pages of photos, you may not find exactly what you want.
  • Can be dated – Pay attention to any clothing or technology that’s pictured, as they can quickly make the photo obsolete.
  • Not exclusive use – Remember, someone else has access to the same image. It could get awkward if your competitor used the same image in their ad. More on this below.
  • Restrictions – With a standard license, most stock photos come with some restrictions. For example, they can’t be used on merchandise with the intent to sell. Buying an extended license eliminates many restrictions.

Royalty free vs. Rights-managed

  • Royalty free images are paid for once, and they can be used how and as often as you like (up to 500,000 impressions with a standard license). However, you will have non-exclusive use.
  •  Rights-managed images are essentially rented for a fixed fee per use. With a rights-managed image, there are still some restrictions on how you can use it, such as for a limited time or print run, and possibly only in a specific geographic region. However, you can purchase exclusive rights, so that no one else can use the image while you are “renting” it.

Questions? Leave us a comment.

How Brands Are Using Snapchat

Snapchat, the free photo- and video-sharing app that allows users to share self-destructing photos/brief videos (“snaps”), is the latest social sharing app being used to drive brand awareness and grow brand loyalty.

Brands that are targeting a younger demographic, who are more likely to use Snapchat, are finding the app especially useful. Snapchat’s video and “My Story” features, in which a user puts together a series of snaps that can be viewed by all their “friends” for a 24-hour window, are the most common ways that brands are reaching out to their customers. Both these features let brands share more information than one single picture can.

Brands are sharing promotions, launching new products and sharing behind-the-scenes footage for those people who follow them on Snapchat. The common denominator between brands that use Snapchat seems to be the brand’s voice – young, fun-loving and they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Taco Bell chat

A story from Taco Bell featured on Snapchat.

The unique benefit of using Snapchat to grow brand awareness is the focus the app requires from users– Snapchat’s users are consciously clicking on snaps or stories to see what brands are sharing. Unlike Instagram, Twitter or Facebook where users can just scroll over a brand’s post or paid ad, users are actively seeking out brand content on Snapchat. Where else on the Internet does your content get that much attention?

Understanding Usage Rights for Photos and Images

At lot of creative planning and thought goes into developing a newsletter, brochure, ad, or other marketing collateral. You and/or your designer probably spend a considerable amount of time selecting the perfect visuals for your work, which almost always involves “buying” photos.

First, let’s be clear that when you purchase a photo from a photographer, you’re actually “licensing” it for use within specific parameters, unless you buy its copyright. When negotiating with a photographer, it’s important to accurately disclose how you will be using the photo to avoid paying for usage rights that you’ll never use.

Here are some general usage terms to cover:

Market Categories: How will you use the photo?
Editorial use includes using the photo for educational or journalistic purposes, such as newspaper or magazine articles.
Commercial use involves using the photos to sell or promote a product or service, and is the most expensive category. However, if you are using the photo for promotional efforts, but not in a print or digital ad or billboard, you can normally fine tune your needs and lower the cost.
Retail use refers to photos that are purchased or commissioned for personal use, such as family portraits, weddings, etc.

Usage Rights: How many times and in how many ways will you be using the image?
Limited: If you plan on using the photo in one brochure and printing a specific quantity, then you probably only need to purchase limited rights.
Unlimited: Unlimited usage rights grant you the ability to use the photo an unlimited number of times for the uses that you’ve negotiated with the copyright owner. However, unlimited usage rights do not give you the ability to transfer rights to a third party for their use.
Copyright: If you want to own the photo and do whatever you want with it, then you can purchase its copyright for a hefty fee.

Exclusivity: Do you want others to be able to use the same photo?
Non-Exclusive rights mean that a photo can be licensed to other people or companies at any time.
Exclusive-to-Industry rights mean that a photo cannot be licensed to anyone else within the same industry.
Exclusive rights mean that a photo cannot be licensed to anyone else during the length of your license.

Time Period: How long will you be using the photo? Licensing agreements typically last for one year unless otherwise specified.

Geographic Region: Will the image be used within your company, city, state, nationally, or internationally? As the audience size increases, so does the licensing cost.

Lastly, remember that images—like music—are intellectual property, and any image seen in print or on the Internet is protected by U.S. copyright law, with or without a copyright notice. This means that images found through a Google search cannot be legally used without purchasing usage rights or acquiring permission from the owner—no matter how harmless your blog or tweet may seem.

In future blogs, we’ll take a look at stock photos and where to find images covered by a Creative Commons license.

Questions? Leave them in the comment section.

Traditional Advertising in the Digital Age

The dictionary describes the word traditional as, “something that has been used by society, or a particular group, for an extended period of time.”  In the field of marketing, that definition can be accurately applied to advertising.

Traditional advertising has been in use since the earliest days of modern civilization.  Posters on a wall, leaflets, rudimentary newspapers and even the heralded town crier all existed then—many have survived and grown to this very day with the sole purpose of disseminating targeted information to the general public.  And by doing that, traditional advertising has played a vital role in global history.

But how is traditional advertising faring within our current digital age?  How has the time and preparation required by the standard approach to advertising been impacted by today’s faster, easier and less complicated approach to “stating your case?”  Simply put, traditional advertising is alive and well, and it’s even co-existing quite nicely with web-based methods of marketing.

The secret to obtaining the highest degree of results from both forms of advertising is allowing them to work together for your common goal — profits.  Web advertising alone will not necessarily achieve the desired results. However, incorporating your website and/or social media URLs into your traditional outreach campaign (TV, outdoor, print ads, direct mail, etc.) will increase the odds of attracting customers. Once consumers make it to your website, Facebook page, Twitter page, etc., the web content could hold their attention and increase the chances of new business relationships.

So if you’re on the fence regarding where to direct your advertising revenue for the foreseeable future, you may feel confident in the knowledge that the strategic combination of traditional advertising — utilizing references that drive people to your attractive, informative website and social media pages — will result in increased brand awareness and greater profitability for your business.


Will This Photo Work?

In the advertising and PR realm, that’s a question that gets tossed around quite a bit. Sometimes, the answer is no.

There’s a scene in an episode of Eastbound & Down that’s a little too bold for me to link to here, but it cracks me up every time. In the scene, Kenny Powers is looking at a banner that has his pixelated face on it. He says it looks like the designer used a JPEG file, when he should have used a TIFF. As Kenny knows, different file types and resolutions are suited for certain uses.

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / italianestro

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / italianestro

Here are some basic guidelines:

Photos for print: Whether you are developing a brochure or sending a photo to a magazine editor to place with an article, you should send a high-res file. Typically, this means a photo that is at least 300 dpi (dots per inch) at 4-by-6 inches. A TIFF file is ideal, but a JPEG can work.

Photos for web: For a website, social media page, or an e-newsletter, a 72 dpi photo is adequate for multiple reasons. First, computer monitors can’t display images at 300 dpi. Second, a low-res photo—or one that has been optimized for the web—has a smaller file size, meaning it can load faster. The files that work best for the web are JPEG, PNG, or GIFs.

Save the original: Remember that you can always lower a photo’s resolution (which deletes some of data/dots per inch), but you can’t increase it (restore deleted data).

When in doubt, ask: If you are unsure if a photo is suitable, ask for specific requirements.

There are many other topics to discuss regarding photos and images—such as the differences between raster and vector; JPEG, TIFF, GIF, and PNG; RGB and CMYK; and dpi and ppi—but those are topics for another day.