July 27, 2017
By Jay Hickman
We start with a paean to the humble press release.
The first press release was issued in 1906 by the Pennsylvania Railroad, under the direction of public relations expert Ivy Lee, to provide media with an on-the-ground account of facts about the 1906 Atlantic City train wreck. Since then, it has become a staple in marketing promotion, public affairs, and politics.
As we arrive at the 111th anniversary of the press release, it seems appropriate to examine this marketing tool and its optimal uses.
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May 4, 2014
By Natalie Burg
Roy Peter Clark remembers when his mentor and editor of the St. Petersburg Times Gene Patterson began “preaching for the perfection of an ‘explanatory journalism’” in the 1980s. Clark himself wrote an essay on the topic, “Making Hard Facts Easy Reading” for the Washington Journalism Review in 1984 — the same year Ezra Klein was born.
Listening to online buzz, one might get the idea that Klein, Nate Silver and their contemporaries invented the idea of writing news that explains the news, even though the first Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism was handed out in 1985. Though Klein was quick to clarify in the comments of a recent article by Clark that he isn’t trying to take credit for the existence of explanatory journalism, he and a handful of others are undeniably on the forefront of explanatory journalism’s resurgence. Klein’s Vox, The New York Times’ The Upshot, Bloomberg’s QuickTake, and Silver’s newly re-launched FiveThirtyEight are just the crest of the wave.
What’s behind it? Let us explain.
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April 19, 2014
By Mark Drapeau, Ph.D.
Not too long ago, Lululemon was a revered brand. Now it’s not, and sales have declined accordingly. Not so long ago, Apple could do no wrong. Now people wonder out loud if it’s innovative anymore. With constant connectedness and infinite information, consumers have never been so fickle about their choices.
According to the American Marketing Association, a brand is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.” That sounds like something from orientation day at Sterling Cooper Draper Price. What does the term “brand” actually mean in practice?
A brand is essentially the one sentence people say about you behind your back. This practical “street” definition based on actual human interaction applies equally well to people, products, and companies. For example, someone might describe Lululemon to their friend as “absolutely the best place to buy yoga gear, ever” or they might say “people say Lululemon great, but I’ve bought a few things and they fall apart, totally overrated.” Someone might describe you to their professional acquaintance as “the smartest person in New York on things related to creativity in advertising, you must talk to them” or “too cerebral and academic, I’m not sure they’d be the right fit for your advertising company.”
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April 18, 2014
By Anthony Tjan
Some people have a way of making the complex clear. They know who they are, why they do what they do, and where they want to go. Because they have internalized all this, they are able to sharply crystallize ideas and vision. They speak in simple, relatable terms. And they can get a lot accomplished.
Making your words understandable and inspirational isn’t about dumbing them down. Instead, it requires bringing in elements such as anecdote, mnemonic, metaphor, storytelling, and analogy in ways that connect the essence of a message with both logic and emotion. Almost everyone leading or creating has a vision, but the challenge is often expressing it in ways that relate and connect. Quick, think of some former Presidents of the United States and presidential candidates. Which ones are most memorable? Which ones are most likable? Which ones won? The leaders who stick in your mind are likely the ones who humanize their message and deliver it in ways that connect with everyone at some level, in turn inspiring others to relate to them while better appreciating the mission at hand.
I have enormous respect for poets and writers who are able to touch our souls and enhance our understanding of concepts and ideas by writing simply and straightforwardly. Take, for example, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman — the tale of a tragic hero, Willy Loman, whose fallibility lies in his lack of self-awareness. The play’s enduring power comes from its straightforward telling of the human story — our aspirations and disappointments and how we deal with them. There is something in it for almost everyone to relate to.
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