KARMA SPOTLIGHT: giving non-profit organizations a little extra PR

With shows such as “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and “Sesame Street,” PBS has been at the forefront of quality children’s programming. These shows were some of my favorite growing up, and were at the same time extremely educational. They taught me basic shapes, colors…they freakin taught me English when the only language I knew at the time was Korean. Impressive and commendable for a 30-minute broadcast, no? So thanks PBS. I would have been a complete social outcast in Kindergarten and thrown into some ESL class otherwise.

PBS is not solely comprised of children’s shows. It also has some of the most informative and accurate news coverage.

“Sixty-seven percent of Fox viewers had a wrong perception about links between Iraq and al-Qaeda (16 percent for the PBS-NPR audience). On the existence of weapons of mass destruction, 33 percent of Fox viewers had the wrong perception (11 percent for PBS-NPR). On world opinion, 35 percent of Fox viewers had misperceptions (5 percent of PBS-NPR viewers). In all three cases, the misperception percentages decreased when moving from Fox to CBS to NBC to CNN to ABC, to print media, to PBS-NPR.”

– William F. Fore, “Truth, Lies, and the Media”Karma public relations

Since PBS does not rely on advertising for funding, it could always use your support to keep their programming alive. So donate when you get the chance. Get a free tote bag or umbrella or whatever it is they give out to patrons these days and enjoy the wonders of public television for many years to come.

AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY – RELAY FOR LIFE

One in three people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. It’s a sad truth, but thanks to organizations like the American Cancer Society, there are ways we can help. Take a look at the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life – an annual event that gives communities across the nation an opportunity to celebrate cancer survivors, remember and honor those who battled cancer, as well as raise awareness and funds for cancer research. Karma public relations

Each year, tens of thousands of Relay For Life teams gather at local high schools and other venues for this event. Teams commit to having at least one representative walking along the set course at all times for a span of up to 24 hours. They also fundraise before and during the event. Some teams choose to sell baked goods while others bring pillows, blankets, playing cards, etc. and rent these items out during the event. I even saw an ROTC team carry people around the track on a stretcher for $2.

Relay For Life also sells “luminarias” which are basically candles placed in white bags that people can buy in honor of a loved one who has passed away from cancer. These candles are lit at night during the remembrance ceremony and are used to spell out the words “hope,” so no one will forget why we are walking. It’s an incredibly moving ceremony that is both heart-wrenching and beautiful to witness.

Relay For Life is an amazing event that I strongly encourage readers to participate in. Not only does it raise money for cancer research, but it’s actually a lot of fun too. You may lose out on some sleep, but you won’t regret a minute of it.

College tuition costs are insane. Period. And in the financial chaos of paying for a dorm room and meal plan, many students find it difficult to pay for one of the most important college necessities – textbooks. That’s where Beans For Books comes into play. This student-run, non-profit organization awards approximately $10,000 in college textbook grants to students each semester so that they can pay for books. Interested students simply fill out an application form online and if they are chosen to be a grant recipient, they send in a list of books needed for that semester. From there, Beans For Books does everything else starting with researching for the best prices, purchasing the books, and finally shipping the books to the grant recipients. It’s that easy.

But where do a bunch of students running a non-profit get $10,000 for books, let alone in general? From coffee shops, of course. By agreeing to sell “Beans For Books” blends, coffee shops receive increased sales, both parties receive extra PR as well as media coverage, and $1.50 of each bag of “Beans For Books” coffee funds the grants. It’s a win-win situation.

“We need to open a Beans For Books Chapter on every college campus and replicate our fundraising efforts. It’s clear that textbooks are very expensive and students need help. Beans For Books provides that help.”

-Dave Lanning, the founder of Beans For Books (from Forbes.com)

Whether you’re a student in need of some textbooks, a coffee connoisseur that would like to donate to the cause, or are simply curious about how these high school students, I repeat HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, created a non-profit organization, check out http://beansforbooks.org/blog/.

Last year, I stumbled upon a website called FreeRice.com, and I must say it’s pretty awesome. Basically, you answer some multiple choice questions, which are surprisingly addictive, and for every right answer, the website donates 20 grains of rice through the UN World Food Program to end world hunger. The original questions are on vocabulary, but if that doesn’t interest you there are different subjects you can choose ranging from geography to Spanish to chemistry to art. FreeRice.com even has a Facebook App.

Here’s a sample question:

If you answered (d) keep, you are correct. And if you had done it on FreeRice.com, you could have given someone 20 grains of rice with a click of a mouse.

Some people wonder if 20 grains of rice at a time can really make a difference. Well, consider this. Since FreeRice.com started in October 2007, it has donated 46,187,108,610 grains of rice! That’s a lot of rice.

“What if just knowing what a word meant could help feed hungry people around the world? Well, at FreeRice it does . . . the totals have grown exponentially.”

So take some time to feed your brain AND feed the world. Go to FreeRice.com.

Truth is by far my favorite non-profit campaign EVER. I love its creative, in-your-face ads that don’t hold back on the dark facts behind smoking and the tobacco industry.

Here is an example of a Truth Campaign ad.

Karma public relations

“YEE HAW! You Too Can Be An Independent, Rugged, Macho-looking Dead Guy.”

Not only has Truth become iconic for its ads and demonstrations, but it has also been extremely effective as a youth smoking preventive campaign – the largest in the nation, in fact. It is also the ONLY national campaign that is not produced by the tobacco industry.

Here are some facts. According to the American Journal of Public Health, 22% of the decline in smoking between 2000 and 2002 can be directly credited to the Truth Campaign. And in September 2007, a study by RTI International found that the Truth Campaign may be changing teens’ perception of how common smoking is in their age group. Crazy stuff.

“We’re not anti-smoker, or anti-smoking. We’re just anti-manipulations. With that in mind, we try to ‘out’ Big Tobacco’s tactics so everyone knows what they’re up to.”

– truth® (from the American Legacy Foundation website, the non-profit behind Truth)


karma public relations

Karma, Connections, and PR Success

By Peter Shankman

So I'm sitting here in Miami International Airport, that a) doesn't have wireless, and b) doesn't have a President's Club, and c) is just really annoying. I'm waiting on my flight back to NYC, but after getting to the airport REALLY early, hoping for a shot at getting standby on an earlier flight, it doesn't look like that's gonna happen because the earlier flight is overbooked by 13 people. So looks like this rent-a-seat is my home for the next seven hours. Oh, happy day.

Anyhow. I wrote a letter last week. I sent it out to a lot of journalists. The results surprised even me.

The letter wasn't a pitch for any of my clients. Rather, it was an introduction. I told them how I ran a PR firm in NYC, and because it was cold and snowing out, I decided to sit on my couch with my two overweight cats, and compose a letter of good PR Karma. I told reporters to come to me when they needed a source, or were trying to find a specific person in a specific industry. I wasn't offering myself up, mind you, but rather, my clients, and more importantly, huge amount of friends/colleagues/contacts that I've accumulated over the years.

Basically, I was being nice.

The response blew me away. Over 400 reporters emailed me back—most thanking me and telling me they'd file me for when they needed me. Others, though—and I'm talking seriously major players—emailed and called me within 5 minutes of my sending the email, not only to say thanks, but to ask for sources. Some examples included, "I need someone having a covenant marriage. Do you know anyone?" Or, "Peter, great email. Who do you know who can talk about the latest in men's tuxedo fashions?"

And this is where friends came in. Covenant marriage? Would you believe, my friend Alan. Men's fashions? Well, I used to date the lead buyer at Calvin Klein Men, she might know someone.

So I went to work. And, shock of shocks, with the exception of one, I was able to find 14 sources for fourteen different reporters. In the process, I got one client into the Associated Press, and another one into Newsweek.

But you're thinking, "2 hits for clients? That means 12 hits for non-clients. What did that get you?"

That, my friend, got me stored Karma.

That's exciting. What's stored Karma?

Simply put, stored Karma is exactly as it sounds. I helped out a bunch of reporters. Why? Because I could. What did it get me? Nothing, right away. Or did it. In fact, it got me a TON. I now know over 400 reporters—not personally, mind you, but I'm in their heads—mostly as "the weird guy who they can go to for sources," or "that guy who sent the weird email that made me laugh about his overweight cats."

In other words, stored Karma. I can go to these reporters sometime in the future, and instead of having to pitch them blind, I can pitch them with "Hey there, I sent you an email a few months ago about sourcing me and my overweight cats. Would you mind terribly if I sent you a pitch? I think I might have something up your alley."

"OK, I get it now. So why are you telling me this? I work in Marketing, or Advertising, or electronic media, or some other field where I don't talk to reporters all day. What does this have to do with me?"

I'd say, from a bigger picture, everything. When was the last time you called a client to say "hi?" Or just to shoot the breeze? "Hey, how's everything going? Was just thinking about you, thought I'd say hi." Send a client a freshly packed pound of Arctic Salmon. Why? Because you can. Don't wait to sign the next big deal, just do it now. For kicks.

Or what about sending them an email? "Hey, I was reading Ad Age, and saw this article—thought you might find it interesting."

We're so involved with our day-to-day crap, that we don't stop and realize that with the random exception of the few people who get up from their chairs when a lady sits down, cordiality is pretty much dead. Somehow, we've all gotten into that "every man for himself, gimmie, gimmie, gimmie, I got mine" mentality, and we rarely look up from it.

I take this psychotic Navy SEAL's workout 4 times a year, for two weeks at a time. (www.shankman.com/sealpt.htm). During the first class of each workout, Instructor Jack Walston, a former SEAL, tells us that the "I got mine" attitude won't cut it. And he makes us pay dearly when someone tries to do less than everyone else.

Maybe that's something to consider. Maybe.

Or maybe my cats just need to lose some weight.


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Social Media Has Entered Telecom

This post was first published by Hanah Johnson on March Communications’ blog, PR Nonsense, and may be viewed here.

Social media permeates nearly every aspect of our waking life – Facebook connects us to our friends, LinkedIn directs us to career contacts, Foursquare locates our favorite eating spots, etc. Now, social media is conquering yet another consumer arena – mobile data.

Karma public relationsAmsterdam-based startup Karma is pioneering “social telecom” to make 4G data more accessible. Its founders envision a mobile broadband connection that’s open to all and lets you pay as you go, no matter what carrier or device you’re using. And, as if that’s not enough, they’re pushing to make this kind of access completely free.

According to an article on The Verge, the idea is that you purchase a Karma hotspot at $69 and then pay an additional $14 for every GB of data used. Your Karma hotspot then turns into an open Wi-Fi network, allowing strangers in the vicinity to log onto your network via Facebook. After being greeted by your personalized profile page, visitors can then access 100mb of free data usage.

Now, you’re probably wondering why someone would shell out the cash to purchase their own hotspot, only to provide strangers with free access. But, here’s the catch – you, as the hotspot owner, get 100 MB credited back to your account for every user who logs on to your network. Essentially, this dual-purpose device and service rewards you for sharing your data. Hey – it’s karma, and what goes around, comes around.

Powered by the Clearwire Network, this 4G data provider aims to be something of a Dropbox, but for mobile data instead of storage. With the widespread emergence of smartphones and tablets, users seem to be yearning for an increasingly accessible, instantaneous data connection just to keep up with the immense maturation we’ve seen in mobile products over the past several years.

So, how does this provider compare to our existing carriers? According to a recent report, the average smartphone user consumes 221 MB of data per month. On Karma, this would translate to roughly $3.09 in data usage per month, a significantly cheaper option when compared to Verizon, who charges $50 for 1 GB of data on its shared plan, and AT&T, whose data plans charge $20 for 300 MB of data, with an additional $50 to convert your device into a mobile hotspot.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see how the nation’s mainstream carriers receive this mobile innovation and how willing other networks with national reach will be to support them.

Would you buy into Karma’s data sharing plan?


Pinterest for PR, Social, and SEO Karma

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With more than 70 million users, Pinterest is more than just fun and games…and photos. It’s a fantastic opportunity to drive targeted audience traffic, build community, and boost sales.

In fact, many retailers are finding Pinterest to be the top source of their sales and website traffic. Others are leveraging the social network by making it easier for users to share their content. And, one of the best benefits of using Pinterest (from a community manager’s humble opinion) is that you can manage your Pinterest account in one hour or less each week! More on that later from John Rampton.

If you’re not sure that Pinterest works for your brand, check out these stats and case studies from Matt Siltala’s SMX Las Vegas presentation:

Conference speakers and Pinterest aficionados Krista Neher, John Rampton, Matt Siltala, Cynthia Johnson, and Stephen Spencer share some of their top tips and tricks to optimize the value of Pinterest for brands of any size. They were so great that I just had to share them.

Without further ado…

Have “Pin-worthy” Images on Your Website

Make sure each page on your website has a “pin-worthy” image. If you have a blog, too, each post should have at least one “gotta pin it” image that at least slightly hints at what the article is about.

Social PR Secret: Create beautiful vertical editorial images using the Canva design tool and put them first in your blog posts.

Here are some examples of easy-to-design, but extremely shareable visuals that were made using Canva. You can find more of the Canva Pinterest profile.

Your brand’s Pinterest account isn’t just useful for promoting content; it’s also an excellent research tool. Find ideas and inspiration for your brand’s content by using the search tool. For example, if you’re a local wine shop looking to create social media content outside of product shots, you could use Pinterest to search “funny wine quotes” and start sharing that type of content on your boards.

Social PR Secret: If it’s already on Pinterest, there’s a high probability that it’s what your followers want to see!

Optimize Pinterest Pin Titles and Descriptions

To get the most out of your Pinterest content, make sure that your meta titles and descriptions are optimized with keywords and hashtags. If someone manually pins something directly from your website and the text isn’t already filled in, there’s a high probability that they won’t add any and, even if they do, it won’t be optimized for people searching in Pinterest. The “pinner” is doing you a favor by giving you exposure to their followers, so the least you can do is fill in some of the blanks for them.

Create Pinterest Boards from the Consumer’s Perspective

As much as we’d love to think that people are super interested in following our brand and hanging on our every word, that’s not always the case. What’s going to stand out in the sea of business boards? Boards and pins that look like other users’ own boards.

Think quirky and cute titles like this board from Fabletics called “All Things Yoga,” where they pin quick workouts. Boards called “Our News,” “Our Products,” or “Our Blogs” are boring and are simply not going to produce the results you want.

Have an Industry News Pinterest Board

Pin news content related to your industry or local market, even if it’s not your own content. Your board can then become the go-to resource for your community (and even journalists), positioning you as an expert source in your industry.

Comment on Popular Pinterest Pins

One great (albeit, time-consuming) way to increase your amount of followers on Pinterest is to comment on popular pins. Only comment when you can add something useful to the conversation, though. Then, all of the people who’ve commented above you will be notified. If they like what you posted, they might even follow you.

SOCIAL PR BONUS! One Hour a Week Plan for Pinterest Publicity

If you want to stay active on Pinterest, but don’t have the time or resources to physically pin, post, follow, and comment everyday, there are tools for that. Check out Postris to identify trends in your niche and find inspiration for what people are searching for.

Rampton shares this formula for spending one hour a week to get the most out of Pinterest:

  1. Use ViralTag to schedule pins for the next 7 days.
  2. Go to Pinterest, visit 30 to 50 pins that are popular to your niche and comment.
  3. Next go to NinjaPinner and have it follow people that add you.
  4. Go into Google Analytics and check your stats.

And there you have it, folks! Pinterest tips and tricks from the some of the top visual social media industry leaders.

Are you going to commit to a Pinterest social strategy? What tips will you put into action right now? Share in your comments below!