Pepsi Refresh

•December 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Cause-related marketing is making a buzz with the news that Pepsi is foregoing the Superbowl.

“Under the program, Pepsi will award grant money for community projects proposed and selected by consumers, such as helping high-school students publish books to develop their writing skills.” -wsj


This is how marketing and corporate social responsibility combine to create profit–or at least, positive word-of-mouth.

It is also a bang-for-your-buck situation that directly improves quality of life.

In this economy, this move is sparklingly brilliant: Coke is spending millions and millions on an ad that might entertain an audience for a few minutes.

Pepsi, on the other hand, is spending that money to help people, people in need, people who aren’t watching the superbowl for entertainment, maybe people who can’t even afford to buy pepsi. But now, don’t you feel better as a consumer buying Pepsi? A move that will support a company that supports the public–not the NFL and CBS?

That is how Pepsi wants you to think.

The social-responsibility model of marketing allows companies to show that they have more concerns than profits. Particularly in a financial environment where Americans are wary of trusting big corporations that need bailed out, this strategy shows that Pepsi is monitoring the pulse of its audience–and its potential audience.

This is less, or should be less, about the Superbowl ads than it is about an entirely different strategy toward reaching and engaging consumers. Pepsi is moving beyond the somewhat juvenile advertising world of Superbowl ads and creating a relationship with a valued segment of its audience.

Its warm and fuzzy and socially responsibly. Maybe not as funny–but it’s going to last longer than the water cooler talks Monday morning



•December 11, 2009 • 1 Comment

Well hello there, Google Zeitgeist. Nice to see you again:

Every year, Google releases data on the most popular searches of the year. It shouldn’t be surprising that terms like aig and michael jackson and swine flu topped the list in various categories.

What might be surprising–it surprised me–are the results for the local searches. Google also broke down the top ten popular searches in a given geographical area, like major U.S. cities. The break out shows what is important in a particular city.

In Indianapolis to top search was msdwt. Msdwt? You would think it would be the colts, or peyton manning. But no–msdwt won out. Metropolitan School District of Washington Township. A school system. Second place? iarbed. Hm? It’s an intranet for IU School of Medicine faculty, students and staff. Coming in third? epike. Metropolitan School District of Pike Township.

The top three searches went to public school entities. And then, No. 6 went to Ivy tech. Four of the top ten searches in Indianapolis directed people to schools.

And yet, it is the schools that often see fewer followers on twitter and facebook (see previous post, please).

Clearly, Google is pointing out that schools have an audience on the internet. This is the perfect situation to attempt to capture that audience while they are on the computer, in front of the glowing screen, and create a following–not just a search term. If people are searching for these school systems, they are most likely visiting the site for the school or school system. The school system must ensure that it is allowing that visitor to engage with the content.

Most people are looking for information about the school–maybe it is lunch menus, or homework assignments. Schools can then take this information and create interactive sites that continually lead people back to it, which will in turn create an online community for a physical place that already has a real community established.

Schools can start with buttons to offer visitors the opportunity to make the site their home page. does it. So can epike. As a home page, the visitors are given the opportunity to check out any news about the school or school system every time a window is opened. No more searching–it’s instant information.

Aside from home page buttons, schools can offer twitter and facebook connections from the home site. Students and their parents can engage with the school in yet another way. It is obvious that the audience is connected. The schools just need to keep them connected, keep them coming back, make them feel welcome, and provide a gathering place for an exchange of information that is not only the carpool pickup line or the PTA meeting.

It must be observed that msdwt and pike are more suburban townships. IPS–Indianapolis Public Schools–is not listed in the top 10 and it would be interesting to see why. As the largest school district in the state, and located in Indianapolis, why is IPS not drawing the same crowds? Is the homepage already bookmarked? Or do students not have computers at home? Many aspects of public education and home life combine to create this difficult problem.

Zeitgeist gives an interesting, inside look at what people care about the most, and I consider it a wonderful thing that education tops that list.

Bookface, plus tweets.

•November 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment


“Government tweets, but few care”

Fort Wayne’s Journal Gazette recently reported that local government in Fort Wayne has done what many have already–joined social networking sites to reach audiences and publics.

But the article seems to come to the conclusion that not many of those social networks are very big, or very influential. To piggy back on the last post, to be successful with social media, an organization must interact with its audience and with the public.

For example, Fort Wayne Community Schools had 141 people following it on Twitter and 679 on Facebook as of Wednesday. The district serves more than 30,000 students. Allen County government had 418 followers on Twitter and 159 on Facebook despite serving a population of more than 340,000 people. The Journal Gazette had 439 followers on Twitter and 516 on Facebook.

The numbers look abysmal. Some may wonder why the organizations even bother to talk to such an insignificant percent of their overall public. The Journal Gazette only really touches on three reasons why the audiences may be so small: competition, niche markets, and a city not on twitter.

But one of the most significant reasons for audience growth is interaction. Has FWCS been searching its mentions and following those who comment on the school system, or education in general? Has Allen County government reached out to similar organizations to share best practices? Does the Journal Gazette only serve the public by blasting out updates?

Social networks–twitter and facebook–exist because there are conversations. Traditional media is floundering because the method of telling the story is just not all the people want anymore. They are used to interacting and creating–and sustaining–a relationship with someone else. Twitter and FAcebook are dynamic. Content changes, unlike information set out in the newspaper, the school newsletter, or a press release.

Organizations can’t just be present. They can’t just tweet a lot. They have to make sure they connect to the audience, and create a reason for the audience to want to get information from them and have a conversation with them.



Book Face, the popular social networking site (thanks, Jim Halpert)

•November 1, 2009 • 1 Comment

I started a new job this week, making last week and this week a flurry of activity which did not include blogging. So, I’m back, at least infrequently, until I’m settled in a few weeks.

So, are we tired of talking about social networking yet? Perhaps we should be, but I wonder how long it took for people to get tired of talking about the Gutenberg printing press. Years? Maybe. Get prepared to talk/write/think about social media for years, until it is overtaken by the Next Big Thing.

I came across a blog post by Richie Escovedo, a “school communications guy.”

The post is just a repost of the Facebook fan page rules for the school system he works with. Nothing earth-shattering, except for the fact he has social media, an established following, defined rules, and significant engagement with the fans of the page…for a public school system.

Usually, I’m impressed when a school system has just a less-than-static web site. (See or for examples of “needs help” and as “getting better.”) So to have a public school system actively engaging across various social media platforms is progressive and practical, and great for the school system to improve or maintain its reputation among its public.

In this example, the Mansfield page successfully pairs information and engagement from multiple sources to create an online community that is just an extension of the bricks and mortar community of the school buildings. But an important and meaningful extension. Here, Mansfield ISD brings in news articles from local media about the schools in the school system, the high school marching bands, and the board meetings.

The board meetings are streamed with online video, the facebook page links to the school system’s blog–where the communications team can go into more detail about news stories or issues–and the school system can post information about events like Red Ribbon Week.

And then there is the engagement–so important, and so evident here. People are giving thumbs up to news stories, asking for information about obtaining yearbooks, and proposing events like “school of the week” to be posted to the page. With 735 fans, these people are able to reach out to more of their community than ever before, creating a space to interact and build a following among the school system.

Public school systems are in trouble. Many are losing students, even with population increases, because parents are choosing to send their children to charter schools. Imagine if a school system were to implement a social media campaign, draw those parents into the community, get them informed and connected–and then retain them as school system “customers.”

It can’t be said that parents will keep kids in a troubled school just because it has a facebook page or a twitter feed. But if the opportunity for growing and maintaining a community exists, it should be used to its full potential. While social media is the buzz word, it is the effect of social media that is so important. It is another tool to engage and affect, to draw in and create a feeling of belonging. What better organization to do this than a school? A place where friends are made, mentors are created, lessons are learned, and people come together as a ready made community. Extend the community further, and the bonds become deeper.

Public schools need successful social media interaction to improve their reputations and maintain their communities.

A Grand Old Brand

•October 13, 2009 • 4 Comments

Branding the GOP:

The big O in “GOP” is a head. A human head. A rotating, human head. Only taking this into account, one would think the GOP is made up of young, multiracial females, a group I am sure the GOP would like to firmly win over and identify with to break with the idea that every republican looks like George W. Bush.

The GOP has unveiled a new website, dedicated to creating a space for young republicans online, giving them an outlet for discussion and donation. It is the creation of a brand, which is incredibly necessary for the party at this moment. With the branding success of Obama and thus, the Democratic party, the Republicans need a dynamic, interesting brand to bring those who are not Democrats together. Enter, a dynamic, social media-centric, crowdsource-using site.

The blogs on the are many and diverse, to bring in a multitude of opinions and ideas to the website and get people, any people reading and contributing. This is the crowdsourcing model—how many people can we bring together to create new ideas. However, some small details bother me. But so much is about the details, even in sites this big and far reaching—maybe especially in sites this large. The blog names are boring. What can I read from a blog called “political” ? And how is the “political” blog different from the “feeding the machine” blog? And what does that even mean? (and I cannot ignore that Michael Steele’s blog is called “what up.” yet, I don’t know what to say about this.)

I think it is great to have different subject platforms, but they need to be more creative, and more specific, and understood immediately or they will not be read. Praise: the share button has almost every outlet, and it is broken down into social networking, blogging platforms, email, bookmarking sites, and IM tools. I find this often lacking on stories or blog posts I want to share. This just makes it even easier to spread the word and message of a particular story. Such a small detail, and yet, I bet it will translate to so many more blog posts shared out in the vast world of the internet.

The learn button is fantastic: breaks down the viewpoints of the GOP on major issues, explains the history of the party and its major accomplishments, which are definite and respectable achievements. It breaks down the leadership and goes into the historical heroes who made the party what it is. I think this is great for the GOP. In the current moment, there are problems with the leadership and image, and being able to introduce people to a rich background and respectable past is important.

Overall, the site is well designed and modern. It is simple, but bold and inviting, eye catching. The GOP logo with the elephant in the O is nicely done. Toward the bottom of the page are some design elements that I would love to see carried throughout the site a little more. The traditional, old-style banners are made flashy and are well-designed. There is a richness to the historical images that are incorporated into the modern design, and it works well, and it pushes the image that the GOP needs to encourage. The Republican party does have a significant and respectable history. But the party needs to come into the 21st century. Blending the past into a possibility of the future is a great way to brand—I just hope the brand of the party can be sustained beyond the web site. It is necessary that this “old meets new, makes now” version of the party be development and integrated into all communication and all behavior of the party’s representatives. The party’s strength is its rich history, but the party needs to be modern and futuristic. There is a way to stay traditional while acknowledging and bending toward the modern needs of the American people. And a social media web site is a great way to begin.

(What’s The Story) Morning Glory

•October 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I am a night person. I am—I get all this energy and excitement around twilight, when the sun is setting and everything is golden and beautiful. And I blame my night personhood on college: staying up until 3 a.m. was not an unusual occurrence. Done with class/meetings at 11 p.m.? Wow—so much time to do homework!

But, I keep hearing about all these writers and accomplished authors who say that the best time to write is in the morning. Like, early morning. I brushed off their advice. I love my bed too much. Plus I held the thinking that being a night person and writing at night was better for me. I thought that the only reason I could write at night was because I had all day to think.


I have woken up at 6:30 a.m. the last two days, and I believe I am an absolute convert to early morning writing. I can write in the morning. I can even write well in the morning. And I like it, because I have no worries yet. I have wispy tips of dreams left over in my head from the nighttime, which is so much better than real thoughts so far.

I don’t know if I can keep up this habit. I’m waking up earlier, but staying up just as late. Something will have to change, like my bedtime. I’m much like the author in this Slate piece:

What I really wanted when I started this experiment, I now realize, was to be one of those crazies who functions well on just five hours of sleep. That’s never going to happen.

But while I can keep it up, long live the mornings, my productivity, and hopefully, my mood.

a day late and 7,000 dollars short

•October 6, 2009 • 1 Comment

I’m generally not one who rallies against the establishment, the Man. But in this case, I think the Man has a serious problem.

The Man, being the FCC.

In this morning’s Journal Gazette Kelly Soderlund reported that the FCC is coming down on  local Columbia City High School radio station for letting their license expire. The FCC first reprimanded Columbia City High School in 2007. When CCHS asked for the $7,000 fine to be waived because it was a first offense, the FCC waited a good 31 months to deny the request. The FCC is now asking for the money again; school officials say they will appeal again.

I think the FCC needs to back off and find some bigger fish to fry, like SNL and their s-bombs. This is an educational opportunity for students to learn how to broadcast and run a radio station. I can see where the FCC has all the right to rain down on profitable, large radio stations for operating without a legitimate license. People should play by the rules.

But this little, but successful high school radio station isn’t and should not be a threat to the FCC. They don’t run commericals. They aren’t owned by a media conglomorate. Instead, they are the first high school radio station to broadcast live on the internet. If anything, the FCC should be praising the students and teachers for ensuring learning outside of a textbook.

I understand the reason for the fine. Sure, FCC, you want to make a point that people can’t have unregistered radio stations. I get it. Go ahead and fine the school. But seven thousand dollars? Seven thousand dollars for an expired license? Send them a $100 fine or something. It is a struggling public school corporation that needs every last dollar to feed the students on free and reduced lunch, to provide the students with teachers who know what they are doing, to make sure the bathrooms are useable and they have textbooks that have been written after 1995. The FCC has no reason to deny an appeal against a seven thousand dollar fine for an educational instituion.

Let the kids learn how to be responsible journalists and broadcasters now. It’ll save you later, FCC.