Partnering for Success: Why Hire an Agency if You Have an Internal Team

With summer in full swing, many in-house teams are laser-focused on seasonal trade shows, industry events and warm-weather marketing opportunities. This makes perfect sense, but raises an important question; why are their agencies focused on a different season?

At this time of year, as temperatures rise and heating systems become a distant memory, we in the agency world are talking about an equally distant concept — Holiday. That may seem premature on first blush, but agencies often serve as an essential complement to in-house marketing efforts.

This means that brands working with agency support have a two-fold advantage: an in-house team managing day-to-day execution of contemporary tasks while their agency partners develop future opportunities in tandem with the moment. This two-pronged approach is just one of the many reasons working with an agency can be so beneficial.

 

Additional Opportunities

When it comes to Holiday, there’s a distinctly different lifecycle to media coverage opportunities. Here at GreenRoom, we’ve been talking with editors and journalists about Holiday Gift Guides and annual award submissions as far back as our Spring Media Tour — and we’re seeing traction despite being months away from the colder weather. We’ve helped a number of new clients adjust strategy on the fly and add items to their calendar — secure in the knowledge that they now have the right resources to address them.

Our team-based approach to media outreach drives impactful coverage year around, not just during Holiday. We’re constantly cross-pitching, which means your brand is given more opportunities to gain media attention via roundups, briefings, and trend pieces.

This happens on the digital front as well. Marketing teams are often overflowing with work, so they’re unable to start tackling holiday campaigns until much later in the year, when options for partnering on large-scale initiatives are more limited. An agency partner keeps the ball rolling, and by the time fall comes around, Holiday campaigns are already in full development.

As on the media side of the house, our digital seasonal strategy isn’t limited to just holiday. Our team has spent the summer dressing models in sweaters and tailgate football gear, prepping for creative content that will publish in fall and winter.

Agencies can help in influencer negotiation and balancing seasonal initiatives

Industry Insight

Working with a number of clients facing the same challenges puts an agency in the ideal position to inform timing, budget, and strategy on both the media and digital marketing fronts. While we’ll constantly analyze the performance of your brand’s initiatives towards established goals, we’ll also compare this progress to the results we’re seeing from other clients. Because of this, you gain a greater depth analysis. If something needs to be changed, we can borrow learnings from other clients, and implement a strategy that we already know to be successful.

This is especially important on the digital front, where platform algorithms constantly change. If you’re working with just one brand, it may take months to analyze a trend that an agency will quickly see appearing across multiple clients. This means that clients partnered with an agency can better take advantage of platform updates, adjusting strategy to meet the needs of today.

On the PR front, agencies are the first to know when a publication is changing direction or when a new reporter is hired for a beat. This up-to-the-minute information creates efficiencies in media outreach and saves time and effort.

 

Negotiation

Negotiating pricing is another key area in which agencies pay dividends for their brand partners. Third-party vendors and influencers know that agencies have a broader client reach, so agencies can often negotiate better rates and find deals more regularly than a single in-house team.

Negotiation doesn’t just happen on the outside — sometimes internal marketing teams need additional resources to get senior management on board with a new initiative. This is also the time of year when marketing teams are pointing towards budget discussions that will impact the year to follow. We can help bolster the case for additional dollars that could mean the difference between running in place or speeding ahead. An agency can be that reliable outside voice, often delivering the essential push when a VP needs to ok a budget.

Agencies can provide in-house marketing teams with in-depth industry analysis.

When Is the Right Time to Hire an Agency?

We know that even the most skilled of internal teams can benefit from additional resources for seasonal initiatives, product launches and award nominations, among other milestones taking place in the back half of the year.

More often than not, we find that the best answer to the question “When?” is: right now. (Yesterday: no longer an option!)

The Right Time to Hire a Public Relations Agency

Often in our conversations with brands the question arises of when to hire an agency. While each situation is unique, there are a few times when agency support can be especially helpful.

Launching a Brand New Product

As an agency, we’re able to place our clients in a plethora of marquee media outlets. By giving the media a first look at the product, the brand is positioned to have a string of hard-hitting press coverage publish during the launch. This is a great way to generate buzz and place your new product at the forefront of consumer’s attention.

Holiday Season Buzz

The holiday season is a critical time of year for retail companies, as millions of potential customers are in “buying mode.” One of the most sought after media placements are Holiday Gift Guides, some of which are the only source of product information for shoppers! However, the timeline for this may start earlier than you think. We typically start Gift Guide conversations with reporters in June — yes, June! — in order to maximize coverage. Opportunities and placements will grow as we get closer to the holiday season.

Attending a Trade Show

When it comes to trade shows, our biggest priority for our clients is to make a huge splash. Whether it’s a large show like CES or an industry-specific show like Interbike, we strive to fully maximize the days you’ll be attending. In addition to booth support, we’ll secure meetings with top-tier media outlets during the show, giving you an opportunity to present your product front and center to some of the biggest names in media. On the social side, trade shows can be one of the best times to take advantage of live features and trending opportunities. Our team can be on-the-ground to handle photos, video, and live digital engagement.

Just Looking For More Brand Awareness

Maybe you’ve been selling your product for quite some time and feel like you’ve plateaued. You might feel that if you could just reach fresh eyes, your product would take off. That’s where we come in! We provide you with a PR and social “megaphone” that allows you to spread the word  to millions of potential customers. With sample units available, we’re able to create engaging social content that aligns perfectly with the brand story we’re telling  marquee media outlets. This one-two punch of social and PR will make sure your product is not only being seen, but being seen by the right people.

5 Fundamentals For A Successful Photoshoot

Every product has a story to sell, and every story has its setting to thank for being its ultimate foundation. Scouting the right location for a shoot can often be stressful, but it is definitely one of the most important features to telling a story, right up there with the storyline itself!

1. Have a clear vision.

The first thing to keep in mind when choosing a site is looking for a setting that fits your storyline. Once you have a script, you need to have a clear vision of the setting to know where to start with location scouting. You aren’t always going to come across the most aesthetically pleasing places, but your location is just a starting point. Choose a location that you are encouraged by and can draw on, with as many colors and mediums that you want/need.

2. Confirm you have permission.

Most importantly, after you have found a location that suits your vision, you want to make sure you have permission to shoot there. Whether it is a permit or another legal document to acquire access to the location, make sure you have it arranged in advance so you don’t run into any problems the day of the shoot. While it helps if you have it all planned out in your head, you may need to have it all planned out on paper… probably signed and approved.

3. Lock in your location.

Once you have been granted permission, the next step to ensure your location will work is to confirm that it will be available! Between holiday season accruing an influx of tourists and day-of events, unforeseen surprises can derail your shoot. Coordinate with your desired location to ensure that the space will be free and available on your scheduled date. By securing your spot for the date and time you need, you will have one less thing to worry about on the day of the shoot!

4. Pay attention to details.

Take notes on the details that matter before the shoot even happens. Are there power sources readily available? You may have to bring in your own outlets. Is your location too hot or too breezy? A cold temperature may be exactly what you’re looking for, but your camera battery may not be able to brave the chill. If the shoot is outside, you can expect the lighting to be inconsistent, so you may need a plan B. If you plan to be indoors where lighting is more static, you may need to bring in additional lighting to achieve your artistic vision. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to on-location shoots!

5. Take notes for next time.

If you love the location and want to use it again for another shoot in the future, take notes about the experience and anything you may need to change for future shoots. If you (unfortunately) had a bad experience with the location, you’ll want to document what you wish had gone differently. You can even write down notes about camera/audio performance in the space so that it may be taken into consideration for the next shoot. There is no such thing as TOO many notes!

Whether you’re a professional in the field of videography, or just dipping your toes in the water, checking off the steps on this list will help you to be successful in whatever type of shoot you intend on capturing. It is always a good idea to do the right research before taking on such an important project. What is your best practice when shooting on location?

The Importance of Face-to-Face Meetings

How many times have you sent a text or email and that was later misinterpreted, either by a friend, family member or even a client? Although the world is becoming increasingly digital, the benefits of face-to-face interaction are irreplaceable—despite Skype and Apple’s aggressive efforts at video chatting! The following are a few reasons why you should think twice before scheduling your next call with a client.

1)            Body Language

Digital communication with clients and the media has its perks. It’s quick and straight-forward; however, digital communication can be tricky, especially when the relationship is new or a special project is at stake.

Let’s say you have a scheduled call with a client to propose a new outreach plan that includes pitching a product or aspect of the business through non-traditional angle. Once you finish laying out the strategy, there is a long pause on the line followed by, “Yeah, sure that’s a good idea.” You’d probably wish you wish you were sitting face-to-face to witness their initial reaction and body language? Instead of having to dig through a series of follow-up questions hoping to figure out your client’s actual sentiments, a face-to-face meeting would have allowed you to sense their attitude from the beginning and address the issue accordingly.

2)            Quality Collaboration

When was the last time you woke up without dozens of unread emails? While ubiquitous, shuffling through emails can often suck time and creativity from your work.  Do you think that world’s most creative teams come up with cutting-edge campaigns through an email thread? Unlikely.

Creative collaboration through email can prevent the natural flow of ideating, a vital component of any successful brainstorming session and project management discussion. A face-to-face meeting allows you and your team to bounce ideas off each other on the spot, rather than having to navigate an overflowing inbox.

3)            Establishing Trust

Trust is a critical component of any working relationship. In vendor relationships, which have the added pressure of expected results and the need for effective counsel in order to push a business’ bottom line, this trust needs to be developed especially quickly.  Face-to-face interaction goes miles in establishing this trust.

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology measured the effectiveness of a face-to-face request versus an email request and found that face-to-face requests were 34 times more effective than emailed ones, due to nonverbal cues and perceived trustworthiness. Although technology has done wonders for society’s overall progress, the fact remains that we like facing each other. Technology isn’t going anywhere – we don’t want it to—but it’s important to realize the power of face-to-face communication isn’t backing down either.

Inside the Algorithm: What Facebook’s Changes Mean for Your Content

Facebook’s latest update

Since its launch in September 2006, the Facebook News Feed has been in a state of flux. From the introduction of Like buttons to the prioritization of popular posts to the crackdown on clickbait and fake news, Zuckerberg and company have continually updated the News Feed to optimize the user experience. Since a 2015 report in the Journal of Experimental Psychology that mindlessly scrolling Facebook could be detrimental to mental health, the platform has concentrated its efforts on driving active participation on the platform.

With the latest algorithm update in January 2018, Facebook overhauled their ranking process to focus on engaging content from family and friends over content from brands and publishers. Vice president of News Feed Adam Mosseri shared in a Newsroom post that the updates would prioritize “posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.”

How does Facebook determine what is meaningful?

The platform is using reactions, comments and shares to adjudicate how compelling a post actually is. While it may seem that engagement spend is the easy answer to this, friend-to-friend interactions will take precedence. Companies will have to think less about what the brand wants to push, and more about what their target audience wants to see.

What does this mean for content creation?

Creators should put themselves into the shoes of their social customer and ask, “What kind of content would I want my best friend to see?” Thought leadership and philanthropic efforts are more likely to organically take root within an organic community than flash-in-the-pan sponsored posts. Similarly, this type of content is more likely to generate long-term benefits than its ephemeral meme-like counterparts.

Additionally, because we can anticipate that users will be spending less time on the platform, there should be a stronger focus on snappy, succinct content that contributes positively to a viewer’s Facebook experience. Gone are the days of sharing a meandering ten-minute YouTube tutorial on your Facebook page; concise, meaningful content is in.

What does this mean for marketers?

Marketers will need to think outside of the box of engagement baiting to create content that is genuinely engaging, rather than artificially popular. Clickbait-style promotions, including giveaways that use “Comment below!” or “Like this post to enter!” will have higher CPM rates, higher cost-per-click and lower organic reach overall than they have in the past.

It will take months for these updates to roll out across all of Facebook’s products. As we learn more about what these changes mean for brand reach and how to best spend in the new digital climate, one thing is true now more than ever: it’s all about your audience.

Incorporating a Color Palette into Your Brand Marketing

Oreo and Coca-Cola have bright, signature colors that they use in almost all of their collateral

Iconic brands use color to grab audience attention and establish trust.

Picture a box of Oreos. The container’s shade of royal blue is likely one of the first things you were able to conjure. This is, of course, because the package itself is blue. However, that image has been reinforced by multi-million dollar marketing campaigns that consistently incorporate a perfect stack of white and black cookies and a glass of milk on a simple background that includes that iconic box blue. This long-term color branding is one of the reasons AdWeek has named Oreo one of the top 10 brands.

Oreo is far from the only brand with this level of color palette recognition. Take the red picture above, do you know what brand it is?

Coca-Cola instantly came to mind. The company’s “Coca-Cola Red” is so ubiquitous with the brand they were able to trademark it.  The strongest and most memorable brands always use their brand color in marketing: logo, print marketing materials, signage, websites, social media graphics, blog posts and presentation decks.

 

Branding for Growing Businesses

GreenRoom Agency clients Soundcast and Sound of Sleep use color to establish trust in their brand.

Brands large and small can benefit from a strong use of color in marketing materials.

However, the value of a color palette isn’t limited to household names. Growing businesses can start to reap the benefits of a color palette using their brand colors in product photography and digital compositions as a background color. Not only does this help establish brand recognition, but this color selection can heavily impact how viewers feel about your company and its products.

Thinking beyond backgrounds: brands can subtly choose to incorporate brand colors into props and other seemingly small decisions. Notice the color of the napkin on the table beneath the Oreo cookie pancakes. This is not just coincidence—it’s an impactful example of an attentive designer intuitively establishing brand recognition for viewers.

GreenRoom embraces color in the creative work across clients. For Soundcast, a high-end Bluetooth speaker brand, we leveraged the company’s bright orange and charcoal gray in a holiday carousel ad campaign that resulted in the company’s most successful click-through rates to date.

In a subtler approach, GreenRoom edits or skillfully selects light blue and white items—a blanket, shirt, wall, or lamp—for sleep client Sound of Sleep. These colors non-explicitly send a message of peace, calm, and relaxation in images that are used in social media posts, on the website, across digital advertising, and even in the images we send to press that are ultimately incorporated into media reviews and roundups.

For each brand, the goal of a color pallette is to create a consistent brand experience that ultimately leads to stronger brand recognition. When you’ve achieved this, your target audience will intuitively trust trust and enjoy the products more, easing the transition into top-of-mind purchase research and, ultimately, sales.

CES 2018 and Beyond

CES 2018 Trade Show Collage

Images from GreenRoom and its clients during CES 2018 and the PGA Merchandise Show, both industry trade shows.

Each January brings the first of many industry trade shows in the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Brands across a wide spectrum of vertical markets participate, and many clients say that the show (and its allied events such as Pepcom) can be incredibly impactful to attract media attention, drive brand awareness, and develop relationships with partners and consumers for the year ahead.

Planning for industry trade shows and events such as these can be challenging; how to select which shows offer the best opportunities to execute communications strategy, budgeting for them successfully (both in terms of dollars allocated and internal resources dedicated), and building media calendars for public relations/ leveraging digital and social media content into success at the trade show itself.

One great example of this is utilizing an industry event or trade show to promote new partnerships. At the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, we aided our client Blast Motion in the announcement of an exclusive deal with golf giant TaylorMade. With all the biggest names in golf media attending the show, this provided a platform to amplify the news in the right place at the right time. The GreenRoom team has a strong track record in developing successful strategies for such industry events, and helping clients manage participation to maximum effect.

Following each event, leveraging media and industry contacts into high-profile coverage and dynamic relationships often overwhelms internal teams focused on a number of deliverables. Here, too, we find that having a team of professionals, such as a communications agency, at your command expands the amount of time and energy brands have to plan for future events on the calendar. This can drive media coverage and sales opportunities throughout the year, resulting in met or exceeded marketing goals, all while engaging consumers and building a community of brand ambassadors.

Five Must-Haves for Building Your In-House Studio

We’ve upgraded our creative capabilities with the construction of an in-house photography studio. This dedicated space allows us to not only snap custom product photography in a pinch, but also create the top-notch videos that have become critical for social media success. To get a better sense of what goes into a studio build, here’s a breakdown of the five studio must-haves.

  1. Room to Move 

WideShot

$ | To get the absolute best shots, photographers need to move and bend around their subject. The more angles and perspectives a photographer can capture, the more material you have to produce the perfect image. Keep a clear path around the set for your photographer to travel without worrying about tripping over cords, backdrop edges or stray props.

  1. Seamless Backdrop

Backdrop

$ | Seamless backdrops are essential for taking polished, versatile product photos. A bright white sweep reflects any light in the room, giving your subject a glowy appearance. There are many options, including muslin canvas and paper rolls, to suit your budget. Be sure to protect your investment with a sturdy storage solution–we use a rack and frame.

  1. Lighting

LightsBacktoBack

$$$ | A multi-light setup can make or break your photos. Investing in at least three continuous lights, as well as light management instruments like reflectors and diffusing softboxes, gives you control of the direction and intensity of your artificial lighting. Don’t forget about your natural light–suppress pesky bounce with blackout curtains/blinds or black matte paint.

  1. Tripod

Tripod

$ | Although photographers often opt to keep their cameras handheld, a strong, reliable tripod will transform your capacity to produce high-quality video content. Look for screw-in release systems on angle and height adjustments, as they maintain their rigidity better than their clip-based counterparts. As a general rule, your “normal” tripod should stand about six feet tall at its tallest setting.

  1. Monitor

MonitorWorkstation

$$ | Last but not least, a high-speed tether connected to a high-resolution monitor enables your photographer to review the photos taken in-studio instantly. Dedicating a machine to photo and Dropbox management streamlines the organizational process, so photographers can retrieve the files they need in real-time.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to building an in-house studio for your agency. What are the must-haves pieces in your photography kit? Leave your gear recommendations in the comments below!

Four Lessons PR Pros Should Learn From Social Media

Within the last decade, the public relations and communications industries have undergone many changes. We can point to several technological advancements that have brought us to where we are today, but none are more powerful than the rise of social media. The active and instant nature of social media has changed marketing, and PR pros should take notice. Here are four lessons from social media you can integrate into your PR strategy:

Don’t be afraid to get personal.  

No two social media users are the same, which is why personalization is key. Technology market researcher Gartner found by 2018, companies that have “fully invested in all types of personalization” will outsell companies that have not by 20 percent. Using data to deliver relevant content to audiences is the name of the game in social media right now.

This same idea can easily translate to PR practices. Personalize your pitch to better suit the audience. Not only will it show the outlet that you aren’t sending the same generic message to everyone, but it will also help build more meaningful media relationships too.

‘Tis the season for fresh content.

Social media content revolves around the seasons – and this goes far beyond the holiday season. Every odd holiday is both celebrated and embraced on social media. While this may not be as popular in PR, incorporating a seasonal aspect to your outreach will ensure your content is fresh and timely.

Don’t think this applies to your client?  Try researching holiday’s or awareness months that relate to broaden your audience with more concentrated outlets.

Show, don’t tell.

Social media is all about the visuals. By 2019, video content will be the driving factor behind 85 percent of all search traffic in the U.S. Between Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat alone, video content is taking over the marketing world. This is all the more reason to implement video content to your 2017 PR strategy. As our media consumption habits continue to evolve, eye-catching visuals are more likely to capture the attention of both media outlets and consumers. Videos can take on a variety of different forms like the following:

  • Product-focused: Show employees or influencers using your product
  • Instructional: Have a new concept or product launching? Use a video to introduce and inform consumers and media how it works
  • Q&A: Make the most of a live event by doing a Q&A video at the activation

Do your (social media) research.

You can find just about anything on social media in 2017. This goes for media, too. Find the media outlets you’re targeting on social media and interact with their employees on social. The social space is the hub of millions of conversations, and while this may seem like stalking at first, it’s what social media is for! You never know what you may learn about someone just by following them on Twitter. Take advantage of your social media learnings to craft a custom pitch that’s more likely resonate with this person.

How have you integrated any of these social media practices into your PR strategy? Comment to share your insights!

How do I Make the Most of the Holiday Gift Guide Season?

The holiday season can be the most fruitful time of year for brands with regard to sales and moving product off the shelves. This is a period when most consumers are in “buying mode” and are heavily influenced by strategic marketing and Holiday gift guides. Often seen as a crucial period of the year to secure media placements across different mediums including web, print, and broadcast for many brands, these guides are a great way to leverage the Holiday season and further expose your products to millions of potential customers.

What many brands don’t realize is that timing is everything for these gift guides.

Given the fact that many of the longer-lead ones (i.e. print publications, broadcast, and marquee outlets) close their doors as early as August, timing is crucial. From a digital marketing perspective, this lead in time is a great opportunity to begin developing assets and content that will run alongside your Holiday media initiatives. Cohesion between your PR team and digital team is paramount; ensuring that both teams are on the same page will lend itself greatly to achieving your Holiday goals. A great PR agency will prepare for gift guides months in advance, with messaging tailored to individual vertical markets and aligned with editorial calendars to position their clients in an efficient, easy to digest way for the media. This also means that an agency is already discussing gift guide opportunities with the media in July and even as early as June.

However, not all hope is lost for those jumping on board in the September/October time frame! Short-lead gift guides will sometimes close as late as the week of Black Friday, with many media outlets publishing “Last Minute Gift Guides” to help consumers that haven’t quite made up their minds. The shorter lead guides are typically web based and require a more at-the-ready mentality, sometimes put together as little as a week before being published, with publications relying on a few of their go-to sources. At GreenRoom for instance, our strong relationship with the media has established us as a good source for great products to fill these last-minute gift guides, as the media knows we are a very consumer brand focused agency.

Not only should your team aim to get in the door early, they should also be mindful of the editorial calendars and timelines.

In a season known for being hectic, with brands competing madly for the attention of the consumer, one of our aims has always been to make this time of year extremely easy for both the media and our clients. In addition to benefits of the gift guides, a well-equipped agency will not only look to secure placement in a particular gift guide, but also secure an additional product review with the same publication – resulting in two separate hits within the same media outlet.

According to Business Insider, it typically takes 7 – 8 exposures to the consumer before a consumer decides to purchase, making every additional opportunity important. It’s always good to be mindful of developing your PR strategy not only to benefit from gift guides, but also to acquire additional coverage thereafter. Our focus on leveraging Holiday gift guides, strong relationships with the media, and timing conscious approach are just a few of the many strategies we employ to ensure strong coverage year-round and position our clients for great success.