Digital Marketing for the 2020 Holiday Season

This will be a very unique holiday season, to say the least. With a large part of the population being conditioned to stay-at-home and thus shift their normal spending habits– how should brands be pivoting now, ahead of the holiday season?

Consumers are expected to be doing a larger portion of their spending online. In fact, Barron’s predicts an 80% increase in eCommerce holiday spending in 2020 compared to 2019. Therefore, brands should be focusing much of their time and energy making sure their online consumer experiences are streamlined and innovative. Brands should be taking a hard look at their current website, making sure is it both compelling and SEO friendly. Digital advertisers should be buttoning up their holiday season ad plans now, with a large focus on search and display to stand out from the saturated e-commerce market.

Consumer messaging will also look a bit different this year and brands need to be extra careful to not come across as tone-deaf across their platforms. Now more than ever, brands need to be listening closely to their key audiences, compiling first-party data that can be used to create their highly-customized content strategy. Think about the very different lifestyles your audiences are currently living this year and make sure to meet them where they are. If you are selling electronics, discuss why your product is the best for connecting with distant loved ones. If you are selling educational resources, discuss why your product is the best for teaching at home. Transparency will also reign, so be very proactive and upfront with your consumers about any shipping delays or product inventory issues to prevent a crisis and protect your brand image.

Brands should also use this holiday season as an opportunity to capitalize on consumers buying more items and experiences they anticipate will be useful in 2021. Sell the excitement of what is around the corner, provide your target audiences with practical support during this time of need, and share some holiday spirit in a time where spirits are significantly down.

No one can predict what the rest of 2020 will look like. While digital marketers may need to manage many uncertainties in Q4, it is clear that the industry as a whole is seeing immense growth this year. As consumer buying behavior shifts heavily online, refining your brand’s online presence, creating a tailored content strategy and allocating significant ad spend to eCommerce are all key for a successful holiday season.

Need help with your Digital Marketing Strategy for the upcoming holiday season? Send us an email at Digital@GRNRM.com and let’s get planning!

Interning During a Pandemic

Interning under normal circumstances has its own set of challenges. Interning during a pandemic is a crash course for adaptation. This summer at GreenRoom, we thought it was paramount to provide opportunities for young marketing professionals and  the hope of a bright future during uncertain times. Below, our summer 2020 interns give us a personal look into what it’s like interning during a pandemic.  

Ally Bush

College: University of Miami ‘21 

Major: Marketing and Management 

Dream Career: In-house Marketing for a Plant-based Food & Beverage Company 

In the beginning of March of 2020 I was happily living in Seville, Spain with a host family while studying abroad at Universidad Pablo de Olavide. My days were filled with exploring the city on public transportation, making friends from across the world in my international business classes, and taking off to travel to European destinations I had dreamt of forever on the weekends. During this time, I was also in communication with a connection of my father’s who was helping me seek out Marketing / PR summer internship opportunities abroad. I was very excited about the opportunity to expand my knowledge of international business, the Spanish language, and the marketing industry in general. However, as Covid-19 became more and more of a threat, my fellow study abroad friends and I were instructed to return home to the United States from Spain. Though I was heartbroken to leave the city that was beginning to feel like a second home to me, I knew that the safety of myself and everyone around me was at risk and I needed to return to the US.  

 

Once back in my hometown in Rhode Island, I completed my courses from my Spanish school online while also scouring the web for any and all Marketing-related internships in the United States that were still hiring for the summer of 2020. I was very hopeful when I found the job posting for the role of social media intern at GreenRoom. When I interviewed with Jackie, GreenRoom’s Integrated Account Manager, on the phone, my excitement about the internship only grew. Her optimism about the opportunities in the marketing industry despite the international threat of Covid-19 on jobs everywhere made me feel comforted. Towards the end of my academic year, I was notified that GreenRoom had gotten the green light to re-enter their office space. I was thrilled to hear this news because, although I have had several internship and job opportunities prior to this summer, most of them have been for smaller companies or startups where I would work remotely or from UM’s campus. I knew that I wanted the experience of being physically in an office and was very happy to learn that the Covid-19 pandemic had not ruined the potential of that experience.  

 

Soon after finishing my online exams, I moved from Rhode Island to Miami to be close to the office for the summer. At first, walking into an office with a mask on, keeping a six feet distance from others and not being able to shake the other employees’ hands felt very strange but in the past week since being here, it has begun to feel much more normal. Despite the physical distance and safety precautions we have been following, the GreenRoom team has made me feel very welcome in the office and I am eager for a summer full of learning from them.

 

Talon Smith

College: University of Miami ‘22 

Major: Creative Advertising and Computer Sciences 

Dream Career: UX and Graphic Designer 

 

How can I describe interning at GreenRoom this summer? Amazing. In February, I had already secured an internship for the summer and then COVID-19 started to spread and it had been canceled. I was trying to apply anywhere I could for a position, but most places were canceling internships as well. Many of my colleagues had faced the reality that they would not be able to work this summer, and I was just about ready to join them in an unproductive summer at home. Then in April, I had gotten an email from GreenRoom asking for an interview with me. From there the process was simple and I am doing exactly what I want to this summer, an internship at a fabulous agency. 

  

I had already begun working from home for my job during the academic year, so transitioning to working online for GreenRoom was a breeze. I was set up with all of the programs and went to work. However, it was a bit odd to chat with people that I had never met in person before. I had been getting feedback on my work from people who had just seemed like icons on Slack at the time. When I started the position, I had been assured that when the CDC said we were able to do so, I would be coming into the office to work. Yet, it had seemed like the pandemic was not getting better, and I feared that I would never get the complete internship experience of working in the office. 

  

When Miami started to open up and I was presented with the opportunity to work in person, I was extremely relieved. Going in for the first time was almost surreal. I was finally going to be able to accomplish my goals for the summer and improve my skills, even if I did need to wear a mask most of the time. Because of this internship, I am ahead of so many of my peers who were planning on working on personal projects all summer, but in reality, they are just sitting on the couch watching Netflix most of the time. I cannot express how thankful I am for this experience and I hope to turn all of this positive energy into meaningful work. 

Gaby Acherman

College: University of Miami ‘22 

Major: Interactive Media and Marketing 

Dream Career: Work at a Digital Marketing Agency 

 

When I started applying to internships during the pandemic, I felt that it was hopeless with everything going on in the world. I thought, “Who would hire me in the middle of this world crisis?”. However, for me it is always better to do something, rather than just wait around for things to happen. Therefore, I decided to go ahead and apply to different internships, one of them being GreenRoom. I remember I was very anxious, since I didn’t know if anything would come out of it, but I always hoped it would. I even emailed my advisor, who helped me apply, saying if people were still hiring because I was very skeptical about the situation. About a week after I applied, I got an email from GreenRoom saying that they wanted to interview me, and I was very nervous and excited at the same time. When they told me that I got the internship, I could not believe that I actually had one. Everyone I knew had said that all of their internships were cancelled or were not hearing back from companies, which only made things more exciting. 

  

The weeks leading to the internship were filled with anxiety and excitement at the same time, since I didn’t know how the internship was going to work. How was I supposed to do something without having someone there to guide me? How would the internship work if everything was done 100% online? How will I be able to build a working relationship with the team? Yet, these questions were quickly put to rest when the first day started. While anxiety was getting the best of me in the beginning, the team was very patient and explained how everything was going to play out. It was all very new, but they made the transition very easy. Our first week at the office could not have been better. When we came into the office, everyone was very nice to us and explained how they were following the safety guidelines and how we should be taking care of ourselves. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with how everything turned out. While interning during a pandemic might have been something that I was very worried about, the team was very patient and made it super easy to transition during the whole process. 

COVID-19 Learning: DIY PR Pitfalls

In the famous quote attributed to Bill Gates, he is purported to have once stated, “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on PR.” So many in the PR industry hang on those words as gospel to validate the industry given the business acumen Gates possesses. The GreenRoom team tends to eschew that sentiment and focus on tangible topics such as how an integrated earned media/affiliate marketing and dedicated e-commerce efforts led to sales or how authentic communication in a crisis leads to brand evangelists because we saw firsthand how many brands faced with a budget crisis cut ties with PR practitioners at the first signs of trouble.

Businesses faced an unprecedented hardship as the globe effectively shut down and many companies had to do more with less, our agency included. While that methodology is common in a downturn, a practice emerged in which internal marketing departments took over media relations since anyone with a keyboard and a phone can do what a PR team does in a day, right?

In a private forum with journalists that collectively represented more than 30 publications, this topic was at the forefront of the recent discussion. The findings of the journalists who were pitched by companies who took a DIY approach to PR were both shocking and entirely predictable. Among the most standout include:

  • The cadence of communication had exploded with the journalists reporting to getting 100 MORE emails per day than before
  • So much of the content was wildly off target and contained no newsworthiness
  • All the effort was on how the journalist could help the brand rather than tell a meaningful editorial story that would resonate with readers

While the PR professionals who took part in the discussion cringed and felt the need to apologize on behalf of the misguided in-house marketing leads, the media members took it in stride and in fact praised the practitioners who approach pitching with purpose.

It was clear that just because a brand thinks a story is important doesn’t mean it’s news, and it’s up to seasoned PR pros to not only counsel them but to find what IS news in order to get the message into the media. The last few months have made that abundantly clear and maybe the Bill Gates folklore should get a 2020 update that says “If I were down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on someone who can tell a story.”

COVID-19 Learning: Success in Shifting Focus to Online Retail

As states began to call for shutdowns for what was, at first, planned for two weeks and eventually carried out for several months, GreenRoom’s home & apparel client Cariloha had to devise a strategy that would keep revenue coming in while their retail show rooms across the country were closed.

No stranger to operation during difficult economic times, the Cariloha team was well-equipped to handle this new challenge. The company itself launched amidst the economic recession of the late 2000s and managed to flourish and thrive. They were ready to face this scenario once again with Covid-19, and this time, they turned to GreenRoom to help carry out their plan.

While Cariloha has always had an active and thriving online retail presence, the company saw much success with the personal touch of brick and mortar retail shopping at their showroom locations across the country. With strategic placements in cruise ports and deep ties within the industry, it proved to be a harmonious sales relationship for more than a decade. Now, with the showrooms closed and ships docked, it became essential to drive customers to Cariloha.com and Cariloha’s Amazon profile to keep a healthy bottom line in order to be able to re-open retail locations and maintain jobs when pandemic closures were lifted.

Leveraging a mix of owned media coverage and organic earned media product spotlights and reviews, many naming Cariloha products as best-of their recommendation lists, the GreenRoom team kept the flow of top tier coverage steady and drove consumers to Cariloha’s website and Amazon store. Sourcing out coverage opportunities that centered around home refreshes and simple room updates, sustainable products for a healthy home, and soft, comfortable apparel for working from home or working out at home, Cariloha was easily positioned as a company that could help fill many of the new needs consumers faced while in quarantine. Connecting with media who have strong affiliate marketing programs, GreenRoom helped position Cariloha’s Amazon presence as a valued source for products that fit their strict affiliate requirements. Working with the brand to share sales and discount opportunities also helped to position Cariloha products as top quality affordable luxury and necessary essentials in tough economic times.

GreenRoom’s media strategies helped propel Cariloha towards record high digital, far exceeding their expectations. The brand noted that the month of May 2020 saw an impressive 70% ecommerce growth over the month of May 2019, with a 21% increase in website traffic from March through May 2020, and a growth of over 540,000 unique users exploring the brand’s offerings on Cariloha.com in that two-month period. This is almost unheard-of growth in dour economic times and another huge victory for a client who has proven success amidst a tough economic climate. With GreenRoom’s help, Cariloha continues to defy the odds in a challenging economy that helps perpetuate the brand’s growth for the long-term future.

COVID-19 Learning: Parting with Profit

Ogden’s Own is the largest independent distillery in Utah. Up until recently, the distillery was perhaps most famous (or infamous, depending on whom you ask) for its Five Wives Vodka, a cheeky take on the presence of Mormonism in its home state. But over the last three months, people have been talking about Ogden’s Own for a much different reason – how they’ve shifted operations to support the community.

Ogden’s Own isn’t shy about crediting the local community for embracing the brand over the last decade and building it from a two-person concept to a multi-million dollar business. With this in mind, back in mid-March, Ogden’s Own CEO Steve Conlin made a bold pledge: to donate 100% of its profits made in March and April to members of the local Utah food and beverage community, specifically, the service staff – bartenders, chefs, waiters and waitresses – that are the backbone of the industry that’s helped them flourish.

Taking the pledge a step further, recognizing the widespread need for hand sanitizer in the wake of a national shortage, Conlin and the Ogden’s Own team saw the opportunity to use their existing infrastructure to begin producing the commodity for local residents, using a recipe sanctioned by the FDA to begin batching it nearly overnight. Instead of solely focusing on producing Five Wives Vodka, Madam Pattirini Gin or Porter’s Whiskey, enter Five Wives Hand Sanitizer. Two months later, Ogden’s Own has now produced more than 30,000 gallons of hand sanitizer for first responders, local government entities, regional corporations, and members of the local community, with no plans of slowing down. They’ve even donated thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer to the much-maligned Navajo Nation, a population struggling significantly with the virus.

Ogden’s Own maintained transparent communication with GreenRoom to aid in supporting the brand’s efforts. Crafting aggressive outreach plans to mirror the monumental shifts in the business and completely reworking an entire month of social content virtually overnight, the agency had to be as nimble as the Ogden’s Own team to remain in lockstep. The strategy was centered around disseminating critical information to keep a community safe rather than any element of self-promotion.

As such, the brand has not only been lauded for its generous actions, but also for its authentic communication and its accessibility to both its local community in-person and its large following on social media, in part due to the efforts of GreenRoom. By providing round-the-clock community management and messaging support, along with asset generation and media relations, GreenRoom ensured that Ogden’s Own had a voice that resonated in both the local and national landscape.

On the PR side, the agency thrust itself into lending real-time counsel and deployment of communication to manage the rampant consumer demand for hand sanitizer. Recognizing the role that the distillery was playing as a regional leader, GreenRoom leaned on its relationships with the local media in Utah and the surrounding states to facilitate media interviews for Ogden’s Own CEO, Steve Conlin, and spotlight features for Ogden’s Own across the digital, print and broadcast platforms. From March-May 2020 alone, Ogden’s Own saw more than 25 individual pieces of broadcast coverage spanning television, radio and podcasts; 20 pieces of print coverage in leading regional newspapers and magazines; and more than 75 online placements. This volume of results was unprecedented to the distillery and sparked a chain reaction: by virtue of the brand’s philanthropic efforts, there was a direct correlation in consumer demand for the spirits in the Ogden’s Own portfolio.

GreenRoom’s Digital Team likewise played a critical role as a mouthpiece for the brand. The social pages exploded and from March-May 2020, we generated over 5 million impressions (a 1,068% increase from the same time last year), over 330k engagements (a 645% increase), drove 24k consumers to our distributors website (a 533% increase) and increased our follower base by 15k (a 4,162% increase). As part of the agency’s community management, several incoming messages of gratitude, brand loyalty and enthusiasm about the brand abounded! A few standouts from Facebook:

“The drivers at the Ogden UPS Center appreciate you for helping us to stay safe as well as the people we are delivering to. Thanks!”

“You’re doing awesome things for this whole area, thanks for the flexibility to be able to change course and provide what is impossible to find!”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! It’s so warming to see companies thinking outside the box and helping during this crisis.”

“My family lives on the Navajo Rez and your selfless act is appreciated more than you know! I’m proud to be from O-town, and my family and friends will definitely be supporting your business. Thank you again!!”

A few standouts from Twitter:

“I’ve often heard that small business is the backbone of a community. I would have never imagined they would be the front-line fighters in a pandemic.”

“So. Awesome. @OgdensOwn has been so generous to our community. Show them some love and order a bottle of one of their brands: @Fivewivesvodka @MadamPattirini @PortersWhiskeys @Underground_33 from HiTimeWine.net”

“This local distillery has earned my business. Thank you @FiveWives Vodka”

On social, the agency launched the #SupportLocal Giveaway to support the local communities, giving away gift cards Ogden’s Own purchased that were to local bars & restaurants. This initiative was one component of the Digital Team’s larger strategy, focused squarely on managing social media communication, launching interactive campaigns, amplifying user generated content and sharing the brand’s actions with the world.

What a difference six months makes – at the beginning of the year, nobody (even Ogden’s Own) would have expected that a Utah distillery would be relied upon as an essential resource for its entire state, but through nimble execution and a passion for helping those in need, that’s exactly what’s happened – and Ogden’s Own has no intentions of stopping any time soon.

COVID-19 Learning: Building Trust in a Global Crisis

Edifier, a trusted global audio brand with a quarter-century of industry leadership, connected with GreenRoom to help strengthen its brand recognition in the US market. Based abroad, the marketing team relies upon GreenRoom to be their eyes and ears on trending media conversations in the US audio consumer market.

When COVID-19 reached North America and communities went into quarantine, the Edifier team expressed concern about the potential for dwindling American media coverage and sought GreenRoom’s counsel on whether it made sense to pause public relations. At a time when many companies were retreating from spending in an effort to insulate themselves from the uncertainty, GreenRoom underscored the risks of halting a consistent earned media program in a market that is a critical sales driver for the brand. Thanks to consistent dialogue with media colleagues, the GreenRoom team advised that the potential for great coverage would be strong for Edifier. With tech and lifestyle journalists continuing to publish content while working remotely and Edifier’s product attributes being uniquely suited for budget-conscious consumers confined to their homes, the opportunity to make an impact was significant.

Focusing on the Edifier brand’s high-quality tech, diverse product suite with options for all users, and affordable price points, GreenRoom crafted a series of outreach strategies that highlighted the brand’s relevance to new consumer needs that arose in the midst of a pandemic. To keep coverage momentum flowing, the GreenRoom team coordinated sample fulfillment and shipping that entailed receiving product delivered to staff homes and taking samples directly to shipping service centers on a regular basis to ensure that media and social influencers would receive everything they needed in a timely manner. This process prevented Edifier’s coverage from lagging due to pandemic-related international shipping delays that many global companies experienced.

The results were successful months of coverage that exceeded the brand’s expectations and prior months’ deliverables. Week after week of noteworthy product reviews and media recommendations in national and regional marquee tech and consumer lifestyles outlets, spanning across print, digital, and social platforms like YouTube, helped the brand gain notoriety as a reliable provider of affordable, top-quality work and school at home audio devices. An incredible 155 pieces of media coverage were delivered to the Edifier team by GreenRoom between March and May 2020.

Recently, the brand shared details from its 2019 Fiscal Report showing strong net gains in spite of what had been a rocky year and fourth quarter for many companies. The Edifier team expressed their excitement in seeing that they are on target to continue to outperform expectations for 2020, unhindered by a global pandemic, thanks in part to GreenRoom’s trusted counsel, attentive media listening, and willingness to go above and beyond for impactful results.

 

GreenRoom Recognized by the 2020 Bulldog PR Awards in Two Categories

GreenRoom is thrilled to announce winning two awards in the 2020 Bulldog PR Awards! The wins were in the prestigious and competitive categories of Best Issue/Cause Advocacy Campaign and Best Visual Storytelling Campaign. The work is representative of both sides of our house with the Issue/Cause Advocacy Campaign being awarded for the agency’s passionate dedication to the Airthings mission of educating and quantifying indoor air quality measurement through a strong and multi-faceted PR program.

The visual storytelling campaign represents a tremendous victory for our digital department’s work on leading audio brand CLEER’s “Own the Moment” initiative that was a bi-coastal effort with a compelling storyline that matched stunning visuals with real people. You can read more about our efforts in the recent case study.

The Bulldog Awards have long been a marker of the industry’s brightest PR campaigns and most effective corporate communications. It’s also the only PR awards program that is judged exclusively by journalists, lending further credence to the winner’s efficacy in compelling storytelling.

Earning these two awards comes on the heels of a banner year for GreenRoom in industry accolades. Earlier in the year, the agency was recognized as a finalist for four major industry awards, setting an all-time record! GreenRoom was a finalist for three In2 Sabre Awards and one PR Week Award, which was a true testament to the agency’s relentless pursuit of innovative campaigns and exceedingly strong media relations.

Wall Street Journal profile: How Covid-19 Is Changing the Language in Emails

The balancing act of being sensitive to the current situation while not being tone deaf is one we are all trying to steady. Now more than ever, being able to ‘read the room’ is crucial when communicating to colleagues, the media and clients. While some recipients do not want emails tailored around COVID, others require you to be mindful of the circumstance and want you to be forthright with them.

“People want the truth and they want it as concisely as possible. The tolerance for any sort of fluff is at a minimum,” shared our CEO, Brian Metcalf, in an article in the Wall Street Journal on communicating during a pandemic. Metcalf has instructed employees to keep messages short and sweet and to get to the point without the unnecessary details.

Our agency has shifted away from using business jargon to a more compassionate and sympathetic tone when communicating to the public. The usual sign-off has been replaced with a note acknowledging safety and health and asking questions when necessary on how we can help.

Internally, conference room chitchat and office patter are now Slack messages and video calls. To keep morale high and lighten the mood, our agency enjoys sharing photos of working from home setups with four-legged pals and sharing weekend quarantine stories. In a time without a lot of interpersonal communication, that screen-to-screen connection humanizes things and brings back a taste of normalcy.

 

Extreme Virtual Makeover: Zoom Video Conference Edition

With so many companies going having to go virtual basically overnight, we all witnessed Zoom’s popularity skyrocket along with the scrutiny that newfound ubiquity brought.The video conferencing platform added the virtual video background feature they announced back in late January. The feature allows users to play looping videos behind them while on a call, which make for dynamic displays or in some cases, top-tier trolling…

2020 Instagram Algorithm for Dummies

When Instagram moved away from a chronological feed format, it raised a lot of questions. Why isn’t my content being shown to more of my followers? Why did my engagement rate drop so suddenly, yet my follower base is steadily increasing? Are hashtags still effective? Does the algorithm honor videos over photos?

 

Luckily, Instagram set the record straight in January of 2020 on their controversial algorithm and below are the key takeaways:

  • Comments, likes, shares + views impact feed ranking
  • Photos & videos are considered equal
  • Fake interactions (bots or bought engagement) DO NOT count
  • User trends affect the algorithm daily (even minute by minute!)
  • All comment lengths count as engagement (commenting 1 emoji vs. commenting 2 paragraphs = equal)
  • All account types (brand/business, personal, verified account) are equal
  • The first 30 minutes after you post does not determine feed ranking

 

Here are some tips to help you beat the algorithm in 2020:

  1. Create a content calendar AND engagement calendar…and post consistently
    • Every good social media team knows that planning ahead with a monthly content calendar is essential. Since the algorithm honors engagement and post frequency above all in 2020, we recommend creating a separate calendar that focuses solely on engagement tactics (Instagram Story polls & quizzes, keyword search and response themes, giveaways/incentives, etc.) and post CONSISTENTLY. This can become a lot of work, therefore we also recommend forming a specific “engagement squad” dedicated to only getting those comments, likes, reshares and views!
    • NOTE: The algorithm will memorize your frequency, so when you forget to post at the expected time, you will be “punished” with less engagement.
  1. Manage your time wisely
    • Use the Instagram Insights tool to determine when to post. The algorithm honors content that gets people to stay on their app longer, therefore you need to understand what time your followers are online/ when they are most active and post accordingly!
  1. Use hashtags correctly
    • Yes, hashtags are still a powerful tool for creating viral content! If you are serious about increasing the engagement on your account, we recommend using up to 30 relevant hashtags (tuck them away in the comments section!). If you feel this is too spammy for your brand, still try to aim for at least 3-11 hashtags. A combination of branded, product and community hashtags creates the perfect environment for engagement (and increases your chances on getting your posts onto the Instagram Explore page!)
  2. Own your brand look & feel
    • As mentioned previously, Instagram honors the accounts that get people to stay on their app for long periods of time. Having a visually stunning feed will encourage new followers to go onto your feed, like multiple images and endlessly scroll. We recommend color grading your feed as this will get your followers to recognize and remember your work.

 

Click HERE to learn more about how our team of digital experts can help you grow your social media presence in 2020!