Showtime! Maven Plays Producer

Maven goes to the 10! Show

At Maven, we are always looking to promote our clients in new and creative ways.  And when there is no “breaking” news to announce on behalf of your clients, a good PR firm will find ways to create their own.

Salon Vanity on the NBC 10! Show
Salon Vanity by Edmondo Blando on the 10! Show

Excel Physical Therapy and Fitness and Salon Vanity by Edmondo Blando, are two consumer clients whose clients include many brides-to-be looking to gear up for their big day.  Since June is the most popular month of the year to get married, we thought why not pitch a targeted broadcast segment focusing specifically on weddings? With broadcast coverage in mind, we approached the NBC 10! Show with the idea of launching a “wedding special” featuring both clients. The producers loved the idea of putting together a show about the hottest trends in weddings in the hottest month to get married. With a tight time line of three weeks, wedding special feature grew from two segments into an entire hour-long program dedicated to the hottest wedding trends – everything from flowers, dresses, dances, hair & makeup, wedding planners, fitness, food and more with an audience consisting entirely of brides-to-be. Maven and the NBC 10! team divided and conquered the show and all of its various components.

Excel Physical Therapy and Fitness on the 10! Show

In addition to our two clients, Maven secured fabulous wedding consultant Vinnie D’Adamo of Kaleidoscope Solutions to cover wedding planning trends, and high end bridal boutique Bridals by Danielle to showcase the hottest wedding dress trends for the season. We outlined the segments, developed key messages for guests, media trained the spokesperson and practiced run-throughs with all our segment guests to ensure the show was flawless.

As well as conducting the orchestra of semi-live television (the 10! Show is taped at 10am as if live but then plays as is at 11am), Maven was charged with filling the 50-seat audience entirely with brides-to-be and assemble a gift bag for each. We ended the bride search with a waiting list 15 brides deep and a very excited studio audience. In addition, gift bags for the audience turned out wonderfully with a value of more than $500 each.

The icing on the wedding cake was a special giveaway to one lucky bride in the audience. Maven was able to secure:

A three-day/2-night Luxury Included® Honeymoon to any of the twelve Sandals Resorts with locations in Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia and the Bahamas. The lucky couple’s Luxury Included® stay includes lavish accommodations, all meals, including gourmet dining and anytime snacks, premium brand beverages, daily & nightly entertainment, an array of land and water-sports including snorkeling and scuba, gratuities, and transfers to and from the resort designated airport.

Sandals Resort Winner
The excited Sandals Resorts' winner!

The brides had no idea about their chance to win this special getaway when signing up for the show, but they were thrilled to find out! The winner was thrilled and Maven basked in its once in a lifetime Oprah-inspired moment.

Watch our clients’ segments below as seen by the estimated 27,000 daily viewers of the 10! Show. Maven placed the videos of their segments on their respective websites and facebook pages and made sure people saw how great they were and are! We owe the 10! Show team and everyone who helped out a HUGE thank you! Please visit the websites of those who donated to the gift bags at the end of this post. In addition, you can find more behind the scenes photos on Maven’s facebook page.

Everyone was elated with how the wedding special turned out, especially and most importantly, our clients, who were thrilled with the exposure the segment provided.

Gift Bag Contributors:

Sandals Resorts

Beke Beau

Bellezza Veils

Brandywine Valley Talent

Bridals by Danielle

Byers’ Choice, LTD.

Carl Alan Floral Designs

Carolina Pad

Chic Gems

Elegant Events

Excel Physical Therapy and Fitness

It’s in the Stars

Kaleidoscope Solutions

Larmon Studios

Marriott Philadelphia West

Philadelphia Marriott Downtown

Pictures by Todd,

Priscilla of Boston

Proud to Plan

Queen of Hearts Weddings

Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia

Sabrina Ann

Sagets Formal Wear

Salon Vanity by Edmondo Blando

Silver Image Photography

Spell it Out

Stella & Dot

Can I have another hour in the day please?

This blog entry is going to be brief. Since my return from maternity leave I find that I have less time for musings on topics like social media impact and the future of the press release and instead try to spend a majority of my time getting sh*t done (pardon my language, but it’s a mindset really). I’ve made a conscious decision to try (as much as possible) to not take my laptop home with me at night so I can spend the too few precious hours I have with my new baby. That means my day has to be as productive as possible. Now don’t get me wrong, I still find myself getting sucked in to links on Twitter that lead me to an interesting article, that links to another interesting article, that brings me to a great website…. But I’m trying to cut back. Really. In the six weeks I’ve been back to work I’ve discovered a few things that have allowed me to make the most of each minute and I’m going to share them with you.

1) Turn off your Outlook pop up window. I can’t begin to tell you know one little click has changed my life (well, my work day at least). I’m very easily distracted, which means that every time I got the pop up that a new email was in my inbox I left whatever I was doing to check it out (like something ground breaking was going to appear there rather than the 60th email that day from Bulldog Reporter).

2) Choose lunches/coffees/meetings wisely. I used to agree to meet anyone and everyone for a coffee – informational interviews, vendors, my cousin’s classmate’s brother… just in case there was a connection we could make. Now, if I know it’s most likely not going to be more than just a good cup of joe, I try to set up a phone call, or invite them to an event I’m already attending.

3) Make conference calls as productive as possible. Now dear clients, this tip does not apply when I’m on the phone with you. However, I unfortunately find myself on a fair amount of “other” category conference calls, where my participation is minimal. Instead of surfing facebook (which was my former favorite conference call past time), I now multitask with email replies, inputting hours, media list clean-up – anything that doesn’t take a lot of brain power so I can still pay attention.

4) Organize Outlook folders and delete the “deleted” folder every day. Yes, this one takes a little time upfront, but it pays dividends in the end. I used to use my “deleted” folder in Outlook as another file, which I visited daily. The problem is the more you delete, the longer it takes you to find something. Now, if I think there’s a chance that I will need an email again, I file it in a logical place. And anything that I’m certain I won’t need again is permanent deleted at the end of the day. That first big permanent delete as a little scary, but so far it hasn’t come back to bite me.

5) Leave the office for lunch, even if it’s just to walk around the block. Leaving the office to become more productive may not sound logical, but what I have found is that if I don’t go outside all day, even for five minutes, my afternoon is horribly unproductive. I can’t focus if I haven’t taken a breather and I imagine that’s true for most everyone.

There you go. That’s it. Now off you go.

Interview Tips from the Trenches

As a communications agency, media relations training is part and parcel of what we do.  We train clients almost every week on media  do’s and don’ts to ensure they communicate their messages as clearly and effectively as possible.  Recently, however, I was reminded that even the trainers could use some training to brush up on interview skills.

Rebecca "off camera"

In April, I was featured on a local NBC news segment regarding the Tiger Woods’ Nike Ad, featuring a voice over from Tiger’s deceased father.   There were a few things that went awry almost immediately.  First, I was late.  Big no-no.  Not only does that aggravate the producer, who has to deal with possibility a no-show segment, but it eliminates the opportunity for you to understand your surroundings, review message points, and relax.  As a result, I look tense and uncomfortable during the anchor’s introduction.  Actually, I look like I’m channeling Elin Woods right before she smashed the back of Tiger’s Escalade with one of his golf clubs.  On camera, everything communicates.  Body language, expressions, hand gestures, dress, etc. all convey a message about you and your company.  If my message was discomfort, then I think I hit a home run.

Given the humbling reminder on the importance of media prep, I thought I’d share (and review) some tips for succession media interview strategies below.

Define your Purpose: Before agreeing to do any interview, make sure you have a specific end game in mind.  How will the interview benefit you or your company?  If you can’t think of anything, then allow the opportunity to pass.  If you accept the interview, be sure to set specific goals for what you want to communicate.  Develop 3-5 key messages that you want to deliver throughout the interview.  These are the main ideas you’ll want to hammer home during the course of your interview.

Prepare, Practice, Repeat: Once you have your key messages in place, you’ll need to practice.  Have a colleague or member of your communications team run sample Q&A with you so you can get comfortable with the responses.  Make sure you have answers to the tough questions.  Even in friendly interview settings, it is important to have a response to questions you may not like answering.  Practice answering every question with a key message, and remember to keep your responses focused and concise.  In addition, it helps to do your homework before you walk into the interview.  What is the reporter’s interview style like? What have they covered in the past? What will the interview format be? Is the interview live or taped; in-person or via phone/satellite?  Doing a little legwork up front will ensure you are comfortable and prepared during your interview.

Watch your Body Language: For in person or on-camera interviews, everything communicates.  Even in positive interview situations, it is easy to look tense or stiff (ahem), which can impact credibility.   Arrive 15 minutes early to give yourself time to relax and review your message points.  If you have time before the interview, walk around take deep breaths to loosen up your body.  Avoid wild hand movements or big gestures when emphasizing your point.  If possible, maintain eye contact with the reporter as it helps to establish a connection with the reporters. If the interview is being conducted via satellite, look directly into the camera and keep your gaze steady.

Stay on Message: Listen carefully to the reporters questions, and take your time in responding to avoid rushing your response.  Remember your key points and try incorporate them in every single answer.  Keep your answers short and sweet, and avoid industry jargon to keep your explanations clear and easy to understand.  If a reporter asks you a question you cannot or will not answer, say so and offer an alternative if possible.  You can say something like “I can’t give out personal employee information, but what I can tell you is….”  or “We don’t have that  information at this time, but we are investigating the situation and will keep you apprised of any new developments.”

Avoid “No Comment”: If you can’t answer a question, emphasize what you can say and go back to your key message points.  Never go off the record to explain your point, even if the cameras are not rolling.  If you don’t want to comment to be shared, don’t make it.  Period.

Happy Birthday YouTube

To celebrate, the Google-owned site launched its YouTube Five Year Channel and a project called “My YouTube Story,” which features users talking about the ways in which the video site has affected their lives and their favorite videos. Among them are such “high-profile” users:

Conan O’Brien’s Favorites

Katie Couric’s Favorites

Today Show Anchor’s Favorites

Since we consider ourselves pretty high-profile as well, here are some Maven favorites:

Jess: Tillman, the Skateboarding Dog (Because I am sucker for animal videos)

Rebecca: Twisted Tea’s “Tea Pahtay” (Because promotion was ingenious marketing – it was fun, cheap to produce, and spanned hundreds of knock off “tea parties” across the country)

Megan: Grape Lady Falls! (Because she was cheating so totally deserved it)

Sarah: Barack/Never Gonna Give You Up (Because apparently Obama is never gonna give you up)

Brittany: Charlie, Bit My Finger (Because it is just adorable and all little kids should have English accents)

TimeLineAlso featured on the Five Year Channels is a timeline of to celebrate some of its milestones, including the first video uploaded by the site’s founders. YouTube is offering a retrospective which makes us wonder what our lives would be like without ever seeing a bridal party dance down the aisle.

Although YouTube is where we visit to usually find silly videos of dancing, QVC gone wrong and funny cat montages but it also disseminates thought provoking material as well. Less we forget videos like Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture, Dove’s Evolution of Beauty and an array of some of the world’s most creative social experiments.

Where does it go from here? In five years YouTube has 2 billion views a day, 70% of which are from outside the U.S. If it took you four minutes to read this blog entry, then YouTube users just uploaded 96 hours of new video. Now that kind of growth is worth celebrating.

Happy Birthday YouTube! And to celebrate let us enjoy this birthday montage:

All Aboard ‘Bizarre PR’

Recently, I served as Maven Communication’s ambassador, as we were a sponsor, at a wonderful event hosted and organized by Drexel University’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). This annual day long conference for regional PRSA student chapters focused on “bizarre yet successful PR campaigns in the sports, publishing, film, events and corporate fields.” More bizarre than the campaigns was my glimpse back in time as I looked around at all the fresh faced college students diligently taking notes and enjoying a glimpse into the ‘real world’ of PR. And who wouldn’t enjoy a look behind the curtain?

I thought the most interesting seminar was Comcast Center_Save the Datepresented on crisis PR from Jerri Williams, chief press officer at SEPTA. Yes, her title makes even me say, “yikes, that is one heck of a job.” I was interested not only because I am one of those thousands of people cursing SEPTA in the morning, and most evenings, but also because any Philadelphian knows SEPTA has had a tough year by even the toughest standards.  Ms. Williams was insightful, eloquent, honest and refreshingly witty about SEPTA’s past year and her process of dealing with crises. The best part was her delightful redundant questions testing our knowledge about what qualifies as a ‘crisis.’

“What is a crisis? How about when the Transport Workers Union goes on strike at 3am on a Tuesday morning leaving the 3.8 million people relying on SEPTA’s buses, trolleys subways and some rail lines stranded? Or what about if three days later a train on a popular regional rail line, which was not affected by the strike, catches fire and 400 people have to evacuate on the tracks? Or maybe it was the following day when a SEPTA employee was struck and killed by a train?…”

It certainly made her point, as well as put my daily to-do lists and the students’ term papers to shame. Ms. Williams made two other noteworthy points: 1) it is not always SEPTA’s responsibility, but it is always SEPTA’s problem and 2) no matter how much of her job is fending defending SEPTA’s reputation, it is always important to establish a positive reputation as well. It may not be SEPTA’s responsibility to police and respond to attacks within the underground passages, which are technically city property, but the news and public see it as so. It affects their commuters thus it is their duty to respond. As much as is Ms. Williams chief responsibility to mitigate crisis, another important role is to establish and encourage positive perceptions of SEPTA, like her initiative “Did You Find Love on SEPTA?” contest, which featured 14 couples who found love aboard SEPTA.

SEPTA’s crises have undoubtedly taken a toll on its public perception. However with Ms. Williams at the wheel, I trust its team is doing their best and with a touch of tasteful humor as well. I will try to remember that at the bus stop tomorrow morning.

A Little Birdie Told Me…

Some regard Twitter as nonsense, some think it’s revolutionary- whatever you think, it has people talking. It also has people taking action. Golfer John Daly recently tweeted the number of the Florida Times-Union journalist who wrote an article citing Daly’s PGA tour disciplinary file (which is newsworthy!). Granted 30 relatively tame messages within a couple of hours is not threatening as it is inconvenient.

But what about the more serious, and sometimes violent, effects of the immediate connectivity of social networking? 140 characters or a viral Facebook invitation allows for little information and organization, but  excitement translates very well.

Recently, a couple of blocks from the Maven offices, a ‘flash mob‘ (which isn’t as risque as it sounds) assembled in The Gallery, a small Center City mall. The group of 150 high school aged kids didn’t dance or pillow fight, which would have been adorable. They instead ended up ransacking Macy’s department store and running ammuck. Supposedly the mob was organized in the spirit of the massive snowball fight that also occurred. But in true Philly fashion, the friendly fire turned into a wildfire.

Like any new technology or fad, it can be used for good or evil, mostly depending on the intentions of its participants. With so many on social networks and its potential growth, I just hope no one take it too far and ruins it for the rest of us, especially when my commute and day could be unexpectedly brightened by a dancing flash mob! I am also eagerly awaiting day when a criminal’s defense is “twitter made me do it.”

The Accidental Blogger…A guest entry from Lauren Lynch, Intern Extraordinaire

The Accidental Blogger

Interning at Maven has been my first exposure to modern public relations, and also blogging as a useful and not entirely silly medium. (Cough: Perez Hilton.) Maven was also the cause of my blog: Kate McAdam, another Maven intern was scanning a clip from the January issue of Philly Magazine about Salon Vanity, and we were flipping through the list of the 239 Dishes You Must Try—she gushed about the roast chicken at Fork, and Megan pointed out the mahi-mahi tacos at El Vez, and Sarah put a check next to Village Whiskey. I hadn’t tried any of them. Three and a half years of living right outside Philly, and I hadn’t had a single must-have dish!

I made an impulsive resolution to try every one of the 239 dishes. Day one: Jones. I trekked fifteen blocks through the cold and ice, and it dawned on me how time consuming, expensive, and awesome this journey was going to be. So I decided to take the world down with me. I called my mom and told her my half-serious plan to grandiosely name it: “Love to Eat & Eat to Love: A Gastro Tour de Phorce, Getting to Know Philly the Tasty Way!”, and she could barely hear me, she was laughing so hard.

By the fourth day, Philly Magazine had emailed me for an interview. By the fourth week, ABC had emailed for an interview. And the requests were piling in from potential dinner companions. And now, in the sixth week, I have just been hired for my first paid writing gig, a blog entry for Philly Mag.

The magical part about the tale of the accidental blogger is that it really was an accident. Aside from my lifelong fantasy to write a series of parenting books in the style of Machiavelli, I haven’t even thought about writing anything besides lab reports and financial analyses in the past half-decade. I’m a finance major, looking to go into real estate. And I don’t know anything about food besides simply really liking to eat.

So what’s next? Everyone asks. Have you decided to be a writer? Um, no. I still like commercial real estate and have every intention of pursuing that career. But in the meantime, I will continue searching for and writing about the most mind-blowing dishes in Philly; and I hope that writing plays a role in my future. Perhaps I will have the opportunity to write a Machiavellian parenting book, after all.


You can read Lauren’s adventure in food on her blog love to eat & eat to love here

Toyota’s Troubles Accelerate: A PR Perspective

Toyota prepares to recall the Prius
Toyota prepares to recall the Prius

Since Toyota announced what has become its biggest ever safety and public relations disaster several weeks ago, the company has undertaken a herculean effort to restore the public’s confidence. It’s spokespeople have filled the airwaves, twitterverse and facebook with messages of reassurance, ads featuring an apology from the company have run nationwide, the website is continuously updated with information about the recall, consumer complaints are answered on a newly established hotline and U.S. President Jim Lentz has issued an apology via letter and on the Today Show. Why then, does Toyota’s reputation still hang in the balance?

Answering Three Questions: Effective crisis management requires a quick, no nonsense, full-responsibility response to three basic questions:

1) What did you know?

2) When did you know?

3) What are you going to do about it?

Part of Toyota’s mounting problems stem from their perceived failure to answer these questions quickly, openly and genuinely. After reports of sticking gas pedals surfaced in Europe in 2006, the company altered the pedals abroad, but made no effort to inform US consumers about the problem. After the magnitude of the issue was realized in the United States, Toyota issued two separate recalls and has dragged their feet in giving a straightforward response the mounting Prius issues. Rather than addressing the problem, its history and a proposed solution in one fell swoop, Toyota’s recall woes have continued to trickle out in a slow drip, ensuring the problem remains firmly in the public eye.

There is a Japanese proverb that says “If it stinks, put a lid on it.” Toyota’s initial decision to delay and deny seems to be taking this advice a little too close to heart.

Brand Matters:  Another issue Toyota faces is that the recall eats at the heart of the company’s core values: safety, reliability and quality. Toyota built their reputation by always putting the customer first, and has taken an obsessive approach to building the safest, most reliable cars on the market. The recall not only calls into question Toyota’s core safety values, its response rattles consumer trust in the company. A company’s values are the essence of who they are, so any crisis that questions these values is particularly difficult to overcome.

The question is, can Toyota salvage its reputation and repair consumer confidence? I would argue that the answer is yes, but a lot more legwork will need to be done. The American public has shown again and again our willingness to extend second chances to those that issue a public apology and take swift action. Companies like Mattel, which issued a massive toy recall in 2007 amid safety concerns, and Tylenol, whose swift and unilateral decision to pull Tylenol from the shelves has become the gold standard for crisis response, have emerged on the other side of similar situations with their reputations intact.

To do the same, Toyota must make a complete explanation of their response to the pedal issues and answer tough questions from outside experts. Toyota management has to be transparent and forthright in their response and proposed solutions. Then, and only then, can they begin the long process of rebuilding public confidence.

Celebrity Partnerships Should Come with a Crisis Plan

LeBronWill they ever learn?  Apparently not.  This week McDonald’s announced that they have signed a multiyear partnership deal with LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He will kick-off his endorsements with a Super Bowl pregame commercial (perhaps you’ve seen it). In addition to commercials, the partnership will include public appearances at McDonald’s-sponsored events. 

Apparently the Tiger Woods saga did not sink in at McDonald’s.  Today, is there any celebrity that a brand can truly bank on their consumers wanting to completely emulate?  For every Tiger Woods there’s, well, a Tiger Woods. According to Peter Sterling, vice president of marketing for McDonald’s USA, “all we can do is look at the past behavior and hope that will be a future indicator of what that person is going to be like.” 

If brands are going to continue to partner with big name celebrities – and it appears that they will, may I offer a suggestion?  Every time a partnership is signed, it should be accompanied by a crisis plan.

In the happy, champagne popping moment when the pen glides across the paper and another athlete/celebrity becomes a few million bucks richer, no one really want to think about the possibility of everything going up in flames.  But let’s face it, transgressions, drugs, abuse and general bad behavior happens.  A lot.

The good news is that there are people that you can hire (and should hire) to think these bad thoughts for you.  And to come up with a “just in case” plan that, God forbid, the sh*t hits the fan, can be implemented immediately.  Planning for a crisis is not on the top of anyone’s list, but let me be the first to tell you, you WILL sleep better at night knowing that there’s one out there.  Some crises are just unpredictable.  But for every unpredictable event, there are 10 that everyone saw coming from a mile away. And why not be prepared for them? 

Although celebrities are easy targets; corporations, foundations, nonprofits and C-suite  executives are just as much in need of crisis plans.  Even if they live in the deep, dark recesses of a locked safe; as long as they’re accessible by those who would need to get to them, they may one day become invaluable documents.  

So McDonald’s, listen up.  LeBron James might be squeaky clean right now, but you‘re best served to be prepared.  Because you never know…

The iPad another example of successful PR from Apple

 Last week, Apple finally showed off their newest gadget to the public with Steve Jobs leading the demonstration then allowing reporters to drool over the product.  Earlier in January, the WSJ broke the story about the release and that it would be distributed in March. The story was a familiar one, a major outlet leaks a story about the latest Apple gadget before its official unveiling.


Apple has always had an interesting strategy around the release of new products. The story goes like this: Apple confides in “friend” at a major media outlet and then lets information out, unofficially. According to a former Senior Marketing Executive at Apple, the leak strategy is very precise. For example, a high level executive at Apple will ask his PR department to have a phone or in person conversation with a trusted reporter friend and will idly mention specific information that they are allowed to release. The conversation can never happen over email to avoid having a paper trail. This strategy allows Apple to preserve their consistent, official reputation for never talking about unreleased products.

Apple’s strategy is strange but effective as they are able to get a bit of information out to the public without really unveiling anything and can always claim that they had no knowledge of the conversation. Besides that fact that Apple products are at the cutting edge of technology, the level of secrecy that they maintain helps them to maintain their exclusive and elusive reputation, and also creates a huge Media hype when they’re finally released. The recent WSJ article was interesting because it involved two journalists providing an extra layer and the ability to point fingers among who knew what. The story was also posted late in the evening EST so it would have no effect on the day’s trading.

The unveiling of the iPad is also newsworthy for other reasons, such as the name which has started a major outlast among those finding ways to relate the new product to feminine hygiene products. The iPad became the most popular topic on twitter as people not only discussed the name of the product (complete with clever innuendos such as iTampon/Max-iPad), but also reviewed the new product to see how it will fair amongst other tablets, notebooks and portable computers. While the name may be the brunt of a few jokes, everyone will forget the jokes if the product does what Steve Jobs promises.

I personally can’t wait to try it out. I need a new computer now that my personal HP laptop is infested with viruses, and I’m trying to determine what capabilities I need in a new device.  The iPad will be similar to the iPhone in that it will run third party applications downloadable from their own store, but it also runs on a similar operating system which means that you can’t use multiple programs at once and it doesn’t have flash.

One of the best applications it will have is the iBook e-reader. This application may actually be the savior for as it allows users to read books, magazines and journals electronically, much like Amazon’s Kindle.  While newspapers and print magazines continue to fizzle from existence, publishers need to find ways to embrace the iPad and quickly!

The price tag for the device right now is $499 for the cheapest version, which is much less than some predicted, especially because their least expensive laptop is just under $1000. That being said, it’s really just a larger Itouch based on its operating system and level of capabilities.

I haven’t made my mind up yet about the IPad, or at least the first generation, as I can only imagine that Jobs and Apple will find a way to make better with their later versions.  I will probably go and check one out in March with the rest of the crazed Apple fans, but I won’t be waiting in line in 30 degree weather at 4 a.m.  

Kudos to Apple for another media frenzie!