What Makes Things Popular Online?

“108 High Resolution Dark Denim Social Media Icons” by webtreats, on Flickr

The PR industry is rapidly changing. To stay competitive, PR agencies are learning how to develop digital skills or are maximizing marketing partner resources in order to satisfy the new media landscape. In a media world where anyone can be a journalist, news breaks on Twitter and memes are popping up and disappearing every week, PR professionals have their work cut out for them.

To address this, I recently planned a PRSA Austin Chapter event titled “There’s a Meme for That,” where our panelists discussed how to incorporate new digital media ideas into company strategies to boost chances of getting noticed, and increase social shares and engagement. Our panelists included digital marketing executives from Bazaarvoice, Edelman, Facebook and W2O—and they collectively had an extensive portfolio of examples of brands successfully using digital marketing strategies to reach consumers.

We started with the golden question: What makes things popular online? Why do some memes take off while others fall flat? What makes people share content and why do images and videos go viral? There are several inherent traits that exist in successful digital marketing strategies.

A human element

People need to be able to identify with the things they interact with every day. Dove, for example, has created a successful way to engage with its audience using “real” people in their ads and other communications. Recall the “Dove: Real Beauty” sketch campaign executed back in April. Dove expanded upon its “real beauty, real people” theme with this internet campaign that went viral, featuring sketches of women describing themselves to a sketch artist opposed to sketches of these women as described by someone else. The results were surprising. The message was positive, relatable and had that core human element that made the video such a success.

Socially shareable

If a campaign isn’t easy to share on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and other blogs, it won’t do well, obviously. What makes something socially shareable? Images! Today, images go much further than words have ever taken us. Most social sharing sites are geared towards image-based storytelling, and visuals trump the written word in today’s fast-paced media environment. Before a message can ever go viral, it must be depicted in a visual, succinct medium. Such media include short videos (take a look at these cool Vine videos from brands), meme-like photos like these, infographics or just plain photos.


Popular online content is usually centered around a timely topic or event. Do “The Royal Baby” or “You can still dunk in the dark” sound familiar to you? Both social media-born topics—one from pop culture and the other from a food brand, Oreo—gained popularity during high profile events. Even though campaigns such as these are short lived, the boost in visibility for the brand has a much longer lasting impact. Companies should be careful how they jump on the trend bandwagon, however, as people can tire quickly of memes. Check out these examples of brands attempting to capitalize on the Royal Baby trend, and then the people’s reaction to it.


People love to share their experiences (good or bad) on social media. People share information online because they hope or expect to get something back in return. This is part of the reason why product reviews are so popular. People are open to sharing commentary, because in return, they’ll get feedback from likeminded people or recognition from the brand. This psychology is similar across the social media landscape—and everyone is a movie, food, music, or [insert any category here] critic. The key is to share good, positive messages and never capitalize on negative trends or tragedies (like an Epicurious intern did).


Companies absolutely must pay attention to their audiences. What do they want to see? What performs best with them? Once this is understood, companies can shape their media and PR around those understandings. The Facebook panelist let attendees know that there are Page management tools that allow brands and companies to see which posts garner the most engagement. This is a good example of measuring the effectiveness and sociability of campaigns. There are many PR reporting tools and platforms that track and measure social campaigns, as well, such as Hootsuite, Radian6 and Meltwater News.


What are some of your favorite memes or digital campaigns? Have you run any that were positive and successful? Feel free to plug here!

Back From Abroad: New Thoughts on the PR World I Thought I Knew

Time flies when you’re having fun. It also flies when you’re travelling nine countries and 17 cities in 56 days.  After two exquisitely eye-opening months abroad, I can honestly say I welcomed my return to Austin with open arms. A chaotic and life-changing few months turned out to be some of the most incredible and invaluable experiences that I’ll never forget. Graduation. Two months abroad. Full-time employment.  It’s been quite a ride! And I have no intention of getting off anytime soon. “What did you learn?” you might ask? Many of you have traveled the globe and discovered something completely unique from the person next to you on the plane, so I certainly don’t present my experiences with an elitist tone, but as an honest representation of my thoughts and feelings toward the journey as a whole.

From the many places I explored, people I met and food I ate, the most important thing I learned from my travels is this: Embrace the urge to see the world and try new things, but remember your roots and return home appreciating your life for all that it gives you, especially the people who make it worthwhile. If you were wondering, yes, I’m a cheeseball and a sap.

While I’ll always long for walking the narrow alleys of some far off destination, lying on an exotic beach, or hiking up to a beautiful view in some foreign countryside, I’m happily jumping into my newly minted PR career – that’s right, folks! You’re stuck with me hanging around Ketner Group for a while. What better way to return from a summer abroad? As my first blog post, I thought it might be fitting to highlight just a couple ideas that not only helped me get by in Europe but can apply to a successful career in PR as well.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The saying, “there’s no such thing as a stupid question,” holds true in this case (while on another note, I’m a believer that questions you already know the answer to are actually stupid). It’s easy and perfectly O.K. to be lost, in any sense of the word, but if you want to be found you’ll have to put in some old fashioned hard work. You may be surprised to hear this, but people genuinely DO want to offer their help! You’ve just got to learn to feel comfortable, and not like a failure, asking for it.

In a niche PR market such as retail technology, you need to be able to ask questions about your clients’ product, a new service, how that platform works, how this process brings about this result, etc. Don’t be afraid of looking silly or uninformed; asking a question now is better than facing a potentially costly, humiliating and probably avoidable mistake later. A good client knows this and is almost always happy to breakdown the details for you.

Resourcefulness is close to Godliness. Okay, so I may have muddled up that proverb, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true! From using shampoo as face wash and leave-in conditioner as body lotion, to putting my basic Spanish vocabulary to good use in the Czech Republic, I learned to get what I was looking for in the most random yet oddly effective ways.

PR is a field where thinking on your feet is an absolute necessity. Whether it’s a new take on a seemingly trite piece of information or a way to get more bang for your clients’ buck, resourcefulness is a key advantage to doing your job and doing it well. Not only can an inventive approach to your communications strategy keep your work spicy and irresistible (like the Tex-Mex I so desperately craved while away from Austin), it can save you and your clients valuable time and money in the long run. By using time and resources efficiently, you open up more hours that can be devoted to a social media ramp-up or a refreshing and productive brainstorming sesh that you previously had no time to explore.

After getting my degree in public relations and interning in the industry for a couple years, I thought I had a pretty accurate grasp on what the communications field was truly all about. Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t, but what’s more important is to understand not only where public relations is now, but where it’s going. I’m still so green in this well-toiled field of PR, but I’m dying to see what’s next and plan to do my part advancing the industry and keeping Ketner Group pushing full speed ahead. I hope this post can inspire some of you do the same! Never give up on a successful career, but take any and every opportunity to travel – it might surprise you how you’ll be affected!

I’ll wrap things up with the Mark Twain quote my KG team members so thoughtfully decorated my desk with on my last day before jetting off to the other side of the pond:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Cheers to the next chapter, whatever you choose yours to be!

#KeepPRWeird: Top 3 Take-Aways from PRSA 2013 Southwest District Conference

I’m on the PRSA Austin Chapter board and gladly volunteered to serve on the planning committee for the PRSA 2013 Southwest District Conference, which was June 5-7. I had an exciting job as the Special Events Committee Chair, which means that I got to plan the social events. What conference goes without networking and happy hours?

And what networking happy hour goes without a life-size poster board of John Wayne? He went with us everywhere!

Here’s a small group of us keeping it strictly business, of course, at Lustre Pearl during our Rainey Street Pub Crawl. That’s me in the cowgirl hat and glow sticks (yep, glow sticks).

To get back to the REAL reason PR pros from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico and more gathered in the capital city of Texas, we were there to learn how to “Keep PR Weird,” which was the official conference slogan. Not only did David Lieber, Watchdog Investigative Columnist at Dallas Morning News, say that #KeepPRWeird was the best conference slogan he’s seen in 20 years, it was trending locally for both Twitter and Instagram (thanks to our Pub Crawl photo contest), so check out the conversations!

If I had to take three lessons home from the conference, it’d be these:

1. Storytelling is everything.

Stories are the reason humankind has some idea of our past. From the beginning of time, humans have been passing on important information through stories–whether it was carvings in a rock, through song or written down. We still share and remember important information through stories, and we’re wired to think that way. David Lieber, the opening keynote speaker, emphasized the importance of companies and brands telling their stories. Each story should have a hero/heroine, and the story should have a beginning, climax and end. Make sure to describe the problem you’re solving and illustrate the challenges that brought you where you are today–it makes your company seem much more human. And people crave that human touch.

2. Measurement of Social Media? Possible!

Angela Jeffrey, APR, Senior Counsel for CARMA International, presented a session titled, “The R Social Media ROI.” This was a really useful session, because all PR people know what a headache it can be to try and measure anything in PR, let alone social media. Angela is a fan of the AMEC Social Media Valid Framework, and if you are unfamiliar with it, you can read up on it at AMEC.org (a very helpful presentation) or take a look at Angela’s PR News article that breaks it down nicely. According to Angela, “The philosophy behind the guidelines states that to truly demonstrate the value of PR, metrics need to be linked to the business objective of the program, and move beyond measuring outputs to measuring outcomes. The Framework helps you identify suitable metrics for PR and social media programs that take you from cursory to meaningful measures that resound with the C-suite and help you refine your programs.”

Angela gave attendees a very specific 8 step process for measuring social media activity:

  1. Define organizational goals
  2. Research stakeholders and prioritize
  3. Set specific objectives for each key stakeholder group
  4. Set traditional/social media KPIs against each objective
  5. Choose tools and benchmark (using the AMEC Framework)
  6. Analyze the results and compare to costs
  7. Present to management
  8. Measure continuously and improve performance
To learn more about her process, visit MeasurementMatch.com and download her latest white paper.

3. An organization can survive a crisis through honesty and passion

The closing keynote was awesome. Katherine McLain, VP of Communications at Livestrong Foundation, spoke on how to overcome a crisis situation, especially when your organization relies on donations. Following the investigation into and admittance of Lance Armstrong’s doping use, the Livestrong Foundation took a hit. Ken Berger, President and CEO of Charity Navigator had said, “[They are] not going to be able to survive if the person who is behind the spirit of [the organization] is in trouble. It is just going to devastate them.” Ouch! What Livestrong ultimately did was focus on the positive: They are there to help people through difficult struggles in their lives. People with cancer. People who need the foundation to assist them with their fight. Livestrong developed a hashtag that helped position them above the controversy: #FightWithUs. They also developed videos that illustrated individual peoples’ battles with cancer. They focused on the positive, distanced themselves from the negative and marched on.

If you want to chat more about what I learned at the PRSA Southwest District Conference, hit me up on Twitter! @CaitlinNew


Great Reads from Around the Marketing Blogosphere

This week we’d like to give a shout-out to other like-minded marketing or media agencies, whose blogs summed up everything we wanted to say before we could have said it.

Up first, is Thom Singer’s blog, “Tweet, Post, Update and Share Beyond Yourself,” which talks about the importance of promoting others even when there is nothing to gain personally. This is as easy as ‘retweeting’ someone else or sharing a Facebook update. The idea is to not make it all “Hey, look at me” but to make some of it “Hey, look at them!” You never know promoting others may lead to them promoting you.

Next we would like to mention Bazaarvoice and their blog on “Collaborative Economy,” a new(ish) way to reach, sell to and share with each other directly through a social, digital marketplace. This sharing marketplace allows customers to subscribe to or rent products other customers own. This was most commonly seen in media, such as: Netflix, Gamefly and Redbox, but now sharing has become something like a community.  This may seem like a threat to traditional businesses, but in reality, this sharing marketplace offers great opportunities for businesses that jump on the trend. For example, Toyota now lets customers rent cars off their lots, competing with services like ZipCar and Car2Go, and Chevy partnered with mobile app RelayRides, which lets members rent out their cars while they aren’t in use. The collaborative economy moves beyond selling, and allows business to create relationships for mutual benefit.

Our last shout out goes to Marketo and their round up of the “5 of the Most Innovative and Unique Marketing Campaigns So Far in 2013.” With 917 shares and counting, I was interested to see what campaigns made the cut. Out of the five campaigns, two really stood out to me in both creativity and just plain ole’ fun: Senador Volstead Beer and #lowesfixinsix.

  • Senador Volstead Beer is a truly genius campaign, I may have LOL’ed a bit while marveling at its website. Senador Volstead is a beer company based in Spain named after Senator Volstead, who declared the start of prohibition in 1920. How did they keep to the prohibition theme? By hiding their product to make it look like they are selling teddy BEARS not BEERS. This is memorable and hilarious.
  • Second, is from a Lowes Vine campaign: #lowesfixinsix on a solution to keep rugs from slipping across the floor. This is a really innovative campaign that uses Vine’s strengths to create a step-by-step process for the consumer. This campaign really sticks out to me; it really shows how a brand can use Vine to their advantage. Make sure to check out the other campaigns as well, they all do an amazing job of capturing the attention of their audience.
    Read an interesting blog lately or have any comments/thoughts? Please feel free to share!

    Image courtesy of Lowes


SXSW: A blur in the rear-view mirror

Photo courtesy of SXSW Interactive Festival











Both Austin and myself are fully recovered from the sleepless madness that is the South By South West (SXSW) onslaught of all things branded and hipster and geeky-cool that is now a much-loved and/or much-hated March tradition, depending on whom you ask (and whether or not you ask them as they sit in gridlocked traffic courtesy of all the road closures).

Though March and April(!) have come and gone, as have the road closures, thank goodness, I’m still thinking about a few sessions at SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) that opened my eyes to new ideas, and that’s the true value of SXSWi. As a busy professional, and one of the 69% of PR professionals that eat lunch at their desks every day, it’s so easy to put on blinders as I sit, chained to my computer every day, waging war against deadlines and monitoring budgets. Everyone needs to shake it up sometimes, and two sessions in particular posed questions that, a month and a half later, I still can’t shake.

The first session that blew me away was #bingle, a joint session with Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor Search Engine Land at Google, and Duane Forrester, Senior Product Marketing Manager of Bing Webmaster Tools. A pure Q&A format, the conversation was fluid and candid as SXSWi attendees took to the microphone to ask the experts. See the whole #bingle twitter feed here—look at the tweets from March 8-14.




The main question I walked away asking myself was this: What is the value of wire distribution for press releases?

Search engines have been discounting press releases for SEO for years.  So what’s the real value here? This question has come up a few times recently at KG, but hearing it directly from Google and Bing has increased our sense of urgency in reevaluating our internal processes. While we’ve always been very selective about which press releases we distribute via the wire and which circuits we recommend, we can still be more strategic in why and when we recommend wire distribution.

The other session that I still quote and think about daily (not exaggerating) was #socialb2b, “B2B Social Marketing: Blazing New Trails,” led by marketing experts Jamie Grenney, VP of Social Media & Online Video at Salesforce.com, Jason Bartlett, VP of Global Social Marketing at Xerox Corporation and Jeanette Gibson, Sr. Director of Social & Digital Marketing at Cisco Systems Inc. See the feed of tweets from March 11 here.

This session was packed with tidbits that have not just lingered in my memory, but have actually inspired change within myself and across KG:











And to quote myself quoting the panel:




The question that a session attendee asked the panel that still haunts me is: How can we translate big enterprise B2B social media success to much smaller companies with fewer resources?

The panel didn’t have an especially confident answer on that one, which is admittedly a really tough question with which the majority of businesses across the country struggle. The idea the panel did suggest, though, resonated with me. They all stressed how successful YouTube videos have been for their enterprises, and this is something many smaller companies do not invest in, but could produce on a budget. So long as there is a direct call to action within the first 15 seconds, YouTube videos are highly effective. One reason for this is how safe it is to share a familiar YouTube link. This point was driven home this week when I found an email from Networld in my inbox that aggregated some incredibly compelling stats about video:

  •  “89 million people in the United States are going to watch 1.2 billion online videos today.” (A second source: Comscore)
  • “Online video users are expected to double to 1.5 billion in 2016.” (Source: MediaPost & Cisco)
  • “Online video now accounts for 50 percent of all mobile traffic and up to 69 percent of traffic on certain networks.” (Source: TechCrunch & Bytemobile)

What’s more, PR giant FleishmanHillard saw the writing on the wall and this week announced they are rebranding from a traditional PR agency into a “channel agnostic” integrated marketing communications firm that will tackle digital marketing projects, including video.

SXSWi 2012 left me enlightened but exhausted. SXSWi 2013 left me inspired and recharged. The post-SXSWi zombie syndrome is always worth it to get out of my comfort zone and hobnob with the bright minds and progressive thinkers that are shaking up my industry. Ketner Group is committed to evolving with the times, staying fresh and current to bring our clients the most relevant, thoughtful counsel possible. We’re excited how far we have come—the new website, the new-and-improved PB&J blog, and the addition of the incredibly digitally-savvy Sara Lasseter—and we look forward to continuing to chart this new, more digital course through the rest of the year until SXSWi 2014, when we’ll fill up our inspiration tanks once more.

Retail’s Reinvention: Back to the Future?

I’ve been reading and thinking about retail innovation a lot lately, which is no surprise. After all, many of our clients here at Ketner Group are retail tech companies, and retailers have been reinventing themselves at a furious pace in recent years as they seek new ways to compete with Amazon.

One of the things that intrigued me is a recent Reuters article about Walmart’s “radical plan” to have its customers deliver packages to online buyers. The plans are still in the early stages, but as the article explains, “shoppers could tell the retailer where they live and sign up to drop off packages for online customers who live on their route back home,” in exchange for a discount on their Walmart purchases. The retail giant’s ability to crowdsource its deliveries could make same-day delivery a reality, giving Walmart a potent edge over Amazon.

Will this plan ever see the light of day? At this point, it sounds far-fetched. But as one retail pundit pointed out, at least Walmart is thinking of creative ways to reinvent retail.

An article by retail futurist Doug Stephens draws an intriguing picture of what this future might look like. Stephens says “retail, as we’ve known it for at least the last two millenia, is coming to an end…it’s very clear to me that we are coming to a tipping point and data, processing power and connectedness lie at the center of it all.”

In the next decade, Stephens argues, retail will completely shift from a focus on ­physical and digital destinations and storefronts, to a focus on consumers as the ultimate destination. Instead of consumers deciding which stores and e-commerce sites to visit, retail will in essence start coming to us.

For example, according to Stephens, let’s say I’m on a business trip and my mobile device alerts me my anniversary is coming up in two days. A digital shopping assistant then springs into action—and it knows my wife’s shopping preferences so well that it presents a list of personalized gift suggestions in seconds, pulling information from a number of available storefronts. It finds the best available offer (my wife’s favorite fragrance on sale at Norstrom with a special bonus gift), then makes the purchase and arranges for the most convenient pickup or delivery option. The whole process takes under a minute.

It’s an intriguing vision from Stephens (aka The Retail Prophet). And the future that he describes is already taking shape. After all, the very best retailers compete for our business by analyzing our preferences, understanding our shopping habits, and delivering highly personalized recommendations and offers, sometimes anticipating our wants and needs before we even know we have them. (Check out the chapter, “How Target Knows What You Want Before You Do,” in Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit for a fascinating account of how Target analyzes consumer data.)

With all these innovations, though, it seems to me that retailers are simply trying to recapture an era where individual store owners recognized their customers by name, knew their shopping preferences by heart, and conducted business as a series of highly individualized, one-to-one transactions. In earlier days, retail was a highly personal business, and merchant’s storefronts were focal points not just of commerce, but community. Did shoppers need something delivered to their home the same day? No problem, the store owner could arrange it. Did you almost forget your wife’s birthday? Luckily, your local retailer had a timely gift suggestion when you called in a last-minute panic.

So as retail reinvents itself, it’s really just trying to get back to its roots, seeking new ways to make large-scale, mass-market retailing more personal and intimate. Technology may be the enabler, but in the end, what retailers are really doing is going back to the future.

Introducing KG’s Newest Blog Series: PR 101

The KG Team is excited to introduce a content series for our PB&J Blog. “PR 101: Back to Basics”. Think back to your days in school: sitting in class, working on a campaign, writing all those press releases. Now think about the first year of your full-time job in PR… We’d be willing to bet you encountered more than a few concepts that threw you for a loop! We’ve all had our moments of panic when sitting in that first client meeting: bylines, analyst briefings, ed cals. What analysts? And what’s a byline?

“PR 101: Back to Basics” is a blog series designed to better prepare current PR students for the industry, as well as help professionals, green or well-seasoned, to enhance and expand their knowledge of PR. In this series, we’ll be profiling different topics that we feel would be beneficial to young PR professionals as well as vets who have been around the block, so to speak. We’d love to hear your thoughts on significant industry knowledge that would be helpful to highlight! Do you remember a specific instance when you were expected to know something on the job that you weren’t taught in school? Is there a topic you think gets pushed aside in our industry that you feel we should discuss? A penny for your thoughts! Or maybe a shout out on our blog will do.

If you’ve ever felt like Lucy at the chocolate factory, we understand. Feeling overwhelmed at work is normal, so no need to stuff all those truffles in your hat, or all those ed cals in a deep, dark, secret folder in Outlook. PR 101: Back to Basics will help you wrap those chocolate, and eat them, too!













KG is on a mission to end uncertainty and encourage real world knowledge in PR! We hope you can all get involved for this series, and follow us along the way with your comments and feedback! Tweet us at @PBJblog or @KetnerGroupPR using the hashtag #KGPR101 with your thoughts!

Indoor Location Analytics Boosts Retailers’ Merchandising and Marketing Information Arsenal

Indoor Location Analytics is enjoying explosive adoption in retail, logistics, airports, healthcare and other industries. Growth is driven by new technology, smartphone ubiquity and increased market awareness. Editor in Chief Joe Francica interviewed Jonathon Rosen, business development director for WirelessWERX, who described the technology needed to capture mobile consumer data and some of the surprising uses for those data.


Ketner Group Gets a Blog Make-Over & National PB&J Day!

Does something look a little different to you? Our blog didn’t lose weight or change its hair, but it did get a whole new look! What was formerly Ketner Group’s KbloG is now PB&J! We aim to give readers “a slice of PR, Branding and Journalism”–a place to hang out and read about good ideas and examples of how to lead a better PR, content and marketing program and discuss trendy industry topics. Follow our Twitter page at www.twitter.com/PBJblog to get all of our updates!

We’re happy to announce our new PB&J blog name on 2013 National PB&J Day (April 2)!

If our new name doesn’t make you hungry, then National PB&J Day will make you itch for a ‘which and eager to help the environment, too! Check out the PB&J Campaign, whose goal is to educate people “on actions we can take (such as choosing a PB&J sandwich for lunch) to help create a sustainable, earth-friendly future with enough food for all.” You don’t have to agree with that to agree that PB&J is just an awesome name.

Hope you like our new graphic! Let us know what you think. And for the love of jelly, have a PB&J sandwich soon and think of us while you chew that peanuty goodness.

Apparel software trends: What else is on the agenda?

What else is likely to be topping the apparel industry’s software agenda this year? Using technology to help mitigate risk in the supply chain, automating data capture, and greater collaboration and information exchange between apparel retailers and brands and their suppliers are all highlighted. Tapping into social media and mobile technologies will also contribute to speed and accuracy.