Intern Spotlight: Aly Weigel

Intern Spotlight

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Name: Aly Weigel
School: Indiana University
Graduation Year: 2016
Major: Journalism/Public Relations
Internship title: Communications Management Assistant
Hobbies: Drinking coffee, going to concerts, traveling, blogging, and finding a balance between working out and loving food

Duties at Hirons:

Hirons has allowed me to do a little bit of everything. Some of the things I have done during my time here are: research and organize information on current clients, write the first drafts of press releases, assist with projects and events, organize social media timelines and content, write blog posts, deliver samples and documents, create lists of local media outlets and contacts, and write and send pitches for news stories to local media.

Favorite part about interning at Hirons:

There are a couple of things I’ve really enjoyed about interning at Hirons. First of all, the staff here is absolutely wonderful. They are always so willing to help out whenever needed, and I never have to hesitate to ask questions when I don’t understand something. It’s apparent that the people who work here truly love their jobs, which has made me enjoy my time here that much more. Secondly, sometimes when you think “internship,” you think of mindless tasks and busy work, but that’s certainly not the case here. I’ve had the opportunity to work on important projects that have given me real hands-on experience in the fields of public relations and advertising. I feel like my time here is truly valued and utilized to the fullest, which keeps me motivated to work hard.

Most difficult aspect of the job:

Being a young college student who’s still trying to figure it all out, you could definitely say I have successfully mastered the art of procrastination. In a professional environment though, procrastination could potentially lead to a loss in business. The biggest challenge I have faced during my time at Hirons is learning how to manage my time wisely. Getting things completed efficiently, but also paying attention to detail is very important, especially in the world of public relations and advertising.

What have you learned during your time at Hirons? How does this opportunity relate to your career goals?

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked through the doors at Hirons on my first day, but I was definitely ready to soak it all in. Getting real life experience in the field that I hope to one day have a career in and developing my skill-set has been so exciting! In terms of what I’ve learned though, I think the real question is: what haven’t I learned? Having the opportunity to help with media plans, pitch to media outlets, communicate with clients, and even work in a professional environment are all things I had not previously experienced. These are skills that you just can’t learn while sitting in a classroom. I’m so thankful that I was able to have the opportunity to be a part of a thriving agency like Hirons and use my short time here to its’ full advantage.

Fun facts about Aly:

  • I’ll eat anything that involves peanut butter
  • I have lived on both coasts (California and North Carolina).
  • I also work at Scotty’s Brewhouse in downtown Indy, so if you’re ever in the area, stop by and say hi!

Blog Your Way to Effective PR

By Jim Parham, Chief Operating Officer

Long gone are the mimeograph machine and soon-to-be shelved fax machine. (Did you know that fax is short for facsimile?) Email is now the gold standard, and the U.S. Postal Service has become more of a direct marketing company than a carrier of love letters. Twitter handles a large amount of the amorous outreach, and it takes only 140 characters … thankfully.

Now comes the rise in blogs, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. And most companies have a website, correct?  If the institution doesn’t have a Web presence, then something is usually very wrong at the firm. After all, we’re now getting a majority of our information from the Internet. Remember the Yellow Pages? Well, maybe you use the online version, but where are those bulky big yellow books?

How do blogs leave a footprint in our public relations turf? Good question. Here are two interesting facts from the blogging site PR Connection: Nearly 40 percent of U.S. companies use blogs for marketing purposes, and there are 152,000,000 blogs on the Internet.  Well, that was yesterday’s number. I’m sure it’s 155,000,000 by now.

Blog Friendly PR, which maintains a high-visibility website, says blogs are a new and fresh way to market product and services in an affordable and effective way.  Blog Friendly PR, after all, was created to bridge the gap between brands and bloggers. So, in others words, blogs are a cheap and direct way to reach your customers. Let’s not forget, too, that thousands of journalists scan blogs looking for scoops, trends, rumors and innuendo.

I attended a public relations seminar where the speaker stated, “Either be part of the conversation or let the conversation be one-sided, and that might not be a good thing for your business.”  He was referring to digging into social media and countering the unabashed, unfiltered content on the Web. Blogs are an ideal way to start a conversation, comment on other happenings, or respond to negative comments and erroneous online postings about you or your company.

Speaking of unfiltered, a great advantage to social media and blogging in particular is providing content to highly engaged stakeholders (and possibly tangential ones) without the media filter. You can go “direct” to your customers, influencers and decision-makers without having a mainstream media editor determine if it’s worthy of reprinting or re-broadcasting. Now that’s convenient.

A major disadvantage of blogs, however, is their ineffectiveness if no one reads them. That’s where savvy marketing comes in. You must be visible among the throngs of postings and rise above the daily buzz and clamor. To do this, it’s best to turn to a social media marketing guru. Now, almost every public relations agency has a social media expert who knows how to navigate much of the uncharted waters of the blogosphere.

So, put down the traditional, hard-copy collateral material (that few people read anyway) and start blogging your way to improved company awareness and success. Online is where most of the customers spend a majority of their time. Don’t believe me? Just ask Amazon.

— Jim Parham, Vice President, Chief Operating Officer 

Just for Kicks

The World Cup is an exciting time, not only for soccer fans but for advertisers as well. With one of the highest viewing rates of any televised sporting event, soccer players aren’t the only ones who take center stage … or field.

Before the first kickoff, the reach of World Cup advertisements had surpassed that of Super Bowl 2014. According to marketing research by Google, advertisements related to the World Cup have been posted and/or shared 6.9 million times compared to the 4.7 million shares generated by Super Bowl commercials.

Fútbol, 1. Football, 0.

But how is this possible?

With such a culturally diverse fan base, soccer is considered the world’s most popular sport.  And, because of the way the game is played, advertisers have had to be more creative.

If you are familiar with soccer (unlike me), you probably know that it is a game played in complete halves with no breaks in between. While that may contribute to the high number of people actually tuning in, it doesn’t leave much room for conventional advertising.

This year, savvy marketers such as Nike, Adidas and McDonald’s have come up with a new way to grab viewers’ attention. Instead of traditional commercials, these companies are creating short films with very little product placement, generally not even revealing the name of the company until the very end. Some are funny. Some are inspiring. But they are all very entertaining.

“The Game Before the Game” is a short created for Beats by Dre. It shows the process of getting “game ready”— putting on your Beats headphones and tuning out the world. Viewers see a montage of people who are in need of some serious mental preparation, not only professional soccer players and a businessman but all kinds of celebrities:  Neymar Junior, Cesc Fabregas and Luis Suarez, sure, but also LeBron James, Serena Williams, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne. By the time the ad is over, you feel as though you had watched a Hollywood film. I mean, who doesn’t love seeing their favorite celebrity?

Nike created an animated short that mimics the plot of “Space Jam,” which featured Michael Jordan helping some Looney Tunes characters win a basketball game against alien slavers. In Nike’s version,  All-Stars including Christiano Ronaldo, Wayne  Rooney and Neymar Junior are given new attire, faster shoes and some other advantages to beat the monsters on the soccer field. Although predictable, this ad appeals to both children and adults while also, of course, branding the well-known name of Nike.

Much like an actual movie, these short films leave you feeling refreshed. They are meant to be enjoyed and watched without feeling any pressure or urgency to acquire a new product.

These are ads you want to watch. And then watch again. And then share with everyone you know. That’s what makes a great advertisement, not something showcasing shiny products and phrases like “limited time offer.”

The most effective advertisements are the ones that amuse and uplift. If at the end of an advertisement I am laughing, smiling, or hitting the “share to Facebook” button, it’s done its job.

Change is the Only Constant

“Change is the only constant.”

You said it, Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus. Especially in this industry. Creative concepts and new business opportunities constantly shift with the wind, but we’d be remiss to assume outer currents of change aren’t reflected within agency shops as well.

A decade or two ago, it would be commonplace for an employee to stay with one company for 10-15 years. Today, the average worker stays 4.4 years. But even that is old news to advertising and PR companies, where 4.4 years at one firm is considered a lifetime by today’s standards. That’s what happens when Millennials flood the job market.

This dictum is reflected in strategic and creative projects as well. A social media campaign takes approximately 90 days to build momentum, typically lasting three months before the message has peaked and the audience needs something new. Is it because constant multitasking has become an audience norm? Or is it just the nature of our work?

The truth is, we live in a world of momentary exposure: 30-second spots, 140 characters. Fireworks alight for a moment in a sky full of stars.

What separates good firms from great firms is the ability to capture that moment, with the talent you have and the client at your door, and make something spectacular.

We cannot lament lost ventures and missed opportunities or hang our heads when change inevitably comes to collect. What we can do is take the passive concept and make it active. Seize the moment. Pursue the fleeting idea. Realize that change creates opportunity and challenges monotony.

Embracing change, ironically, supplies a consistent long-term strategy to keep an agency afloat.

Change is the only constant?

For a great firm, change is the only necessity.

Hirons Takes Home Awards for Outstanding Work

Hirons Takes Home Awards for Outstanding Work
PRSA recognizes Hirons for programs in public relations and communications

This year at the 2014 PRSA Pinnacle Awards, public relations students and professionals from Indiana and Central Illinois were recognized for outstanding work in such areas as social media, marketing communications, annual reports and public service announcements.

Hirons was awarded two Pinnacle Awards — for programs and projects that demonstrated excellence in overall execution — and three Awards of Honor — given to programs and projects that rose above the standard in overall execution.

Pinnacle Awards:

Eskenazi Health Public Affairs & Communications for Eskenazi Health External Communications

Eskenazi Health Media Relations

Awards of Honor:

Energizing Indiana School Program Kit

Eskenazi Health Special Events

ParkIND Launch

Hirons would like to congratulate all winners of this year’s Pinnacle Awards and thank all of their hard-working sponsors and staff.

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About Hirons
Hirons Advertising and Public Relations, established in 1978 by Tom Hirons, is headquartered in Indianapolis and is ranked as both a top 100 advertising and top 100 PR firm in the U.S. Hirons is a digital leader in advertising, public relations, public affairs and media buying. Hirons’ clients include leading private, public and nonprofit sector organizations locally and nationally. Hirons is an employee-owned company.

About PRSA Hoosier Chapter
The Public Relations Society of America Hoosier Chapter includes public relations professionals and students from throughout Indiana who work in agencies, corporations, universities and nonprofits. Founded in 1957, it has more than 400 members, making it is one of the largest chapters in the United States. The Hoosier Chapter provides its members with various programs and events as well as with training, news and information. For more information on the PRSA Hoosier Chapter and how to become a member, visit http://prsahoosier.org/.

Finding the Sweet Spot between Integration and Specialization

By Tom Hirons, President & CEO

Where do we find the balance between integration and specialization? Some view this as a continuum with integration at one extreme and specialization at the other.  Let me argue instead for viewing integration as a specialization.

Specialization implies expertise. And, in this industry, deep expertise is needed. Required core competencies extend beyond the categories of advertising and public relations to expertise by professional specialty as well as by industry category.

Yet, the specialization most in demand is the ability to integrate specialists and achieve results across industries.

Integration is becoming increasingly essential. When the term was first coined in the late 80s, it referred to the alignment of advertising, public relations and other communications disciplines. With the tsunami of digital, integration is critical.

Euphemisms abound. Jack of all trades, master of none has outlived its usefulness. Our most effective integrators are masters of at least one discipline AND masters of integration.

So the sweet spot is not found between the two extremes, it is earned through a core competency and a dedication to understanding, embracing and incorporating other core competencies in concert.

It is not a question of what you outsource and what you perform in house (though that may impact efficiency). It will never be a question of what you, alone, can do. Our most potent and highest performing professionals will always be those who bring real value to the table but also understand who else should be at the table and how and when to most effectively orchestrate true integration.

Like music, it is both art and science. And, like music, it is very sweet when you get it right.

Them's Fightin' Words

There’s a shaky truce among advertisers to resist sucker punching the competition. No matter if you’re looking to increase a client’s market share or demonstrate product superiority, the moment names are named, you enter a whole new arena. After all, the communicative risks are much higher when you’re the aggressor. Could you come off as a schoolyard bully? Will your message inform or will it belittle? Is it cheeky and playful, or rude and mean-spirited? Whatever your intent, the moment you “call out” a competitor by name, all eyes are on you. Cuz them’s fightin’ words.

Frankly, from outside the industry, it’s fun to cheer on faceless companies as they duke it out in public. This is America, buddy. The only thing we love more than entertainment is competition. A good old- fashioned scuffle might have been limited to intended audiences a decade or two ago, but now, the entire Internet takes notice. Lucky us!

Most recently, Taco Bell has been taking jabs at its competitive juggernaut, McDonald’s. To highlight a foray into the fast-food breakfast market, Taco Bell released a nationwide ad campaign showing people named Ronald McDonald enjoying the new Taco Bell breakfast. It isn’t a particularly biting ad, but Taco Bell was certainly wearing its intentions on its sleeves.

To retaliate, McDonald’s simply posted this picture on Twitter.

Screen-Shot-2014-03-29-at-1.01.57-PM

 

Have you ever had an encounter with a Chihuahua? They’re not typically the most timid pups. In fact, they’re known for a particularly yippy demeanor, and if you challenge them, they’ll bark and nip at your heals for hours.

That’s exactly how Taco Bell responded. Its next ad used the theme of “Old McDonald Had a Farm” to imply that McDonald’s breakfasts are behind the times. The exchange has now been dubbed “The Breakfast Wars” by online publications, and the Internet waits with bated breath for a McDonald’s retaliation.

As agency insiders, we cringe at the slightest possibility of a mishap when the gloves come off. Take Audi’s “Your Move, BMW” billboard. In launching its message of superiority, the folks at Audi were counting on limited billboard availability and a small, specific audience to minimize the risk of retaliation. Or so they thought. What they didn’t count on was the people at BMW taking notice.

They noticed.

bmwaudiwars1

When you make the first move in an attack ad, you leave yourself open to a riposte. In this case, Audi gave the clever agency behind BMW an opportunity to fire back twice as hard, making Audi look quite foolish in the process.

So how do you walk the fine line between launching an offense while fortifying a defense? That’s where the Joe Fraziers of advertising step in.

Remember Apple’s “I’m a Mac” campaign?

These advertisements brilliantly tight-roped that line by mixing polite positivity, cheerful music and comedy all around the basic differences between Macs and PCs. Apple didn’t pull its punches (until later), but it didn’t back down from its message either. How could Microsoft respond heavy-handedly to light-hearted comedy and deductive intelligence? It couldn’t. Not successfully, anyway.

The campaign ran its course, with each new TV spot guaranteed to elicit a new giggle and a “hmm” from the audience. And that’s what a successful attack ad should do. Even ad wars have casualties, so when the fightin’ words start flying, it’s important to respond with calculated messaging and a side of wit instead of sucker punching.

Unless you have one hell of an uppercut.

 

Thinking in Concentric Circles

By Tom Hirons, President & CEO

“Rhondalyn Cornett, president of the Indianapolis Education Association, said she was surprised to hear about the program for the first time Tuesday night. …”

Indianapolis Star reporter Eric Weddle covered the announcement of an Indianapolis Public Schools/ Mind Trust proposal to fix failing schools. His inclusion of Rhondalyn Cornett’s surprise illustrates the principle of thinking in concentric circles.

We have all had that experience of hearing or reading about something and being surprised that we didn’t already know it. And, we know the satisfaction of reading something in the morning paper or hearing something at a public meeting, having already been briefed on it. Quite simply, people want to feel that they are informed; they want to know something before they hear about it. Knowledge is power. Empower your stakeholders by making sure they are always the first to know.

There is an art to doing this. Think in terms of concentric circles. At the core are your most key stakeholders. These may be your board of directors and senior officers. Your next circle out may be senior staff because they would most certainly want to hear something before they are asked about it by a co-worker. And, employees always are somewhere in one of the inner circles. They, like it or not and in spite of your public relations policy, are voices of your organization. Nonprofit organizations will have large donors in an inner circle and smaller donors possibly a circle or two further out from the center. Often overlooked, customers and clients are stakeholders. Communicating directly and engaging them is powerful in building relationships.

Be inclusive. Build your list of stakeholders from every perspective, every angle and every audience. Tailor your messages to each of these audiences and determine for each audience and each individual the most appropriate means of communicating. Some require a personal visit. Others, a phone call. Most, an email. All deserve something personal. And, just as there is a hierarchy, there is an order and direction in which this information should flow.

In our connected world, news travels fast. Often a matter of moments makes the difference between being in the know and being taken by surprise. Rhondalyn Cornett probably didn’t like being surprised.

The Truth About Transparency

By Mike Murphy, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs 

We hear a lot about transparency these days. If you are over 50, your mind may jump to those floppy plastic sheets that your high school math teacher used to project equations on the wall.  Those went the way of the fax machine.

Transparency in today’s vernacular is somewhat synonymous with “laying everything on the table.” But transparency is NOT the same as truthfulness.

Before you decide whether to be completely transparent with information, you must first ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Is your client a government entity?
  2. Is your client a publicly held company?
  3. Does your client have a legal right to privacy?

If your answer to either Question 1 or 2 is “yes,” then the content and the timing of releasing information is governed by several state and federal laws and regulations, including the Freedom of Information Act and SEC regulations. You should check with an attorney familiar with these laws before releasing or withholding information.

For most clients, you also should answer “yes’’ to Question 3. This gives you a lot more leeway and leads to a fourth question:  What is in your client’s best interests?

Remember, you serve your client — not your buddies in the media, not your friend the local politician, and certainly not your friend who works for your client’s competitor.

The general rules are:

  • Always be truthful. More people go to jail for telling lies than for committing the crime that is at the base of the lie.
  • Be transparent with information that is truthful AND serves your client’s interests, whether that is selling a product, advancing a cause, or protecting a reputation.

Those rules will serve you well, though it is impossible in this short blog to consider all the permutations of circumstances that you could face in representing your client.

Once you decide to share client information, you must decide the best forum in which to share.  Rarely is a news conference the answer. Clients hate them (unless they are politicians) because they might be exposed to unanticipated or unwanted questions. The news media hate them too (they are boring and rarely produce real news). The only thing good to be said about news conferences is that they efficiently tell your client’s story to many reporters in a compressed time frame.

Far better, in most cases, is to choose a reporter who already is knowledgeable about the subject and is known to be fair and ethical.  Brief him/her on the story, and offer your client for an interview.  The resulting story will be the foundational story for the rest of the media.  You will have better control of the message while serving your client’s interests.

So, be Truthful.  But not unnecessarily Transparent.

Jim Parham Elected to The Alliance for Indiana State Parks and Nature Preserves Board

Indianapolis, IN (April 4, 2014) — The Alliance for Indiana State Parks and Nature Preserves has elected Jim Parham, Chief Operating Officer at Hirons, to the Board of Directors.

Parham has been actively involved in nature preservation efforts throughout his career in Indianapolis and Washington, D.C., including having worked with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, National Park Service and Indianapolis Parks.

“The mission of the Alliance is one near and dear to me,” said Parham. “I look forward to shaping the strategic direction of the organization and am honored to use my experience for such a fantastic group.”

The Alliance, an independent nonprofit organization, supports the needs of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources as well as its State Parks and Nature Preserves. The Alliance works in cooperation with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, local partner groups and the Indiana Natural Resources Foundation.

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About Hirons

Hirons Advertising and Public Relations, established in 1978 by Tom Hirons, is headquartered in Indianapolis and is ranked as both a top 100 advertising and top 100 PR firm in the U.S. Hirons is a digital leader in advertising, public relations, public affairs and media buying. Hirons’ clients include leading private, public and nonprofit sector organizations locally and nationally. Hirons is an employee-owned company.