Mythbuster: “Spin” Doctors or Storytellers?


By Brittany Kaelin, Account Coordinator

Oh, so you’re a “spin” doctor?

I swear I hear this question almost every time I tell someone I work in advertising and public relations. Allow me to bust that myth for you – we are not “spin” doctors. Some people think that PR has a negative connotation, but the goal of an agency is not to create a false image of a client’s brand that only portrays them as do-gooders. We want to create an image that accurately represents their company’s values and goals, and we want to help clients be successful with their audiences.

A valuable piece of information I learned during my time at Purdue University was to always admit your mistakes immediately so you can tell the public what happened first. The truth will always come out, and as PR professionals, it’s our job to get it right the first time.

Our aim is not to push nonspecific slander at the general public. We want to tell a story, not a lie. We use focus groups, interviews and analytics to find out who the audience is and what their wants and needs are so that we can meet them. Transparency is key in our profession because if you are transparent, you have nothing to hide which creates trust and effective communication with your publics.

One of the biggest reasons that I decided to work at Hirons was because of something I was told in my interview; “We are here to help tell someone’s story and do meaningful work.” That’s exactly what we do – we don’t “spin” facts to make a favorable impression instead, we research and think critically to create a message that will resonate with the public.

If you asked me today whether or not I’m a “spin” doctor, I would reply, “I’m not a DJ. I’m a storyteller.”



Some Thoughts and Advice, from Intern to Intern

By Ethan Thomas

To any potential, current or future interns, here are a few tips from a Hirons’ intern who has spent 9 months as one.

Prep: Prepare for every meeting, client and project. Indy 500 driver Bobby Unser once said, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” Take that lesson from one of the best 500 drivers ever.

Knowledge: You won’t know everything. Nobody expects you to know everything right away. I’m still learning and bugging people to teach me the ins and outs of the company. (Maybe keep an AP Style Guide at your desk, too)

People: Meet them. Know their names. Learn what they do.

Volunteer: For Projects. For deliveries/drop-offs. For Meetings. Hirons like the go-getters who want to be involved in every aspect of the organization.

Questions: Ask them. Incredibly smart and talented individuals will be surrounding you every day. Use that to learn and grow.

Coffee: Drink it. Also, Kendall likes some “machiatto-mocha-frappucino” thing, just in case you need to get on her good side.

Be Bold: Relentlessly challenge your own abilities. You may surprise yourself in what you accomplish.

Have Fun: You have the opportunity to work and experience one of the most enjoyable and fun industries in the world. Have a great time with it.

Now, go forth and conquer. We believe in you.



Needed Change in TV Ratings

Nielsen has had a monopoly over the TV ratings industry since it invented the service in 1950. However, Nielsen has been slow to adapt its current rating system to reflect viewers’ recent ability to watch TV at any time and on multiple devices. This has sparked much criticism, including heat from Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal’s ad sales chief.

“Imagine you’re a quarterback, and every time you threw a touchdown, it was only worth four points instead of six,” Yaccarino said at the recent international CES trade show.

Though the football metaphor may be a confusing, the gist of Yaccarino’s complaint stems from the overlying problem in today’s TV ratings: Nielsen only considers viewers of live and recently recorded TV. Nielsen fails to include the growing population who binge watches every season of their favorite shows on Netflix, Hulu, iTunes or even on-demand cable. The reason: These platforms either don’t air advertisements, or their advertisements are different from those shown during TV broadcast.

In short, advertisers don’t care how many people watch a show; they care how many people watch their advertisements.

“The perception for a long time in the industry is that Nielsen has been somewhat slow to adapt their measurement to changing patterns of media consumption,” said Tuna Amobi, an equity analyst covering media companies at S&P Capital.

Expanding services

While Nielsen has expanded its ratings services to cover many elements of consumer culture, it has yet to figure out a way to incorporate viewers from other platforms in its TV ratings. However, it is studying them as well as what they are saying on social media. Some recent moves:

  • Expanding research on viewers watching shows through Netflix and digital-only platforms
  • Expanding its partnership with Twitter to monitor social-media content about TV shows
  • Analyzing data from Facebook to create “social content ratings”

To further maintain its monopoly on the TV ratings industry, in the past year Nielsen has released 69 new products and technology innovations. Most notably, Nielsen introduced a “total audience metric” to track TV viewing across video on demand, mobile and streaming. But is it enough? Either Nielsen is working hard to stay afloat of the criticism or it is worried about potential competitors.

New competitors are emerging, though they might not be enough to dethrone Nielsen, which receives hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the television industry that it measures.

Predictions for the future

The future of TV advertising is unclear.

  • Will ratings even be relevant in a few years?
  • Will ads be bought and sold based on specific data about viewers, such as location, occupation, salary and purchases?

However, a few things are clear:

  • $70 billion in advertising dollars are traded in the United States each year based on Nielsen’s ratings.
  • Hundreds of television programs live or die based on Nielsen’s ratings.
  • Online viewership may continue to be insignificant to TV advertising as long as the ads shown during an online broadcast are different from the ones shown during the TV broadcast.

NBC’s Alan Wurtzel summed it up in this way: “Are we happy with the way we’re following technology and being able to measure it? No. We’re way behind. On the other hand, are Nielsen ratings important and critical to the industry and as important to the industry as they ever were? Absolutely, when you consider that if we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t get paid.TV

Let’s Dance

By Rose Durbin, Vice President/Media Director

While the NCAA men’s basketball tournament action is just revving up, media mavens and moguls have negotiated one of the biggest media buys in national sports.

This year’s advertising spend is expected to top $1.6 billion. Kantar Media ranks the NCAA men’s basketball tournament second in advertiser sports spending, surpassed only by the NFL playoffs. That means the NCAA tourney sparks more advertising dollars than the NBA playoffs and the MLB pennant races.

While the Super Bowl single-day advertising blowout does catch a huge number of eyeballs, the 67 games played over three weeks of NCAA competition allow close to 100 advertisers to advance brand messaging across all screens.

The Playing Zone

Advertisers can buy TV commercials on the national level, at the DMA market level, and even at the local cable zone level. Brands like AT&T and Nationwide can reach consumers with content across the map with a national TV buy, or advertisers can use local cable in Fort Branch, Ind., to promote the brand at the store level.

Advertisers create fully integrated programs to reach avid sports fans and once-a-year bracketeers over the tournament run. Licensed NCAA marketing partners have the opportunity for branded product placements, event sponsorships and cross-channel promotions.

Buzzer Beater

If the 2016 advertiser roster is anything like 2015, you can expect to see automobile makers, restaurants, and telecommunications and insurance providers dominating the screens.

All NCAA licensing partnerships have formal levels of paid media exposure, but large- and small-budget brands will take advantage of social media engagement on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. As the brackets fill and the competition narrows, expect to see social media activating fans and advertisers.

CBS Sports and Turner Sports have been broadcasting together since 2011, sharing games, production staff and on-air talent. CBS and Turner will provide live coverage of all games across four national networks: CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV.

Where Will You Find the Dance?

You will need a guide to find your important game on the big screen. And by the way, they are all important games. Check out the NCAA schedule.

If you have at least one digital screen, there are few valid excuses for not viewing the action. You can watch the games live by going to


Your Editor, Your Friend

By Madelyn Morgan, Senior Editor & Writer

We editors get a bad rap. Often seen as shrews or egotists who delight in the mistakes of others, we are reviled as small-minded perfectionists who can’t see the forest for the trees (or the beauty of your prose through your typos).

But really, we are your allies. Our purpose, like yours, is communication. And your non sequiturs and misplaced punctuation cause stutter steps for your readers, which carries the risk that they might not bother to read further.

We can’t risk that in our business.

Back in the day

I started in newspapers. When I enrolled in college (go Buckeyes), I thought I would become a reporter. I liked gathering facts and arranging them in readable form. I thought I had some writing flair and a good vocabulary. But my first internship was as a copy editor at The Detroit News, and I loved it.

Back in the glory days, even small newspapers had a staff of copy editors (generally five to 10) who were arrayed around a rim of desks. Each would edit a reporter’s story and write a headline for it, then move on to the next one. The stories went to a slot person, generally the best copy editor, who sat in the center of the rim. He or she would do a final read, tweak and send the stories to the composing room to be set on the page. Then we would proof the pages. This process hardly varied when we went from hard type to computers.

Now, of course, newspapers are struggling, and copy desks were the first to go. There was always a bit of a rivalry, or at least a little tension, between copy editors and reporters, some of whom resented any fiddling with their copy (for many of the reasons cited above). Today, reporters are often in charge of editing their own stories, and anyone who thinks that’s a solution should take a look at their news sites and see the typos and lazy headlines.

Set adrift

As an editor, working as a team is ideal – nothing gets through that net! But most of us work singly now, and we carry the anxiety of knowing that we are the last filter – if an error gets past us, it’s out in the world for someone else to catch. And people who like to point out your mistakes are generally not at all collegial.

I am a writer as well as an editor. I love someone to read my stuff, correct mistakes (yes, I make them too) and offer suggestions. There’s a fellow I turn to here when he’s not too busy. If he can’t, I run it by my husband, who ­– as a former newspaper editor – has a keen eye. And he never blinks.

I’m not asking you to hug your editor. Just realize that he or she is really working on your behalf. I’ve got a good crew here who always say “thank you.” One even calls me her work mom, which I take as a compliment – because just like a mother, I want you to look your best.


Advertising on Instagram Promises High Visibility and Return

Instagram Ads


By Ethan Thomas, Communications Management Intern 

A picture is worth a thousand words… Or maybe it’s better to say a picture is worth a couple thousand dollars? Paid advertising has finally tapped into the 400 million user photo-sharing community smartphone app, Instagram. “Instagram is now an end-to-end advertising solution that drives real business results. Increase awareness and message association, or get visits to your website or downloads of your mobile app.” – Quote from Instagram’s website. Basically, the Instagram game has changed. No longer held down by your businesses ability to only show your followers your best advertisement with the low-fi filter. Now you can place your ad right into millions of mobile user’s hands without the necessity of a “follow.”

The set up actually offers advertisers more variety to post content than a normal user. Not only can the advertiser post photos and videos, but there is a “carousal” function that allows users to swipe through several photos in one advertisement. These all have the ability to drive users to a website, suggest app installs, and create general mass awareness for your brand. An added bonus: Advertiser videos can be up to thirty seconds long, while the regular user can only post up to fifteen seconds.


This is a game changer for several reasons. Facebook isn’t the cool social media site to use for Millennials. Trends have shown young social media users are shying away from using Facebook, and focusing on getting news from twitter and photo or video experiences from Instagram. Maybe it’s due to the fact that everyone and there grandma has a Facebook account. Overpopulation and the excessive amount of information about its users may turn some away, but I digress. Yes, Facebook does own Instagram. They’ve actually been great owners after purchasing the app for nearly 1 billion dollars. They’ve allowed Instagram to develop naturally, and have not bogged it down with overbearing Facebook features.

From a user perspective, the advertisements so far have not seemed overly invasive. It’s just another picture to scroll through on your feed. When you think of it from a business perspective, that’s the best part. It’s a nearly guaranteed view of your advertisement. How often can you guarantee the visibility of an advertisement like that? To get to the next picture they have to pass your ad with little to no distraction that you normally find on twitter, Facebook, or any other social media site. Fortune magazine discusses how this, along with Instagram advertisings other features, has shown that users are two and a half times more likely to click on these ads than all other social media advertising platforms ( I’m not a gambling man, but I will take those odds every day.

Instagram has already developed their ad space for over thirty countries. Taking this global has been a foreseeable next step, and there are no real signs of Instagram slowing down. So watch out Insta-world, it’s not just your best friend’s brunch or that sweet nature picture on your feed any more.



How to be a Media Buyer’s Best Friend…a Note for Sales Reps

It is important to note that the relationship between media buyers and sales representatives is both sacred and selfish. It’s sacred because we are constantly depending on each other. For me, it’s because it’s my job to build the best plan possible, to meet our goals and ultimately make the client happy; and for reps, because you’re responsible for bringing in the business and earning your company money. So being able to work well together day in and day out is essential! On the other hand, It’s selfish because we normally only communicate with each other when we need something, normally ASAP. So, if the advice below seems a little harsh, think of it this way—the easiest way for you to get what you want is to give me what I need.

  1. Please – for the love of all that is holy – read your emails!

You know that fancy schmancy RFP (Request for Proposal) I sent you? I didn’t send it just for fun. We work hard to put together Cost per Point or CPP goals, flight dates and directions on which ratings books to use based on the client’s needs. Therefore, before sending the next 15 emails with questions, stop & ask yourself– have these questions already been answered in the initial RFP? At the end of the day, something as simple as reading our emails carefully can save both of us hours of precious time. Which leads me to my next point…..

  1. The client’s business has to be earned

The CPP goals listed on the RFP aren’t numbers I made up for the heck of it. They were researched and they have a purpose and they really are a GOAL. I don’t know about you but I’m a fan of accomplishing goals that I set for myself and even more so when it’s a goal I set to benefit a client. So, if you submit rates that aren’t even close to the goals outlined and then don’t understand why you’re not included on the buy, this might have something to do with it (so please don’t throw any fits!!) I might go one round of negotiations with you if necessary, but would you see a reason to go back and forth on a submitted $500 CPP when my goal was $98? The answer is NO! There’s likely no way we’ll be able to meet in the middle, so if I can meet all my goals without it, then that’s what I’ll do. Plus, there’s always one station that really comes in strong—and as a result of its efforts and a little “CPP low-high” sorting function, it often gets rewarded simply by following directions.

Oh – and the era of multiple rounds of negotiation is over…. Hallelujah!  If we go more than one round, then I’m probably trying to add to your schedule; I just need a little help in doing so. Therefore, are you willing to sacrifice $10 to gain $1,000?

Side note – It’s never personal. It’s business. The client’s business has to be earned and their goals are my goals and I was hired to meet those goals. I’m simply doing my job. So, let’s not make it personal on your end either.

  1. A quick turnaround means I needed it yesterday!

I wish these requests didn’t happen as often as they do, but unfortunately that’s how the media business works. Sometimes the clients send us Friday afternoon requests to get spots on the air or ads posted by Monday. Media buyers have to depend on their vendors to make things happen. We can’t do it ourselves, so always keep track of your phone messages and emails because of these types of unexpected requests. This brings me to the next point…

  1. If you’re out of the office, please leave me with a backup person’s contact information

In the quick turnaround situations, I need to be able to get in touch with someone quickly and if you’re on vacation and don’t leave information for someone else to contact, it costs the client (and me) precious time. And most buyers would agree the following has happened at least once in his or her career—they get an out-of-office response, contact the backup listed and then get another out-of-office response. It’s like playing a game of schoolyard tag.

  1. No “Poaching”

Sales reps are always looking for more business. That’s common knowledge, but sending multiple emails a day/week/month about the client list on a company’s website won’t get you anywhere. Very, very rarely do we respond with “Why yes, let me shift the entire media plan around to include you simply because you asked.” Client media plans are put together based on research, client request, ratings, data, timelines and even gut feelings, so please rest assured that we will always reach out to you if there is a need or interest in your product. That being said, however, please also keep in mind we don’t always have unlimited funds & that not everything will be a perfect fit.

  1. “Latest and greatest” blah blah blah

In the past month, I can’t tell you how many meetings, emails and voicemails we get from people pitching the “latest and greatest.” Just because you saw that we handle advertising on our company website or did a search on LinkedIn, for anyone who handles media that doesn’t mean there’s going to be a relevant application. For example, a vendor has repeatedly reached out, but has failed to realize that the product being sold doesn’t even cover the state in which we handle most, if not all of our business. We urge you to do your research and truly find where and how you’d be a good fit & what your competitors are doing. I’ve heard the same pitch too many times to take you (and your company’s capabilities) seriously.

  1. Share

Don’t ask me what your share is because I’m not telling you.

  1. Client Budgets

Don’t ask me what the client budget is because I’m not telling you.

When one works with sales reps for long periods of time, you can become great friends and even better colleagues. Every media buyer and every sales rep works differently, so these tips don’t apply to everyone but they always help! Sales reps who take the time to learn how their buyers operate are wonderful to work with. I even had a rep who added a note on her calendar to send pre- and post-logs every single week so I never had to ask for them. It was so helpful! So, a huge shout-out and a big THANK YOU to sales reps for sticking with this sacred, yet selfish, relationship!

Black Friday Backlash

By Ethan Thomas, Communications Management Intern 

It’s finally November! Hell, it sure doesn’t feel like it though. Indy is deciding to extend the warm weather even further and we’re sitting at a fantastic 70-ish degrees this first week of what should be the start of a stark Midwest winter. What November really means is that it’s almost time for Thanksgiving. The amazing holiday where abnormal consumption of high-calorie food is encouraged, awkward family hello’s are made, football and parades are watched, and of course Black Friday.

Black Friday originated in the 1960s as way to mark the official beginning of the Christmas season shopping. The “Black” comes from the glory days of accounting being done by hand with a pen (Wait, that was a thing?!) If there was a loss, it was written in red and profit was written in black. In retail, Black Friday marks the date when an accountant’s ledger goes from red to black for the rest of the year. Nowadays, it means ridiculous sales, insane lines and overly congested stores at the crack of dawn.

It seems that in the past ten years or so, the start time of these sales are getting earlier and earlier, almost to the point of a sale beginning several days before Thanksgiving. What gives? Do offering more insane sales at earlier times give a company that much of an increase in profit? The Wall Street Journal did some digging and found that many of the deals were never meant to sell at the original price, but were intended to be sold at a fix point and marketed as a sale. Fishy stuff is going on here. The most terrifying aspect of this glorified, materialistic day is the amount of people who have been injured or in the worst cases have died while trying to buy these products on sale. There’s a website that actually keeps track of these growing statistics. Black Friday Death Count has up-to-date figures on injuries and deaths and the added bonus of a link to the original news report of the incident.

After all of these years of madness, one store has finally stepped up and said enough is enough. Outdoor recreation supply giant REI has launched a strong digital marketing campaign telling consumers they will be closed on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday and everyone should go outside instead. A press release says that all 143 of its retail locations, headquarters and two distribution centers will be closed and all employees will be on paid leave and encouraged to go outside. They have a countdown clock and everything. CEO Jerry Stritzke is the spokesperson in their simple, but powerful video spot posted on YouTube.

With some further research, there are many companies that actively tell consumers they’re not open on Thanksgiving Day, but unlike REI, stop short of taking Black Friday off as well. Here’s the full list:

  • Staples
  • GameStop
  • Costco
  • BJ’s
  • Nordstrom
  • J. Maxx
  • Marshalls
  • Home Goods
  • Sam’s Club
  • Home Depot
  • Barnes and Noble
  • DSW
  • Pier 1 Imports
  • Crate and Barrel
  • Burlington Coat Factory
  • Patagonia
  • Sur La Table
  • Jo-Ann Stores
  • C. Moore
  • Sierra Trading Post
  • Harbor Freight
  • At Home
  • Von Maur
  • Mattress Firm
  • Half Price Books

It’s always impressive to see retail stores so actively and aggressively standing up for their employees. Ensuring holidays and paid time off can only be encouraging factors when it comes to employee loyalty and productivity.

REI has competently approached this topic and zhave avidly integrated each aspect into their social media outlets. Using YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and most recently Reddit. All outlets have promoted and encouraged tons of feedback from news sources and blogs alike. So far, the only downside has been the Reddit Ask Me Anything or AMA online forum CEO Stritzke recently held. While most outsiders could see his intentions were for people to ask him questions or comment on how great the #OptOutside movement was, the Q & A devolved into complaints about poor working conditions and hours being cut. With an open forum such as Reddit, you can only hope that Stritzke understood questions and concerns like that would arise and was prepared for them.

At the core of this campaign, REI is sticking to its values and staying consistent with its marketing practices. Staying outdoors, finding adventures, doing good things for your body and the world are principles that make REI different from the rest. One of my favorite professors used to say, “Great companies stay great, because they do good.” Never mind the grammar issues with that line, but it has always stuck with me. My final thoughts on REI: Keep playing outside, doing good and challenging the status quo on what the holidays really mean to your consumer.


PR People Pet Peeves: Part Two

I put out a call on my personal Facebook page asking my friends who still work in TV news to tell me what PR people do to annoy them. Here are the rest of their responses.

“Don’t start a press conference 10 minutes late because one of the stations isn’t there yet. If they’re late, that’s on them. Don’t punish the people who are on time.”

“Don’t guide us to your most sterile conference room with walls of white board. I know offices are messy, but they’re visually interesting. The ‘mess’ actually shows you are working and gives me interesting cutaways.”

“When they send an email to you and to every station email address they have. I often get numerous copies of the same email since I’m on multiple lists. If there are five emails from one agency, all with the same subject, I typically don’t give it a good read.”

“Bad photos embedded in words docs. No website info. Not being available in the days following a release.”

“From the morning news groups, give me at least a couple of bullet points about why (the public) should care about this enough to write a :25 story about it. I second the notion of attaching some pics or video to that email…need visuals! And don’t put it in some crazy format that takes the entire IT department to figure out.”

“Sending embargoed material is rarely welcome. Also, letting another media outlet, most often a morning paper ‘preview’ the event to the extent that there is nothing new at the event beyond what has already been printed.”

“I find it really frustrating when I’m covering an event, especially as an MMJ (multi-media journalist), and the PR person gives you five different people to interview when you only need sound from one or two. Also, when they ask the best time to set up an interview and you tell them you have a 5pm newscast so the earlier the better. Then, they ask if 3:45pm will work.”

“When trying to personalize a news release, get my name AND station call letters right. Chances are if I see you’ve got one of those two things incorrect, I don’t read the full release. I also agree that you should send bullet points about why the public should care.”

“When they try to micromanage what I shoot. Oh! Get a shot of this! Oh! Get a shot of that! When I’m shooting a perfectly nice moment in front of them. Trying to guilt trip me into shooting something, especially a person you posed to mug for the camera, right in front of my camera, blocking the actual cute shot I was trying to get. And then taking a pic on your phone, saying, ‘Well, if they won’t take your picture, I will!’ That sort of thing only make me leaves faster.”

There you go… Out of the mouths of (news) babes.

Connect to your Customer

By Ethan Thomas, Communications Management Intern 

IKEA marketers hit the nail on the head with their most recent fundraising efforts. They turned children’s drawings into well-made soft animal toys. They combined several key marketing techniques into a very impactful worldwide campaign. They involved consumers, raised money for a good cause and showed the integration of the entire process.

IKEA only has a small market for selling plush animal toys. It makes sense. Drag your kids through the maze of home furnishings, then reward them with a cute and lovable toy! But this goes beyond that. The company has successfully involved a consumer that many would ignore in the furniture industry: children. IKEA uses children’s drawings as the inspiration for new plush toys and recognizes those kids for their drawing efforts. Fantastic. I may be generalizing, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s every child under 12’s dream to have a toy he or she personally made.

What really stands out, though, is how IKEA is using these toys to raise money for schools in need. Every year, the IKEA Foundation donates €1 for every soft toy sold in participating IKEA stores in November and December. The donation goes to Save the Children and UNICEF and is spent on children’s educational projects. It’s refreshing to see a company take up a cause that’s outside of its business interests. It exemplifies how IKEA wants to have a global reach with its fundraising efforts.

There are many ways to reach a consumer. What’s great about this campaign is the focus on the specific product and the organizations IKEA wants to support. Look through every single video produced by the company and you will not see one mention of their other furniture products. IKEA’s focus is solely on raising money for Save the Children and UNICEF. Kudos to you, IKEA. Many organizations would try to turn it into a campaign that might as well say, “Look at us donating money. Aren’t we awesome? Come on. That’s pretty awesome of us!” Through positive engagement and strategy, the company effectively removes that notion and creates a greater connection to its audience.

Honestly, we’re all kids at heart and I believe that’s why a campaign like this will resonate with so many. Here’s a quick tip though: Relate and connect to your consumer through an integrated, positive and emotion-triggering strategy, and you’re likely to do pretty well for yourself.