Every Kind of People

The past two months, I’ve had the opportunity to be among literally thousands of people every week. Mostly in airports all over America, in huge manufacturing facilities, and a packed major league baseball stadium among countless other venues both urban and rural.

Good Lord willing, that will continue to be the case. Because I am fascinated by the diversity – and yet the essential sameness – of all humanity. What I am seeing every day is everyday people just trying to get by. Whether just making ends meet, or getting to the next airline gate, getting healed from a sickness, or raising a child, everyone is trying to get to some destination either mentally, physically or both.

I can’t let go of a song.

“Every Kinda People” is a an older popular song by the late great Robert Palmer. It’s arguably the best song he had in his career. Over the years I’ve had different moods on it. When it first came out it was the coolest thing I had heard. Then later, sometimes I thought it was a bit sappy, but I still loved it.

Today, I love it even more than ever and it is so not sappy.

The song talks about how people of all races and creeds want to protect what they feel is right and fight what they believe is wrong. “Love’s the only goal that can bring peace to any soul” and “every man’s the same.”

“It takes every kind of people to make what life’s about,” the chorus concludes.

Today as shocking events unfold around the world, still it happens that everyday people must make it through this life. It’s essential to embrace the humanity of all people and not let our minds and pride trick us into thinking we are above – or beneath – anyone else.

It takes every kind of people. Let’s help each other.

5 Pillars of Managing Corporate and Agency Public Relations

In our last post, I talked about the process of gaining professional accreditation in public relations (APR). It’s key to developing senior management skills in public relations, and adds to the value you bring to your organization.

But once you’ve got your APR, then what?

I’d like to begin by sharing some of my experience of nearly 23 years of being accredited, the last 16 at o2ideas, where we have served great global, national and regional brands for five decades.

Having spent 12 years in the corporate world before coming to o2 in 2001, I can tell you there’s a difference between managing public relations for a corporation versus a traditional advertising agency.

In corporate PR, you’re really concerned with one client. That’s your employer. Everything you wake up thinking about and spend every working day doing relates pretty much to the success of your company, nonprofit or institution.

In agencies, it’s different purely because we serve not one client but many. Each one of our clients has a distinct brand identity, a different viewpoint on what PR means to them, and a different need for PR in general.

Some clients really need our help with media relations — like in getting news coverage and generating newsworthy stories and content, and using social media platforms to extend their media reach.

Other clients need us more for internal communications, like with digital employee publications, videos, informational and morale campaigns, and special events.

Regardless, I’ve found through nearly three decades of experience that there are five pillars for building a successful PR function, and they apply whether you’re managing PR for a corporation, nonprofit, educational institution or agency.

Ethics. There is no sustainable PR function if it is unethical, period. Ethics is to PR what safety is to an automotive plant. In a car factory, if it is an unsafe workplace, producing cars becomes impossible. Same with PR and ethics. A good PR organization can’t stand on shaky ethics. For more, here’s a link to the PRSA Code of Ethics.

Service. There’s a saying that nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. All the strategy in the world can’t fix lackadaisical client service or corporate staff indifference to what your stakeholders need from your team. Make it your point every day to watch the service your team provides to your employer or clients, including the service you personally provide.

Strategy. Get to the “why?” of what you or your team is asked to do, before you develop the strategy required to get a job, campaign or program done. That is as much an internal question for you as it is for anybody on the outside. Drafts of strategic documents need to be vetted by as many viewpoints as possible, and you can’t be sensitive over feedback. A lot rides on strategy. Make it right the first time.

Execution. Put simply, this is doing what you said you would do. At the end of the day, nobody is accountable for your shop except you. If you develop a strategy that you don’t have the resources to execute, then either partner with the right people to get it done or don’t commit at all.

Education. Fiercely force yourself to keep improving. I scan as many different articles from as many different viewpoints as possible. Our team signs up for seminars and workshops even if we don’t have a pressing client need for it at the moment. Under your APR designation, you’re required to do continuing education, but things change so quickly every day in our industry, you’ve got to be fast and intentional about it.

Whether you manage a big PR staff or a small one, whether you work for a church, school, company or agency, and whether your firm has a big PR budget or not, keeping these five pillars in focus will help keep you on the right track as a senior manager in PR.


Accreditation: Learning the PR Playbook

A funny thing happened midway through my first true PR job in Montgomery, Alabama. My boss, who had been professionally accredited for years by the Public Relations Society of America, wanted me to do the same thing — become accredited in PR.

First of all, what was accreditation, and why did it matter? And why was he so strongly insistent about it?

I had already gotten involved with the Public Relations Council of Alabama (PRCA), during my first year in Montgomery. PRCA had great professional development opportunities like local, state and regional workshops with the Southern Public Relations Federation (SPRF). The SPRF is made up of similar associations from Louisiana, Mississippi and Northwest Florida as well as Alabama.

I had heard about accreditation — how it was for PR people who had several years of experience in the field. Accreditation meant you were serious about PR, that you could demonstrate advanced strategic thinking, and that you had dedicated yourself to the industry through study, practice and continuous improvement.

It also required you to go through a curriculum of study about as rigorous as getting a master’s degree.


I had already taken a crack at graduate work in Montgomery. I had to stop after a year because it was just too much to handle with a young family and a full-time job at BellSouth.

Yet, my boss must have realized that without making PR accreditation a part of my performance commitments, I would probably never make it a priority. He was right.

After more than a year of study, I earned my APR (Accredited in Public Relations) accreditation.

APR preparation taught me the other side of PR blocking and tackling — to the actual playbook mindset needed to guide brands, companies and clients in developing PR strategy.

Getting the APR was a key step in one day becoming president of o2ideas. It taught me the analytical mindset needed to help some of the world’s greatest brands through some of their greatest challenges and victories. We’ll talk about that in the next post.

Meantime, I encourage all PR practitioners to pursue your APR as soon as you can. Don’t leave it up to someone else to make that decision for you.

My PR Blocking and Tackling Lessons

When I was in college, I had no idea what “public relations” meant. “PR” was a fuzzy term floating inside the massive building where most of my broadcast journalism classes took place. I vaguely knew it was part of the Advertising and PR curriculum. I also knew there were some extremely attractive coeds who majored in those two fields. But that was it.

PR was never on my career radar. My life’s goal was to be a reporter on a major TV network. If you can recall the NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, that’s who I wanted to be. If you had told me one day I’d be at o2ideas working with some of the world’s greatest brands in PR, I couldn’t have believed it.

To not throw total shade on those days, there were early successes. A paid summer internship led to a full-time job at a major TV station after college.

But years went by and life brought changes. Soon it was about marriage, a house and a baby. TV reporters’ wages didn’t really cover the costs of a marriage, a house and a baby.

Desperately, I looked for another career. Just something. But what? I had no idea.

Brokaw was broken.

Then the term “public relations” floated back into my life, straight from the domed ceiling of Reese Phifer Hall at my alma mater. My former boss in TV news had found a job in PR with BellSouth (now AT&T). After a couple of years of preparing, praying and pleading, that triggered the jump from TV news to BellSouth Public Relations.

First, there was an intro job where they mercifully let me anchor an internal video magazine. But that got cut from the budget. Even more mercifully, they transferred me to Montgomery, Alabama, to learn PR from a true master.

My Montgomery boss had played football for University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, and he sported a 1965 National Championship ring as a silent badge of honor. But my boss took the time and effort to teach me PR much like he had learned blocking and tackling from the Bear himself.

He taught me incredible things about engaging a community, persuading public opinion, organizing events, and setting stories straight. I learned how to write news releases, backgrounders and speeches through his countless red slashes on my copy. I learned patience, discipline, follow-through and accountability. I learned how to make crowds laugh, and yet how to inform them with convincing tone and messaging.

All of those early years of teaching came before social media and the internet of things.

But the Montgomery years taught me some basic PR fundamentals. Like working with real people on real issues, through thoughtful communications and honest relationships.

The platforms and tools of PR will always keep changing. But these fundamentals won’t.

Spontaneous Marketing Takes Planning

Monday night was a good night for Kevin Durant. Not only did his team, the Golden State Warriors, win the 2017 NBA Championship, but Kevin also took home the NBA Finals MVP. Last night was also a good night for o2ideas’ client, BBVA Compass, since Kevin is a BBVA Compass brand ambassador.

As Golden State started marching toward the Finals, we started discussing with BBVA Compass the opportunity to leverage the bank’s partnership should Kevin and his team win it all.

Three weeks before the Finals, we began developing video concepts congratulating KD on his (potential) achievements. At first, our discussions focused on social media promotions only. However, as Golden State sailed through the playoffs, with Kevin leading the way, we realized the stage for promoting BBVA Compass’ partnership with Kevin and the NBA could be much larger.

To realize this potential, we worked hand in hand with BBVA Compass’ media and sports marketing companies, as well as ESPN, to develop assets for TV and online. Knowing that the Warriors could win the series in four games, we had to finalize all of the assets in a condensed timeline. Complicating the situation was the fact that the Warriors could win without Kevin being named MVP. To make sure we had this contingency covered, we developed and sent two sets of creative to ESPN with slightly different messaging.

On Monday night, everything came together as planned: Golden State took the title; KD won NBA Finals MVP and our BBVA Compass commercial congratulating Kevin on his achievements aired after the game on ESPN.

While the congratulatory messaging communicated in our broadcast, social and online media felt spontaneous, it was the result of detailed pre-planning and unselfish teamwork – a recipe that worked well for Golden State and us.

Check out the tweet from one fan who seemed impressed with our (and Nike’s) “real-time” advertising.


In today’s crowded, always-on media landscape, riding the coattails of cultural events – as they happen – is one tactic to make your brand relevant and distinct. To discuss ways o2ideas can help make your brand relevant and distinct, contact Bill Todd, bill@o2ideas.com.

Long-Form Video – The New Way to Boost Your Brand

The video world is, in short, about to get long.

For years, the challenge has been to make videos as short as possible. Think Vine, Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and so on.

But there’s a change underway that could help your company’s brand, as long-form video emerges as a new tool in marketers’ playbooks.

It’s reported that Facebook is about to launch a long-form video platform that will go head to head with both Netflix and YouTube. This follows several months of growing investment by other online publishers in episode-length video formats that tie back to brands.

Mind you, short-form video formats aren’t going away; they will continue to be pillars of online content.

But it’s clear that larger audiences are preferring creative stories in longer formats. Major players are now banking on it.

What are the takeaways for marketers?

  • Stop automatically chasing ever-shorter videos, thinking that’s the only way. Consumers’ embrace of long-form video means they are looking for more meaningful and thoughtful stories than the sound-bite streams they see in their social feeds. Don’t forsake short-form video, but know long-form is getting huge momentum.
  • Consider creating ideas for long-form videos that can carry an audience over time and support your brand’s mission. If you build it right, the audience will come.
  • Get a good creative agency that sees the big picture and can help guide you into this new blue ocean. Here at o2, we can help you decide the best video formats for your brand, whether they include short-form, long-form, or a mixture of both.

Adding long-form to your video toolbox could be key to boosting your brand — and sales — in an ever-changing consumer landscape.

5 Signs You Need Another Ad Agency

You have an ad agency. Things are going fine. Or maybe they aren’t. Your agency’s client service may be great, the creative so-so. Your creative may be awesome, but client service is more order-taking than proactive with help and ideas.

In today’s blisteringly fast pace of change in media, technology, and service delivery, no one agency can give you 100% of what you need 100% of the time. Increasingly, companies are partnering with a number of agencies based on the agencies’ main strengths.

Here are 5 signs you’re ready to expand your agency roster.

  1. No diversity of thought.

Today’s customers are getting more diverse and savvy every day. Your advertising must also become more diverse and savvy – especially if you’ve approached your marketing the same way for years. Plus, there’s more competition for your customers’ attention and loyalty than ever before. Even if you like your current agency, consider expanding your agency mix to bring diversity to your marketing – and more customers to your business.

  1. Your agency simply takes orders.

When was the last time your agency presented you with a fresh idea? Something that could bring in new customers or create an additional revenue stream? The best agencies don’t deliver only what you ask for. They give you what your business needs.

  1. The competition out-hustles you.

Right now, your competition is doing everything in its power to take away your customers. Your company and its agency partners need to use every creative idea you can to stay one step ahead of the competition.

  1. Your agency is a navel-gazer.

Your agency is more concerned about promoting itself than promoting you. You’ll know if it’s true.

  1. You’re always waiting on your agency.

For decades, agencies have touted the mantra “Good. Fast. Cheap. You can pick two.” With the speed of commerce today, your company doesn’t have the luxury to allow your agency to live by this axiom. You can have it all – you just need the right partners.

Buying in to what you’re working on

In the fall of 2015, the first all-new 2016 Honda Civic rolled off the line at the Honda Manufacturing of Indiana plant in Greensburg, Indiana. A complete, from-the-ground-up remodel, it represented a huge leap forward in both design and aesthetic.


As the Creative Director working on the campaign for this particular vehicle launch, I had the opportunity to see the rebirth of this newly reimagined flagship brand up close and personal, literally seeing it being put together before my very eyes. If you’ve ever been in a manufacturing plant, you’ll know the sense of awe and wonder that comes with seeing first-hand the sophisticated process that produces these modern feats of engineering genius. Heading home from the launch celebration, the seed had been sown: I had to have one.

So it was, that almost a year later, I found myself driving one off the lot at my local Honda dealership here in Birmingham, Alabama. It took me an age to decide the style and level of accessories – heck, it took me two weeks just to decide on the color ­– but here I was, the decision made, behind the wheel of a beautiful Honda Civic LX in dark gray. It was everything I remembered it to be.


And that’s how it is sometimes. We work on a product so intimately, come to understand its value and beauty so minutely, that we become the ultimate brand advocates: We become owners.

Working as I do for a company that seeks to put smiles on the faces of its clients through the work we do and the way we go about creating it, it’s nice to have the feeling reciprocated. Making happy happen is what we do, but it sure is a great feeling when one of your clients can do the same for you.

Make Happy Happen

A couple of weeks ago, o2 launched our new website with a new tagline, “Make Happy Happen.” In a day and age when clients want “solutions” and “ROI,” why are we focusing on happiness?

The answer is simple.

At o2, our focus has always been our clients. Naturally, we provide solutions and ROI, but that’s just the beginning. We also go above and beyond to deliver the best client service and creative work possible. This makes our clients happy. We’ve always done it; we just never articulated it. We make happy happen.

Make Happy Happen goes beyond what we bring to our clients. It also gives us, as an agency, a higher purpose. It’s the mantra that guides our actions and informs our decisions. When we march into battle, Make Happy Happen is our rallying cry.

How exactly do we make happy happen?

That answer comes from the Dalai Lama who, to paraphrase, said, “I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. And we become happy the more we care for the happiness of others.”

So that’s what we’re going to continue doing. We’re going to focus on the happiness of our clients and each other to make happy happen for everyone who works at and with o2.

Advertising is Still Advertising

Our agency’s director of client services and I were on a call last week with a marketing exec from a leading social media company. As the exec cited a few success stories, she mentioned the importance of “text overlays complementing the imagery.” “Text overlays?” I thought, “You mean ‘headlines’?”

On a call later in the week, one of our clients mentioned it needed “digital content for its YouTube channel.” So, “videos”?

As technology advances, we’re not only seeing an entirely new marketing vocabulary emerge, we’re also seeing a seemingly endless rise in the number of places (“channels”) in which to advertise. The result is total confusion about how best to advertise in this new reality. On a daily basis, CMOs and business owners struggle with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) if they’re not taking advantage of the latest platforms. We should be on Snapchat … with vertical videos! No, wait, why aren’t we live-streaming on Periscope? But what about Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook?

Technology has without a doubt opened a world of new marketing options – options that can’t be ignored. Unfortunately, it’s also distracting businesses from how to effectively build their brands. But the good news is that advertising is still advertising. By focusing on two simple fundamentals, your marketing efforts can be effective no matter where you’re advertising.

First, you need to know who you are. Branding experts tell businesses to answer the question, “What business are you really in?” A good example is upstart bed manufacturer Casper. While Casper technically sells mattresses, it’s really in the business of sleep. Think about it. That’s a much richer business to be in than just beds, creating a much deeper pool from which Casper can draw upon to promote its business and even build new streams of revenue. This is why, among other tactics, Casper can take ownership of a sleep-focused blog called Van Winkle’s. All great brands do this. Nike isn’t selling sportswear; it’s inspiring the athlete in all of us. Chipotle isn’t selling burritos; it’s striving to cultivate a better world by preparing food with integrity. And UPS isn’t selling package delivery; it’s providing solutions to improve our businesses. So what business are you really in? Answer that question and you’ll know what you should be advertising.

Once you know who you are as a business, you need to share your brand in a memorable way. Advertising isn’t about technology. It always has been and always will be about ideas. Relevant, entertaining and emotional ideas engage audiences and stand out no matter the medium. Legendary ad man Dave Trott likens advertising to being in a bar. Would you rather be sitting next to Mr. Right or Mr. Interesting? Right advertising, like Mr. Right, is boring. Even worse, it gets ignored and wastes your marketing budget – even if you are sharing it on the latest technology platforms. Think about the last time you were on Facebook or your favorite website. Do you remember any of the brands that were advertised? Surely you saw a banner ad or sponsored content. Companies spent good money on ads that you completely ignored – even though they were in the “right” place and taking advantage of new media. Interesting advertising, on the other hand, is something people remember – and how you help to build brand awareness, brand engagement and brand loyalty. Geico’s hump day camel, Dos Equis’ The Most Interesting Man in the World, and Old Spice’s The Man Your Man Can Smell Like are just a few examples of how great ideas – not technology – help to build brands.

Another legendary ad man, Don Draper, said it best: “Technology is a glittering lure.” In today’s continually evolving marketing landscape, it’s easy to get distracted by the shiny and new. Don’t let it. Rather than being overwhelmed and confused by technology, now’s the time to take a step back, think about what business you’re really in and then advertise your brand in a memorable way.

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