March Madness: Confessions of a Tar Heel and the LPP Way



Originally posted on LPP’s blog, Beyond The Hype.

Tonight, the UNC Tar Heels will take on the Wisconsin Badgers as a part of the Sweet 16. Now, I’ve been a Tar Heel for a long time (over 10 years) and have watched my team in many #MarchMadness battles. But this year is a tad different, it’s the first time I created a bracket that didn’t put UNC as the tourney winner.

Okay, okay – all you hardcore madness fans, I know the cardinal rule of bracketology is to complete with your brain, your research and not your heart. But how many Tar Heels out there can put our Carolina blue hearts aside this time of year? My assumption from my time there, not many.

I filled out my bracket with an empty soul, my eyes devoid of NC and somehow filled with ISU (and let’s not even talk about how that worked out for me). But tonight, UNC will face a #1 seed, rocking some awesome kicks and, hopefully, proving my bracket wrong.

So what does any of this have to do with PR? Aside from needing to get this off my chest, it reminded me of the importance of heart, of intuition, being unpredictable but also being stable. March Madness is, in fact, the opposite of mad, it’s a celebration of passion and heart and all the possibilities that come along with those things. And, for some reason, when I filled out my bracket this year, I did so with research and statistics and I forgot to create a bracket based on my gut, my emotion.

And I think that’s why it makes sense to talk about on a PR agency blog and, more specifically, the LPP blog. Now, don’t get me wrong. Statistics and well-developed content based on research and trends are the basis of most everything we develop. But, that bracket I filled in, NEVER would have left this agency. My coworkers would have looked at me, looked at it, and looked back at me asking, “Do you really believe in this?”

And my answer would have inevitably been, “No.”

This answer would then take us back to the drawing board. Why? Because we’re a team of people who make decisions based on energy, passion, what’s right, never what’s easiest and definitely not because everyone else is doing it.

We’re an agency filled with heart. An agency that’s never scared to trust our intuition, in fact, it’s that burning opinion that’s fostered here. And it’s what we hire for. People with opinions. With guts. With emotion. And, because it’s PR, people who can communicate all of those both internally and externally for our clients.

Quite honestly, it’s March Madness here all year round. And we’re looking for players who are ready to be a part of a sincere and passionate team. A team that’s not afraid to go up against a #1 seed, and certainly not scared of some little ol’ badgers.

2012 Pantone color of the year: Tangerine Tango


I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t like the color orange. It’s bright. It’s cheerful. As my favorite color since  2000, it’s actually been the pantone of my century. And so, I can’t adequately express how thrilled I am that Pantone has chosen “Tangerine Tango” to be their color of choice to represent 2012.

My orange crush is unusually related to my passion for social media. Both have changed my life in such significant ways. For instance, once I realized that my love for orange was something that people recognized me by, almost like my “color mantra,” I made it a part of my identity. It’s a symbol of the positivity we should bring to every situation. And if ever, and these times do happen, I’m feeling frustrated or upset, it’s the honest truth that surrounding myself with orange (and now Pantone 17-1463) somehow gets me out of my funk. Orange has changed the way I approach my work, my friends, and my life.

Social media has done the same. It’s not just something I do or even something that I like. It’s a part of how I communicate. It’s a part of how I live. I can’t just read an article anymore and think quietly to myself about it. No, now I read an article and share it to my followers, or my friends automatically see that I’ve read it via Facebook. I don’t just cook food for those who are actually eating it anymore. I cook and share pictures of my delicious dishes with my family and my friends. I don’t save my thoughts about marketing for conversations over cups of coffee (or tea). Instead, I share my ideas with people like you via a blog, twitter, facebook etc.

But this isn’t where the similarities end. It’s the energy that our new pantone of the year emits, that makes it so special. A great social media strategy has this same type of energy. It’s a bright light, a great idea, a spot on, amped-with-caffeine approach that makes a social strategy successful. There’s research and thought and PASSION behind every strategic element and that gives a campaign staying power. It gives it that certain “mustafa-genius” that we all, as marketers, strive for.

With it’s rich color, the 2012 pantone has a little more depth than other colors. Something that is also especially helpful when implementing a social strategy is a great idea that has “legs.” If a concept has depth to it, a strategy goes beyond assumptions about people’s behaviors and is driven by real human insights, then there’s no limit its virality.

Happy Pantone 2012! How has your favorite color shaded your social media interactions? 

thanksgiving cupcakes

Thanksgiving, minus connection.


Yesterday I spent an amazing day with family, lounging around, watching football, and eating. I made calls to the people closest to me and took around three “cat naps.” What I didn’t do, was log on to a computer.

Believe me, it wasn’t easy, but when your 3G iPad isn’t connecting to the internet, there’s not much y
ou can do – I couldn’t even play Words With Friends. I went to my phone to tweet “Happy Thanksgiving,” but other than that I was pretty much in real world mode.

Looking back, it was genuinely nice to not do anything with people I care about. To smell the flavors of delicious foods, watch the Macy’s Day Parade (McDonald’s, that is), and simply sit. But at the time, it was uniquely frustrating. Even the book I turned to for solace started to annoy me (I’m finishing up Brian Solis’ The End of Business As Usual). 

I felt disconnected. I felt like things weren’t in their right places – like I wasn’t in the right place. There’s something about being on Facebook and on Twitter, checking-in on Foursquare, Stumbling articles etc. that gives me a sense of belonging – even if it is virtual.

In this biz, we know that social networking allows us to form virtual “communities.” But, these virtual communities are becoming more real than ever for those in my generation. The reason I was frustrated yesterday, was not because I couldn’t play Angry Birds, it was because I wanted to spend Thanksgiving with the people I not only interact with, but I also identify with and go to for advice. Some of those people are part of my social community.

Am I crazy? Are these communities so real that they can be missed just like any other relative or close friend on Thanksgiving? Or, is it more about the gratification of instant communication that our social communities can usually provide?

The more I think about it, the more I know that our social communities are becoming a part of our every day realities. Holding on to this insight will be and is the key for marketers when coming up with a social strategy or even just a singular post.

Our social community – who we choose to follow, Like, share with, RT and mention – are dear to us. We trust our community with our attention (which is hard to come by for marketers these days) and that means that every single thing we read or view needs to have a purpose. The closer these online communities become to an individual’s heart, the more important it is for marketers to be careful with the content they provide and context in which they provide it.

What are you doing to make content that’s important to your communities?

Geo-Social: What makes someone check-in?


Raise your hands if you’ve used Foursquare, Instagram, SCVNGR, Gowalla, or any other geo-social application to check-in to your favorite watering hole. I know I have. One night at one of my favorite pubs, I started chit chatting with some of the regulars about Foursquare. We left the conversation wondering why people care about checking-in, what makes us want to share where we are with other people, other brands, even?

My initial thought was that it probably stems from our desire to share our identities with others (which I explain in more depth in my blog about what makes us go social). After researching a little further I learned that there is much, much more to it than just owning a smartphone (by the way about 35% of US adults own them – wow).

The psychological thought process of checking in on your favorite geo-social application is informed by the psychology surrounding all social networking in general. People like sharing content for two main reasons: to share their social identities and to gain social capital. Checking-in is yet another way for us to preserve and bolster our social identities and social capital.

What’s cool about Foursquare and the other geo-social apps is that they have the ability to turn coordinates on a map into actual places that people can recognize. In doing so they are attaching a social meaning to a location. Naturally, humans want to share this place with their networks to build up their status. A check in at the sold-out concert, hot night spot, or five star restaurant ups our social “street cred” and shows others we’re part of the latest trend.

Okay, so we all know that there’s something about us that just makes us want to share, but there’s something a little different about Foursquare – there’s a competitive element. There’s an almost innate desire to be the “mayor” or to claim territory (I still haven’t become the mayor of my favorite bar). But it’s true. The New York Times wrote a whole article devoted to this “friendly” competition. It describes the “petty and vicious battle over virtual pieces of turf” that geo-social apps enable. Foursquare makes our everyday travels into one big game and taps into our urge to win.

This might be why more men are using these types of apps than women. While women use social media, on a whole, more than men, a man is actually twice as likely to check-in than a woman. Women are also a little more concerned about privacy than men are. For instance, a woman might not want to broadcast her location for fear of putting herself in a bad position.

Hopefully (for marketers, at least) more and more people will start using these types of apps. It’s fun and the possibilities are endless for brand engagement. Our current affinity for these geo-social services have definitely implications for marketers going forward. Come back next week for a little more insight insight into what brands can do with this new trend.

What do you think is the future for these geo-social apps?


1. Oliver, Simone. Who Elected me Mayor? I did. New York Times.
2. E.G. The secret sexism of social media. June 2011. The economist
3. Atagana, Michelle. Location-based services: The new social currency for teens. September 2011. Memeburn.
4. Zickuhr, Kathryn & Smith, Aaron. 4% of online Americans use location-based services. November 2010. Pew Research Center.

Behind the costume: what makes us go “social”?


Every year, the leaves become shades of orange, red, and yellow and we start using words like “harvest” and “cool” and…”fall.” We dust off our warm jackets and fluff our scarves. We start decorating our houses, carving pumpkins, and picking out costumes for Halloween.

And then it’s October 31st, and we get all dressed up, eat tons of candy, and walk around pretending to be someone (or something) which we’re not. This tradition, while silly, gives us a chance to show another side of ourselves. Beneath the desire to be ghoulish and festive is the need to expose our identities to others.

You can’t truly understand the American Halloween tradition unless you understand that sometimes people need a license to get spooky and let their inner goblin out. You also can’t truly be a great social marketer, without understanding the reasons why people interact on social networking sites in the first place.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on the “geo-social” trend, and in doing so I started reasoning why people check-in, why they set up profiles, and why they blog. (If you’re a marketer, you’re kind of exempt. I like social networking because it’s fun and I dream of the potential it has for brands and small businesses. So – I can’t really rely on my own reasoning.)

The impetus for the average user, though, is complex and simple at the same time; There are several reasons why we engage on social networking sites, but they’re all simplistic and draw on the principles of basic human nature.

Natural Law philosophers like Aristotle emphasize that man is by nature a social being – “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human.” Social media gives us yet another outlet to be this “social animal.”

But, it’s more than just that. At the heart of it all is our need to expose our identity – to show who we are Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shows us that Self-Actualization and Esteem are both necessary components of a healthy life. To do this we must expose ourselves to our community.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Foursquare, etc. all give us the ability to send signals to others about our selves. Think about it. When we like a brand on Facebook, tweet a link, or even answer a question on Quora, we are helping to establish ourselves as a unique individual.

So what’s this mean for brands and marketers? We need to find a way to help people find a piece of themselves reflected in our brand. We don’t share a link or “Like” a brand to promote that company (again, unless you’re a marketer), rather we share these things because they ultimately say something about our identities.

For instance, one of my favorite social media campaigns since 2007 has been Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project that went hand-in-hand with their pass-it-on emphasizing commercials. When I “Like” their Responsibility Project, I’m telling people that I like the idea of “passing it on,” that I identify with the for community members to look out for one another. And, in doing so, I’m also spreading the word about Liberty Mutual. If I didn’t identify with their message, I would never have liked or shared it.

There are certainly other reasons why people join and engage in social networking and it’s important for marketers to know and understand them all. Check back in the coming weeks for more!

What are some great campaigns that you identify with?