Hardware is the new software

David Leavitt

Several team members from Powell Tate attended the South By Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. They'll be sharing their insights from the festival here on this blog.

The interactive portion of South By Southwest has wrapped up, which means it’s time for the inevitable discussion of what "next big thing" made a splash in Austin the way Twitter (2007), Foursquare (2009) and GroupMe (2011) did in previous years. (And Highlight in 2012, although it wasn’t heard from again.)

What software application had everyone buzzing this year?

Actually, there wasn’t one.

The lack of a breakthrough, must-have app let attendees focus on the hardware side of things. For example, three innovative products:

Looking back, 2012 will likely be remembered as the year that SXSW attendees looked up from their phones to see how digital was changing the physical world.


The Year of eSports

Steven Place

Six-figure contracts, corporate sponsorships and arenas pack with fans is hardly the image most people associate with video games.

But eSports has changed that. 

While hardly a household name, electronic sports — or eSports — are quietly dismantling the limitations of traditional entertainment on a global scale. Propelled by advancements in affordable video streaming technology, game titles such as Starcraft II and League of Legends have attracted fans from around the world that tune in to watch their favorite players compete against each other.

This year, for Social Media Week, we hosted and moderated a panel aimed at exploring the technology and influences that lead to the recent rise of eSports. Our panelists included eSports journalist, Rod Breslau of GameSpot and CBS Interactive, Deric Ortiz of One Nation of Gamers, Reed Albers of the Entertainment Software Association (client), and Ben Goldhaber of

To our knowledge, this was the first Social Media Week panel about professional gaming, so it was a great opportunity to introduce attendees to a subject most have never heard of.

Here are a few fascinating takeaways that emerged from our panel discussion:

  • receives 25 million unique visitors and 300 million views each month.
  • The largest eSports event to date garnered over 1 million concurrent viewers and over 8 million unique viewers total.
  • Tournaments are viewed in over 157 countries.
  • The average viewer consumes 90 minutes of content each day.
  • Over 8,000 eSports enthusiast gathered in bars across the United States last year to watch tournaments.

Will big brands follow fans?

The numbers don’t lie; there is a huge eSports audience waiting to be engaged.

Companies like Intel and Redbull have recognized this growth and have established deep roots in the eSports community — each company even hold their own branded eSports tournaments. Computer memory giant, Kingston, and electronic accessory manufacturer, Logitech, have also found an engaging niche of customers in the eSports community. These companies have not traditionally had a mainstream outlet to spotlight their products, but eSports has provided these brands a unique opportunity to reach consumers. As eSports gains momentum, more will certainly follow.

Where are the fans?

Aside from live events, video streaming is the primary medium on which eSports fans consume media., the most popular streaming platform for eSports games, is primarily responsible to the breakneck growth of professional gaming worldwide. Within their streaming platform, has thoughtfully integrated a robust advertising platform that enables users to essentially create their own media network. With a deep bench of advertising partners, is able to drive significant results for brands that utilize their platform and for stream hosts that provide content for their platform. Popular streams can earn up to six figures a year.

Is eSports a fad?

Perhaps. Game titles may shift over time, but fundamentally the proliferation of eSports has forged a new digital distribution model for entertainment that will continue to challenge traditional mediums.


Sports Entertainment & Reporting in the New Media Cycle

Jackie Titus

Last week marked the second year Social Media Week came to Washington, DC and our team doubled its efforts this year by hosting four nearly sold-out events.

In the spirit of the debated sports renaissance taking place in DC, our team decided to put together a panel on two topics we’re equally passionate about: sports and emerging digital trends.

We were thrilled to have a knowledgeable (and fun) panel ranging from representatives of the teams we love to root for and the outlets that cover them, including:

Conversation among our panelists focused on how digital platforms have influenced the way teams, media outlets and fans all engage with one another. Whether from personal experience (attending/watching a game) or professional experience (shaping a new strategy), we all know that there is a new standard for sourcing, creating and disseminating content. While the demand and pace with which we provide this content is insatiable, our panelists agreed it’s an exciting opportunity for sports brands and media that requires increased investment of time (it’s a 24/7 cycle) and resources (the people and production it takes to execute a successful digital content strategy) to execute well.

A few key takeaways:

Twitter rules (for now): For the first 45 minutes of the conversation, panelists referenced Twitter as the leading platform they use to engage with their audience, source stories, and gain a pulse for what players, fans and media are talking about. Twitter is increasingly an evaluation metric for brands and PR firms when considering athletes for endorsement deals and brand activations.

Mobile and the second screen: Teams and brands are focusing on the best experience they can deliver – whether you are in-stadium, at home, or attending a different game altogether. The ability to reach a fan across multiple touch-points is a huge opportunity and exciting challenge.

Growing emphasis on content creation: Creating and broadcasting content is no longer a role held solely by traditional media powerhouses. Teams and ownership groups like Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment are making a strong push to maximize their content creation capabilities, and at times relationships between all groups have been strained. As the sports media landscape gets more saturated with content, expect to see exciting innovations and more bumps in the road between traditional content creators and their counterparts.


Agile Advocacy – Best Practices for Running Your Social Media Advocacy Campaign

Michael Connery

Running a measurably successful advocacy campaign on social media is hard. Tactics, technologies and platforms are changing rapidly, and many nonprofits and organizations are still chasing that elusive ROI. So how can advocacy organizations stay ahead of the technology curve, break through the noise to engage supporters and – most importantly – activate them when it matters most?

That’s the question panelists tackled at our Agile Advocacy event last week. Hosted by Powell Tate as part of Social Media Week DC, the event featured Deepa Kunapuli, curator for Upworthy; Garth Moore, the ONE Campaign’s US Digital Director, and Lauren Balog Wright from Powell Tate. Kaiya Waddell of Facebook’s Policy and Advocacy department moderated the panel.

A packed house of advocacy professionals attended the event, and conversation focused on three main pillars that support a successful social media advocacy campaign: content creation and curation, community management and paid media. Below are just a few of the lessons learned from our panelists that can help you run a successful social media advocacy campaign (without an Obama-sized budget).

Create a Curiosity Gap With Your Audience: All the panelists talked about creating just enough of a teaser in your content on social platforms to convince a reader to take the next step. Whether you want a supporter to take action or watch a video to learn more, getting them to make that first click is the most important thing your social content can do. At UpWorthy, creating that curiosity gap is baked into their content curation process: curators are required to write 25 draft headlines and share them with a larger team to determine the winner. This process – while sometimes painful – is the secret sauce behind Upworthy’s success in making quality content go viral.

Develop a relationship with your community. The ONE Campaign has hundreds of thousands of fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter, and an ambitious goal of reaching one million supporters on both platforms by the end of this year. How do they keep their base engaged and activate them for major legislative battles? An empowered community manager is behind the computer on a daily basis responding to comments and tweets with enough editorial freedom to develop an authentic voice and capitalize on real-time happenings in the media.

Paid is important, but requires great content. Based her work This is Personal, a campaign for The National Women’s Law Center, Lauren Balog stressed that paid media is increasingly the cost of admission if you want to cut through the clutter of the newsfeed and run a large scale campaign. But throwing dollars behind something doesn’t guarantee ROI if you don’t have good quality content. Design should lead content creation – not simply be an after thought. When you have high quality content, paid media is a very effective way to boost your acquisition and engagement levels. With paid media increasingly appearing contextually in-stream, it’s also a great way to build affinity with your fans. 

Garth Moore was also quick to note that paid media scales. You don’t need an Obama sized budget to reap benefits from paid support. Even a paid program of a few hundred dollars a month can show a good return on investment if used wisely.

Use the right metrics. A lot of organizations think that by simply having a lot of fans or followers, they will automatically see high engagement numbers across platforms. But that’s not true. In order to have a successful fan base on Facebook, you need to make sure you’re recruiting the right fans to your page, and feeding them the types of actions or content that will compel them to click or share. Fans alone is a vanity metric. If you are acquiring fans for their own sake, and those fans are not taking actions that ladder up to your organizations goals, you should reevaluate whether you are acquiring the right people or creating the kind of content that engages your community.


Making the District digital

Lauren Klein

DC is really popular. Just this year alone, it’s at the top of lists about being the most popular place to move and the best food scene in the country, and hosts a booming real estate market that barely took a plunge when the rest of the country’s economy spiraled out of control. But as the city develops, the local government has not kept pace with the ability to integrate technology and social media solutions to provide better information and communication between city officials and residents.

Panelists from our Digital District Social Media Week session last week implied that city leaders, as well as the private sector, could do a lot more to fill that need. The panel was part of a day-long series of Social Media Week events Powell Tate hosted to address a range of topics and trends, such as the importance of agile advocacy and the evolution of eSports.

The Digital District roundtable discussion brought together a range of perspectives including John Lisle, who managed social media for DDOT and now DC Water; Tiffany Bridge, a local Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and co-founder of We Love DC; local bloggers, like David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington and Tom Cochran from Ghosts of DC; and finally Brandon Jenkins of Fundrise to represent the private sector.

Though the conversation touched on a gamut of issues like concerns about the digital divide, and the need for an overhaul of infrastructure, what became obvious was the fundamental need for both better leadership in local government to embrace the risks as well as the benefits of implementing digital communications strategies, as well as a need for the private sector to think outside of the box to find solutions to local needs.

Creating an environment where the government can feature its strengths by freeing up public data, while also incentivizing the private sector to use that information to create new services, will be an important foundation to lay in order to help the city with this transition.

Ultimately, we hope this is just the beginning of a conversation about how to better support both sides of the equation in order to make DC a truly digital district. Because, even if you can’t make it to the local zoning board meeting, doesn’t mean you don’t want to know what’s going on. 



Social Media Week and Community-Driven Communications

Social Media Week 2013 is underway, bringing together digital minds from around the world (with more than 500 events spanning 10 cities this year) to discuss trends in social media, share best practices, and host meet-and-greets for digital veterans and newcomers alike.

It’s no secret that the way we communicate is becoming more and more reliant on digital channels, and the growth of Social Media Week’s popularity over the past five years is proof. SMW’s founder, Toby Daniels, recently did an interview with Forbes where he discussed how he built this movement from the ground up, starting with – you guessed it – digital channels, including Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. This strategy has worked, as Daniels notes, “our most effective form of promotion is through our community, which in four years has grown to more than 100k professionals worldwide.”

It’s critical for communicators at all levels to take a page from Daniels’ strategy, to understand how we use digital and social channels to tap into communities – from grassroots to advocacy (Obama campaign, anyone?) and consumer marketing (see Oreo’s recent social media win during the unexpected Super Bowl blackout). We’re seeing more and more reliance on social channels than on traditional media to engage audiences and raise awareness. This is particularly important for campaigns focused on CSR and demonstrating impact. When organizations and brands demonstrate that they’re listening to their communities, and engaging in a two-way dialogue on social channels, they build trust, demonstrate transparency, and can more effectively share perspectives with an active, engaged audience.

There’s lots to check out during Social Media Week that build on this theme, with live streams of many of the panels globally. Additionally, the team here at Powell Tate is excited to be participating in a number of panels this week on Thursday, exploring everything from how to best use paid media in advocacy campaigns to the way social media changes the way we experience sporting events. Links with more information and to register are below – hope to see you there!


Social Media Transforms State of the Union Address into a Collective Conversation

Julie Tarallo

Last night, President Barack Obama delivered the first State of the Union address of his second term, a tradition that Americans still relish even in a 24-hour media world. Presidents, too, value this time-honored ritual as an opportunity to speak directly to constituents far and wide. And with the proliferation of social media, the State of the Union is no longer a monologue, but a global dialogue conducted in real time.

According to Twitter data, more than 766,000 tweets referenced the State of the Union and related hashtags between 9:05pm and 10:40pm ET, beginning with the President’s entrance and concluding with Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) response on behalf of the Republican Party.

Social media engagement remained steady throughout the speech, averaging 8,052 tweets per minute, and spiked at more controversial segments, including Obama’s calls for education and tuition reform (12,870 tweets per minute), investment in innovative companies such as Apple (13,956 tweets per minute), and commitment to fostering clean energy solutions (11,871 tweets per minute).

Yet, the President’s conversation with the American people was not all pomp and circumstance. Plenty of social media users took the opportunity to dish out quips about the President and others in the House chamber. As MSNBC points out, the President’s snub of Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) – who has made it a tradition to stand in the center aisle to be greeted by the president at every State of the Union since 1989 – generated numerous wisecracks, including this one from NBC’s Kasie Hunt:

Another favorite – and perhaps most viral –topic for social media users came after the main event, during Rubio’s response. When the parched Florida senator awkwardly lunged for a sip of water while maintaining eye contact with the camera, the Twitter-verse pounced on the gaffe and sent more than 9,200 tweets per minute. Rubio shook off the flub, responding:

Joking aside, the legacy of the State of the Union address endured last night, and the President seized the opportunity to discuss the areas that matter most to the American people: manufacturing, jobs training, education, defense and energy efficiency. While the White House isn’t quite ready to live-stream the President’s address via Google Hangout, social media engagement during last night’s speech clearly demonstrates that the State of the Union has evolved into a full-fledged, worldwide conversation.


Defense: A Look Ahead at the Policy Landscape

Greg McCarthy

This is part of a series examining the legislative outlook in the 113th Congress. In the coming days, our leadership team will share its views on key issues facing our clients across various sectors. 

With the March 1 sequester deadline looming, it is no longer a question of 'if' defense spending will be seriously cut; it's a question of the depth of those cuts. If no agreement on budget sequestration is reached before the March 1 deadline, the Department of Defense will see an automatic across-the-board cut of $500 billion over the next 10 years, including roughly $46 billion in 2013 alone. Even if a deal is reached in Congress, most observers agree that the Defense Department will still face cuts of $25 billion or more next year, and similar cuts for the next decade. This best case/worst case speculation has prompted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to say that no matter what course lawmakers chart for the country's defense spending, planners at the Pentagon will need to fundamentally re-think current U.S. military strategy and missions.

Sustaining Existing Programs

While defense contractors will work hard to keep current programs off the budget chopping block, many may also find themselves re-tooling operations and enhancing capabilities to service and maintain existing platforms and systems as they adjust to a Pentagon more intensely focused on doing more with less. Still other companies may be forced to turn to foreign markets such as Israel, India or South Africa for sales of new defense systems.

Pacific Pivot

President Barack Obama's decision early in his first term to rotate 2,500 U.S. Marines through a base in northern Australia was an early sign of what has become known as the "Pacific pivot" – a purposeful shift in foreign policy toward China and East Asia. In Obama's second term he will likely seek to reinforce his message to the Asia-Pacific region that the U.S. intends to remain an engaged power and that the Pentagon and U.S. military assets will play a growing role in such efforts. How exactly the "pivot" will take shape and what it will mean for individual military suppliers and contractors remains to be seen, but those businesses with an eye on East Asia may see new opportunities despite fiscal austerity.

What This Means for Communicators

The long, drawn-out and fierce fight for the U.S. Air Force Tanker contract and the failed effort to secure an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have become the model for modern defense acquisition competitions. Companies that neglect a Washington, DC engagement plan as well as a broader plan to sway the media, defense analysts and the public as part of their contract strategies will suffer the consequences. Targeted public affairs/communications strategies and robust engagement campaigns to help them succeed are essential – whether preserving existing programs, expanding into new markets or winning new contracts.


Why I like that CNN exists even if I don’t feel like watching it

David Leavitt

If your Facebook and Twitter feeds are an aggregation of stories from your friends, then platforms such as Pinterest, Storify and Flipboard are aggregators of the aggregators. That is, they organize content published elsewhere and help us make sense of the Internet.

Still, they bore me (with one exception that I’ll explain in a minute).

I appreciate them the way that I appreciate CNN: I like that it’s there, I just don’t want to watch it.

Even as the world’s iconic cable TV news channel, CNN doesn’t get very good ratings. On an average day, it comes in a distant third in the ratings behind Fox News Channel and MSNBC.

But during a breaking news event, everything changes. When something big happens — such as Navy SEALs killing Bin Laden or the Supreme Court ruling on the health care law — CNN dominates the TV ratings. On Obama’s Inauguration Day last month, CNN crushed the other networks by a wide margin.

Just as CNN thrives during live events, so do social aggregation channels. And this is the exception I mentioned earlier.

A platform called RebelMouse, which is less than a year old, brings multiple social networks (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr) together in one place. Unlike Storify, a user can curate the content either manually or as an automated process. Much like CNN, it can be most compelling during a big news moment.

News organizations have jumped at this trend — you can use RebelMouse to follow the blizzard in New England on NPR’s Winter Storm Nemo page or Fashion Week on the Wall Street Journal’s page.

For an organzation or company, a tool like RebelMouse can be useful by making all the work you put into your social channels accessible to audiences who don’t use those networks. Especially around big events.


Trade: A Look Ahead at the Policy Landscape

Jim Meszaros

This is part of a series examining the legislative outlook in the 113th Congress. In the coming days, our leadership team will share its views on key issues facing our clients across various sectors. 

In his second term, the Obama administration's international trade agenda will focus on completing old initiatives while taking on new ones, most notably launching an effort to deepen trade ties with the European Union.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

The ongoing agenda includes President Obama concluding and passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Despite the slow grind of 32 months of talks, the negotiations still face significant obstacles on the toughest issues – competition policy, intellectual property, labor rights and others – and may not wrap up until 2014. Canada and Mexico have just joined the negotiations, and Thailand and Japan may do so shortly. The new entries make the agreement more economically significant, but also more difficult to conclude.
Once TPP negotiations end, the administration must secure fast-track authority from Congress in order to subject the agreement to an up-or-down ratification vote. The White House says it will ask for authority "at the appropriate time" and for a specific use, but have not yet decided if this will be for TPP only or include a broader range of trade initiatives. Congressional Republicans may cooperate with the White House if U.S. business supports the final TPP structure; securing Democratic support may be the President's greater challenge.

European Union

The European Union and United States are moving towards launching bilateral trade negotiations in 2013. This will involve high-stakes negotiations for both
Other Initiatives

Among other efforts, the Obama administration has notified Congress it will begin negotiating a plurilateral agreement on trade in services with 19 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It will also seek an expansion of the 1996 Information Technology Agreement, and plans to negotiate bilateral investment treaties (BIT) with China and India. The Obama administration will likely continue to aggressively pursue anti-dumping cases against China and other Asian exporters. It is uncertain how China's new leadership will react to the increasing state of friction in bilateral trade relations.
What This Means for Communicators

Trade policy with Asia and Europe today extends beyond traditional tariff and market opening issues, encompassing a broader range of challenging business factors – competition policy, intellectual property, patents, government procurement and Internet freedom, among others. Communicators need to define the evolving stakes for U.S. multinationals and help them navigate this new policy environment.


Social Impact and CSR Leadership Get Serious

Paul Massey

To jump-start our work this year, my colleague Sheila Redzepi and I looked at key trends in corporate social responsibility and offered our perspective on why 2013 may stand out as a year of social impact. See below for our thoughts, which were included in a recent Weber Shandwick publication, "Engagement: Weber Shandwick Trend Insights."



Why It Takes At Least Two To Tango On Op-eds: Part 2

Bob Brody

Here are our top five takeaways on how to do this delicate dance of push and pull we do with clients on op-eds and achieve the right results.

1. Ask if you should pursue an op-ed in the first place. Virtually every communications plan carries a reference to op-eds as a block-and-tackle vehicle. Yet some clients may prefer, or be better off – for reasons practical, proprietary and possibly material – keeping certain opinions to themselves, and letting the facts do all the talking. Vet the pros and cons, the likely ROI. “See if it passes the smell test,” Morgan suggested. An alternative approach may come in handy -- an off-the-record meeting with an editorial board or elected official, say, or an advertorial.

2. Establish the intent of the op-ed, clearly, concisely, right upfront. Define the issue at hand, the topic of focus, the research materials needed, and also of course your point of view about it. Our internal survey asked for the biggest obstacles in partnering with clients on op-eds: “poor choice of issue and topic” came in second, with 31% of the vote. “The piece has to take a position,” said Files, “and our job may be to push the client toward saying something forceful and counterintuitive, maybe even to stick his or her neck out.” An outline of 50 to 100 words, initially agreed upon by all involved, might be useful as a starting point. So might a 15-minute Q&A with the intended author, either live or by e-mail, to try to gain insight and capture the right voice and sensibility. “If you want us there at the landing,” said Morgan, “we should also be there at takeoff.”

3. Educate about expectations, especially regarding the media outlets in your sights. The New York Times receives some 200 op-ed submissions daily, and only one or two might eventually make the cut. “Unrealistic expectations” ranked first as an obstacle in our survey, garnering 53% of responses. So exercise caution before proceeding. Explain why, for example, a national newspaper will call for a perspective broader in scope, while a regional paper will generally prefer a narrower, more local version. List your publication targets in order of priority, feeling free, of course, to aim high (The Financial Times), but always balancing your plan with backups (going local with a hometown newspaper).

4. Court the concept of compromise. Over here you may have what clients want to say, while over there you may have what the public is actually interested in hearing – namely, something of merit, even newsworthy. Diplomatically find the sweet spot in between.

5. Negotiate to maintain high standards. Op-eds should generally adhere to certain criteria, whether about tone, style or length. Clients should understand, for example, that an op-ed should rarely, if ever, be a recycled press release, a mélange of self-serving boilerplate messages – an infomercial, in other words, less an op-ed than an op-ad. In the best, most influential op-eds, clients advocate for causes beyond themselves.

For more information on how to approach op-eds, check out our previous post about our survey of op-ed editors.


Why It Takes At Least Two To Tango On Op-eds

Bob Brody

Collaborating with clients on op-ed pieces may sometimes feel, to all parties concerned, like the editorial equivalent of waterboarding. The agency ghostwriter may get the first draft all wrong. The intended author may take three weeks to review it. Consensus by committee may be required for approval. A shame, given that op-eds are already hard to write, and even harder to place.

Then again, write and place op-eds our agency most certainly does. Sometimes the whole process comes together perfectly. Said ghostwriter nails that first draft. Author and committee are tickled pink. Voila! The op-ed appears verbatim in The New York Times, triggering universal acclaim.

That’s why Powell Tate recently held a panel discussion to explore how best to work with clients on op-eds, that ever-challenging holy grail of public persuasion, a unique opportunity to express a viewpoint unfiltered by reporter. Lance Morgan, Chief Communications Strategist, and John Files, Senior Vice President, joined the conversation, with me serving as moderator. The three of us combined have more than a half century of teaming up with clients on op-eds, including some that have shown up in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post and, yes, the aforementioned New York Times.

For starters, beware. We three agreed the opportunities to go awry in developing op-eds with clients are abundant. Neither agency nor client may have yet have a clear idea of the point of view to be conveyed, or may disagree with each other about just what it should be, or both. Expectations about where the op-ed should ultimately materialize may run unreasonably high. Everyone involved in the decision-making process may be determined to smudge the manuscript with a fingerprint (the too-many-cooks syndrome).

“The benefits of doing an op-ed are substantial, but so are the risks,” warned Morgan, who has contributed op-eds under his own name to The Washington Post. “For example, you run the risk of rejection by your target publication, which could hurt your relationship with your client.”

“Some clients may reflexively urge us to pursue op-eds without asking if that’s really the right course of action,” cautioned Files, a former reporter with The New York Times.

To prepare for the panel discussion, we conducted an informal online survey of Weber Shandwick staff, mostly senior managers and media specialists, with seven multiple-choice questions. 

The survey asked, for example, how well do we collaborate with clients on op-eds on a scale of “1” to “10” (with “10 being highest). Result: 85% indicated a “5” or higher, with most (31%) giving a “7.” Happily enough, we often find homes for the op-eds we craft with clients: 61% of respondents typically publish one to three op-eds per year, with 16% even placing three to six. 

So what are our top five takeaways?

P.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow


Killer Content (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying about the Next Big Thing and Embrace Awesomeness.)

Amil Husain

You might have heard about Twitter’s recent announcement of Vine, a new companion video app that allows users to create looping short-form video. Vine allows users to create six-second short films that can then be shared on Twitter and Facebook. Think of it as an easy way to make an animated GIF.

You also might have heard many self proclaimed social media experts laud Vine as a revolutionary new tool that will change the Twitter landscape forever. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t but that’s not really the point.

What Vine, Pintrest, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and every other social network has taught us it’s easy to fall into the hype of a new tool or app but at the end of the day only one thing really matters, awesome content.

Whether it’s a six second video or a feature length documentary, engaging content eventually wins. Let’s take my phone as a case study. I get excited about the next big app like anyone else, download it, take it for a spin, and then rarely use it again. Think about how many apps you use on your phone in a given week. I’d be willing to bet that hot new app from three months ago hasn’t made it to the lofty home screen position.

Should you use vine? If it’s right for your content, mix, hell yes! Short-form video is a perfect medium to tell engaging stories. 5-Second videos have been a popular mainstay on YouTube for years. But let’s not oversell what Vine is. Vine is *another* way to communicate our story to the world. As digital communicators we can use a multitude of channels to get our message out and luckily for us, there will never be a lack of the Next Big Things to tell our stories on.


Lessons from the 2012 election campaign

Lauren Balog

It’s been a month since election season concluded, which means it’s the perfect time to look back at what worked and what didn’t when it came to engaging and organizing audiences online.

Recently, a group of Powell Taters headed to RootsCamp, an “unconference” hosted by progressive organizations and spearheaded by the New Organizing Institute (NOI). The event serves as a two-day campaign debrief where organizers, data scientists and campaign managers come together to share best practices about what worked and what didn’t in the last election cycle. While there are lessons to be learned from both sides of the aisle, this was an event for left-leaning groups to come together to learn from each other.

The agenda for the conference is set on the fly by the attendees, and a giant wall is constructed where participants map out the various sessions posted throughout the day. Some planned their sessions in advance, and some decided on the spot there was a gap in the sessions and created one the same day. It’s all in the beauty of an unconference! 

Sessions were varied, including: 

Powell Tate also participated as presenters in RootsCamps, leading a session outlining the successful content strategy behind This Is Personal, a campaign we are helping to support for The National Women’s Law Center. We were able to share some key philosophies that guide our work for this client:

  • Research on your audience matters for targeting and content creation: Before we started creating content, we set out to understand our target audience; from what they care about, how they view our issue set, and even down to their social behaviors. Learning everything we can about our audiences makes our content smarter and more effective. 
  • Design leads content: Our lead designer is not just in charge of design, but also in charge of leading our editorial conversation, and is involved in the content develop process every day. Everything we do is literally led by design and design isn’t something we push to the background. Design is a major part of the process. 
  • Your content strategy must also have a paid strategy: We all know that social media is a crowded place, and you have to shout sometimes to be heard. Platforms are getting smarter about making ads less disruptive to the users and pushing their advertisers to actually create content their audiences want to see. Ads aren’t just about impressions anymore – they are about pushing quality content in stream instead of in banner out to your audience and getting eyeballs, and ultimately clicks on it. 

The presentation drew a substantial crowd during a packed morning on the second day of the unconference. We even received some high praise from those in attendance:

Needless to say, our team is back to work and inspired by the amazing organizers and organizations that did some incredible work during the 2012 election cycle, and we’re grateful for opportunities like RootsCamp to learn how to make our campaigns more effective and engaging.

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