This blog post is brought to you by Anna, Isaac, Maura and Sandy, members of our Social Media + Content Integration team.

We attended the 2014 Insight Summit Series PR + Social Media Summit, held at Marquette University on 10.7.14. There were many moments that made this year’s event special, but here are our top ten favorites:

  1. Brands using Reddit – Reddit is one of the most self-aware websites on the Internet, and summit attendees had a chance to learn how brands can leverage it from Reddit’s Director of Communications Victoria Taylor. Did you know that over 500 subreddits are created each day? How is your brand jumping into the conversation?
  2. Making social media more social – Social media and Public Relations should always be at the forefront of planning a campaign. They are the humanizing elements of any advertising or marketing strategy, and should never be an afterthought.
  3. Engagement isn’t enough – The engagement rate of most tweets is lower than the engagement rate of banner ads. This doesn’t mean Twitter isn’t useful – brands need to find their voice and use social media in a way that truly connects with their audience, not just as another advertising tool.
  4. Listen + Join the Conversation Organically – Real time human engagement is one of the many cool factors of Reddit. However, it’s important to be sure that you aren’t butting into conversations. Listen first, then engage in conversations organically (and when appropriate) to make the biggest impact.
  5. Capture the Human Element – What if your brand were a human? What is your brand’s personality? Social platforms allow brand personalities to shine, so be sure yours is a likeable one. Think of an online conversation as a conversation you would want to have during happy hour.
  6. Have a Brand With Purpose – Brands with purpose drive engagement. While Facebook’s organic reach is dramatically decreasing, the best way to stay relevant is to give people a brand to care about. Be in the right vertical and have a good product.
  7. Give Your Brand a Voice or Others Will – Facebook has over 1.32 billion people logging in per day. Giving your brand a positive voice on the social platform is more important now than ever before. Don’t let others give it a negative voice.
  8. Ello, Goodbye – Facebook’s Associate Manager, Genevieve Grdina, addressed fledgling competitor Ello, and its seemingly meteoric rise. Ello prides itself on being the ad-free anti-Facebook, but Grdina pointed out that all social platforms eventually need a monetization strategy to survive, and that Ello is not a long-term threat. Facebook is continuously working to improve the quality and relevance of the ads that keep Facebook a free service.
  9. Social + the CMO – Augie Ray questioned whether social media still has a place in today’s integrated marketing strategy without strong conversion metrics to justify media spend. Social media might not lead to direct sales or conversions, but it excels at fostering brand awareness and interpersonal customer communication. It’s also a great way for smaller brands with smaller budgets to reach and gain new customers.
  10. Facebook Reach Potential – Capture your target audience with quality posts, not quantity. Back quality with ad dollars, precise targeting, and posts could reach 90-95% of people that should see it and interact with it.


Laughlin Constable is the title sponsor for the 3rd annual Digital Advertising Summit, which will be held at Marquette University on Wednesday, March 18, 2015. Topics will include digital advertising, analytics, ecommerce, content strategy, design and development, loyalty, mobile, brand planning, user experience, the latest in digital marketing trends, and more.

Social Media | Governor’s Small Business Summit

I was recently asked by long-time client, Travel Wisconsin to put together a breakout session on social media for the 2014 Governor’s Small Business Summit. A social media breakout session is always a tall order because inevitably you have an audience that spans novice to expert. Unknowingly, I found myself approaching the deck through Aristotle’s three methods of persuasion: ethos, pathos and logos. (Tangential history lesson: Some 2,400 years after Aristotle’s death, these principles are still the backbone of oral and written communication.) Plainly defined:

  • Ethos: An appeal to the authority or credibility of the presenter
  • Pathos: An appeal to the audience’s emotions
  • Logos: An appeal to the audience’s logic

Every summer from age 16 into my college years I worked at my father’s lawn and landscape company answering phones and processing. I was able to see the inner workings of a small business and relied on this anecdote to establish credibility alongside my 6+ years of experience working in social media for Laughlin Constable.

I kicked things off with a simple premise: Customers are far from rational. Most people lack the motivation, time, or information to make a purchase decision based on function alone, so they rely on other factors, factors they might not even be consciously aware of: emotions. For example someone might feel safe in a Volvo, energetic while drinking a Coke or excited in a BMW. At the end of the day people are emotional creatures and therein lies the benefit of social media: a relationship building tool.

Let me tell you, humans as irrational creatures wasn’t a tough sell on a crowd of small business owners, but to appeal to logic I shared a few compelling stats laddering into the question of “Why Social Media?”

  • 53% of consumers report that they will purchase a brand’s product or services after following them on Facebook
  • 47% of consumers are more likely to visit a brand’s website and 35% are more likely to buy from a brand after following them on Twitter
  • 21% of Pinterest users have purchased something they found on the site

With the stage set I took the audience though Laughlin’s 3-step approach to social media strategy: plan, build and engage. We talked content creation, channel management, reporting, social advertising and beyond. At the end of the day I was reminded of the need for agencies to ruthlessly simplify. Put it into laymen’s terms. Provide a visual. Read the room and rely on your principles of persuasion.


Sources: Twitter, The Next Web, Gallup

LC Brings Home 14 PRSA Paragon Awards + Prestigious Best in Show Award!

Congratulations to the Laughlin Constable public relations and social teams for another successful year at the Southeastern Wisconsin PRSA Paragon Awards, including Best of Show for the second consecutive year!

The Paragon Awards honor exceptional PR work by local professionals who implement effective, innovative and strategic communications for their clients. The LC PR team brought home 14 awards, including eight Awards of Excellence and six Awards of Merit. In addition, LC’s Travel Wisconsin PR team brought home the prestigious Best in Show award. This reinforces the fact that the LC Full Circle team includes an incredibly strong PR department.

Awards included:

Best in Show and Excellence
2013 Wisconsin Department of Tourism PR Campaign

Awards of Excellence
What’s Happening at the BMO Harris Bradley Center?
Promoting Travel Wisconsin with Jordy Nelson on Social Media
Introducing a Game Changer – Hard Rock Kenosha (Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin)
Travel Wisconsin Goes Hollywood
Keeping Trees Safe from Emerald Ash Borer (Arborjet)
Lung Cancer Alliance USPSTF Campaign
Travel Wisconsin’s Email Newsletter Redesign

Awards of Merit
Airplane! the Commercial Poster
Holiday Surprises from McDonald’s
Travel Wisconsin’s “Sweaterize Yourself” Facebook App
Introduction of U.S. Cranberries to South Korea
Jordy Nelson Learns There’s No Place Like Wisconsin in the Fall
Travel Wisconsin’s 2013 Press Kit

While this is a Southeastern Wisconsin group, the competition is tough. Below is a sampling of some of the many positive comments from the Florida-based judges:

  • “This was simply and outstanding effort, work and results.”
  • “It is hard to find any areas to suggest for improvement. It was expertly thought out, planned, implemented and followed through.”
  • “The out of the box thinking with small investment lead to great results.”
  • “Incredibly creative tactic. No wonder Wisconsin has LC doing its PR.”

Kudos to the entire PR team for another year of hard work and great results, and thanks to the social folks for their award winning work as well!

240 Films from 44 Countries in 15 Days: Milwaukee Film Festival 2013

Here at Laughlin Constable, our passion for innovative ideas and outstanding creative extends far beyond our doors. As sponsors and champions of the Milwaukee Film Festival, we are proud to support one of the most important cultural events in Milwaukee – no other occasion celebrates creativity, imagination, and art with such enthusiasm. Alongside other Milwaukee advertising agencies like Bader Rutter and BVK, specifically Sara Meaney, Development Co-Chair for the Milwaukee Film Festival, we’ll be jumping in with both feet and exploring the diverse range of experiences this year’s festivities have to offer.

Opening Night Party + Red Carpet Experience: The festival kicks off on Thursday, September 26th with Break Up Man (Schlussmacher), a comedy blockbuster named best German film of the year. Catch the film at the Oriental Theatre, and then head to Discovery World to get down with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and local DJs. Also enjoy drinks, food, and lots of prizes. Not swanky enough for your taste? LC is also sponsoring the exclusive Red Carpet Experience, featuring star treatment, VIP access to a private area of the museum, an open bar, and silent auction benefitting Milwaukee Film.

Cream City Cinema: This showcase of local filmmakers’ work culminates in a yearlong Filmmaker-In-Residence prize awarded to the jury winner. Say you saw them before they blew up – our city’s concentration of filmmaking talent is going places.

Milwaukee Music + Music Documentaries: To contribute to an even lusher multi-sensory experience, musical documentaries are now their own film category – Sound Vision. Plus, the festival’s official live music series, Soundtrack at The Hotel Foster, features live local music every night of the festival – free with a festival pass or ticket stub from the night’s screenings.

For a full list of program categories, click here >>

For a complete festival lineup, click here >>

We’ll be tweeting throughout the festival and live-tweeting the Opening Night events. Join the conversation by tweeting #MFF2013 and share your thoughts on what you see (but wait until the show is over to break out your cell phone).

Why film? Like advertising, cinema is an art form that has the unique ability to impact audiences in almost unlimited ways. Both mediums employ boundless creativity in order to provide entertainment, spark conversations, inspire ideas, and communicate emotions.

The experience of film is at once collective and personal, communal and introspective, social and private. Before the invention of Netflix and before Blu-ray players were even a twinkle in the home entertainment industry’s eye, going to the movies was a necessarily shared experience. Today, we’re seeing cinema come full-circle – it’s never been easier to enjoy, share, experience and discuss films with communities near and far than it is right now. You can see this happening with your own eyes at the Milwaukee Film Festival – a community of film-lovers coming together to experience something great.

Join us for over two weeks of film – we’ll be sure to save you a good seat.

Beware people who tell you what they think. Trust people who tell you what they know.

In a previous post about personal growth for brands, I referenced the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. We can investigate the third agreement, “don’t make assumptions” by answering the following question: Why do we make assumptions in the first place? 


A1: False Confidence.

Assumptions are often made on the foundation of a false confidence. We may have a false confidence if we previously worked on a similar brand, client, or project. Yes, we may know some truths about the audience, product, brand, or culture – which can help us relate – but we cannot make assumptions about the business, marketing, or communication objectives, until we have accurate, current information about this brand, client, or project.

Solution: Put previous knowledge and experience on the back burner and get current and accurate info.


A2: Misperception.

Missing details can cause misperception. That’s the danger of assumptions.  When we are confused sometimes we just fill in the blanks ourselves. We need to fill in the blanks by asking questions.  We need to get the details and information. Then we can fill in the blanks with the correct answers. We get rid of confusion.

Solution: Fill in the blanks by asking questions.


A3: Changing variables.

Assumptions work when the variables are consistent. We live in an age where variables that change daily are changing slowly.  Double-check the realities each time. Objectives may have changed. Market dynamics may have shifted. New trends have an impact.

Solution: Verify the factors that could impact your objective first.


When we don’t make assumptions, it means we are asking questions and listening.

When we are asking questions and listening, it means we are filling in the blanks with the correct answers.

When we are filling in the blanks with the correct answers, we set ourselves up to achieve our objective.

Amy’s Baking Company – What Not to do on Social Media

You’ve probably heard about the Amy’s Baking Company social media debacle that exploded after a recent episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, but in case you missed it, here’s a quick recap:

  • Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, owners of Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro, appeared on an episode of Kitchen Nightmares on May 10, 2013.
  • During the course of the episode, the owners mention they have online “haters” on sites like Yelp. It doesn’t take long for the viewers to figure out why. The owners’ offenses start adding up, including having customers wait an hour for their pizza, not tipping their servers, and serving frozen ravioli to their customers.
  • After trying to sit down with the couple and reason with them, Gordon Ramsey eventually gives up, labeling them as in denial people that can’t be helped.

For many business owners, this would be an embarrassing wake-up call. Maybe they should change their policies and try to win back business with a food (and ‘tude) makeover.

But this was not the case. The couple received negative comments on social media and shot back on May 14 with gems on Facebook such as:



These comments only fueled the fire. Tons of new negative reviews popped up on Yelp and Reddit boards helped curate the conversation. Their fan count, which was at about 2,000 before BuzzFeed covered it, 7,000 when I looked at it in the morning of May 14, and at over 52,000 a day later, is now full of the haters they were trying to fend off in the first place. Realizing their grave missteps, they released the following statement:



So, now that we’re all caught up, let’s talk about what we can learn from this:

1. Never alienate a potential customer

These owners seem to have received a sort of “Soup Nazi” reputation over the years – long before Kitchen Nightmares came along. Sure, there are a lot of people that hated them for their attitudes, but outside of the subpar food and service, there were genuine customers saying genuinely nice things about Amy’s desserts. Now anyone who had seen Amy’s as a place to get a dessert for any occasion will be forced to think twice. Do they want to buy from such negative people? (Some say the desserts aren’t made there, but that’s another issue).

2. Don’t feed the trolls 

Trolls are the oftentimes anonymous users that spawn from sites like Reddit, and continue to insult a person or business in order to provoke them. They want to see that person act poorly in a bad situation. The best thing to do with trolls is to just ignore them. They can take almost anything and turn it into a larger spectacle, but if you say nothing in the first place, they’ve got nothing to keep going.

3. In social media, not all publicity is good publicity

This new audience may be your “fans”, but you will never make money off of them. Best to rectify bad publicity as soon as possible to keep the good fans you had

4. Anticipate bad coverage, and prepare responses to reframe the negative

The most cringeworthy thing about this debacle for me is that the Bouzaglos knew exactly when this episode was going to air, and exactly how they were going to look. They had “released a statement” on their Facebook page on the night of the episode, but instead of admitting they screwed up, they defended the fact that they don’t tip out their servers.

Simply saying, “We appreciate everyone’s feedback and are working on making Amy’s Baking Company a better place for our customers” would probably pacify a large number of people. And, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

5. When you make a mistake, own it

Some of the worst PR debacles have been fixed by the company coming back and saying, “You know what? We screwed up. We’re listening now.” PayPal experienced that not too long ago in an issue with not releasing donations to Regretsy that were collected through PayPal’s service. The worst thing to do is to deflect the blame. Based on previous behavior from the owners, it’s hard to believe that they were victims of hackers. Even if it were true, at this point they’ve lied about so much, nobody would ever believe them.

You can follow me on Twitter @tasty_sammich. We’ll talk about the do’s and don’ts of social media.

Personal growth for brands: The Four Agreements

Is your brand doing what it says it will do? No matter what is happening in the world around it, does your brand have a response plan in place? Is it listening? Is it always doing the best it can? Spring has sprung. We begin to grow plants and gardens. Perhaps your brand could benefit from a little personal growth.

The Four Agreements, a book by Don Miguel Ruiz, is his most famous and influential work.  It was published in 1997 and has sold around 4 million copies.It was featured on Oprah, in “O, The Oprah Magazine”, and Ruiz was recently on the OWN network.

These agreements apply to brands. These agreements are simple. We LOVE simple.



1. Be impeccable with your word.

In order to be impeccable with our brand’s word, we need to know the kinds of things our brand would say. To start, we author the creative brief:

We paint the big picture: the context and world in which our brand is living. We understand what makes our target tick. We uncover their emotional trigger, which tells us the motivation. We identify the promise, the one thing we can deliver. We take a blend of values together and define the brand. This leads us to our organizing concept, those few words that capture the essence of the brand.

 If everything your brand says nods to the motivation, delivers the promise, and is consistent with the organizing concept, your brand is following the first agreement. 

 2. Don’t take anything personally.

There is a fine line between listening to your customers and the idea that ‘whatever happens around you, do not take it personally’.

On one hand, brands cannot “tune out” – they need to listen to their customers and have two-way communication.

@DaveKerpen told us at @mobium’s New Paradigm Series, that the biggest mistake a brand can make is ignoring their highly captive, constantly communicating audiences.

On the other hand, negative events that impact our brands are unavoidable. We can’t just ignore it. Smart brands have a plan. Months in advance they prepare how to address negative comments or events that could have negative impact. When such events happen, boom, there your brand is with poise and grace to respond.

When your brand is proactive, it can deliver on its promise in the face of whatever is happening around it.

3. Don’t make assumptions.

When marketers don’t make assumptions, it means they are asking questions and listening.

 Asking questions and listening help us understand the world in which our brand is living and the needs of our customers.

 4. Always do your best.

One day a brand can make a mistake.  One day a natural disaster or other event outside of our control can impact the success of our brand. The best brands learn from mistakes, roll with the punches, and move forward with solutions.

Strong brands know that their best is different from one day to the next, and always do their best in a constantly changing environment.

The Rise and Fall of Social Networks

I’m big on predictions. I only wish I was better at making them… In fact, I’m not a gambler. However, what I will put my money behind is that every social network will have its time. Just like a rising star, consider the 2013 Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence. Will she be the next Meryl Streep or only have a short run in the public eye? The rise and fall of social networks follows the same trend as celebrity airtime – quick adaption and (sometimes) quick to fade away.

Facebook recently announced that they have 680 million daily mobile users, which surpassed the amount of desktop users. Now, Facebook desktop use will never completely vanish. However, this ebb and flow of use based on technology is something to consider.

For someone like myself, who fits in the “social media evangelist” segment, the surplus of social media platforms has my activity quite fragmented. The “social” folder on my iPhone is packed, so packed that I have a secondary “social’ folder for back up and still continuously delete apps to remain organized and focused.

The focus is fuzzy. When I engage, I think twice about where I share. Even though Instagram touts their 80 million users; I’m actually more connected to my followers there than Facebook, where I have more reach. Has Instagram figured it out? Or do I just gravitate to that platform because it’s more intimate? Facebook has become a giant where everyone from high school, work and college has access to my posts. Yes, I love conversation with all my connections, but I prefer to have it with my tight knit group of friends.

So how long can this last? Can my friends keep navigating from one social network to the other? Vine has become popular and the interactions there deem even more meaningful because the connection set is narrower yet.

Now what does this mean for brands? Well, Facebook is never going away, so if you don’t have your strategy locked down there, work on that NOW. The ability to reach a mass audience and run a promotion while showcasing your brand is best done on Facebook. However, brands need to learn to be more nimble. What I mean is, play with new platforms. Get your name out there and dedicate time to finding out what works best for you. This is especially important for brands that want to connect with social evangelists like me and get their foot in the door at the head of the game.

Where are you at with your social strategy? Are you invested in one platform or two? When you’re making your plan of attack, make sure you consider the newbie platforms and the giants. Feel free to comment below with questions or thoughts and I’d be happy to provide my recommendation.

Riding the slipstream

It’s Monday morning after the Super Bowl. Your feet drag as you walk into the office. You stop by your desk to put your bag down and then charge towards the coffee machine. You pour your first cup of the day. The guy who is always wearing a short sleeve button-down shirt regardless of the weather approaches you and starts chatting about his favorite ad from the game. You take your first sip and before you go for a second, you look up and spot a small group of people heading towards the coffee machine that is not even two feet behind you. They pour their coffee and join the conversation.  Two minutes of commercial-mentioning pass:

GUY WITH BUTTON DOWN (GWBD): How much did that spot cost to air again?

WOMAN FROM CUBICLE NEXT TO YOU: The average price for thirty seconds of Super Bowl air time is 3.8 million.*

GWBD: That’s just for the airtime. Don’t forget about the added costs of actually creating the commercial.

Conversation ensues for another minute until GWBD mentions his workload and everyone returns to his or her desk.


The nearly four million-dollar price tag is the highest amount the networks have ever set. Many marketers, such as the creators of Go Daddy’s commercial, point to the volume of conversation their ads created on social media to justify the multi-million dollar price tag. But does a brand need upwards of $3.8 million to take advantage of Super Bowl hype?  Not necessarily. This year, two brands got people talking without a huge price tag:

Oreo Takes the Cake 

Oreo cookie has been declared the winner of the Super Bowl’s blackout, beating other brands that used the power outage as a marketing opportunity. Within minutes of the power failure, @Oreo tweeted a photo of an Oreo cookie in a lit corner against a black background. White text under the cookie read: “You can still dunk in the dark.” The satirical, simple, and relevant message resonated with frustrated viewers, most of whom used the interruption to check their Twitter feed and revisit the snack menu. At the time of writing, the Tweet had more than 16,000 retweets and more than 13,000 related news articles. The photo’s production cost was minimal and the media buy was nothing.

Even with the considerable cost associated with setting up a war room for senior management and the client, this social media execution still cost significantly less than a Super Bowl commercial would. And it got people talking.

The Commercial You Didn’t See

Old Milwaukee Beer’s Super Bowl antics are not novel to 2013. For the past couple of years, Will Ferrel has been writing and starring in “crazy fun commercials” for the beer. He spends very little on production and shoots all of the commercials in small towns like Terre Haute, Indiana. The beer company airs the commercial during the Super Bowl in small markets like North Platte, Nebraska, spending very little on media. They then post the video online and allow the powers of the internet to take over.  The beer company’s adept manipulation of the Super Bowl hype brings awareness to the brand at a low cost. And, despite its affiliation with the hyper-commercialized Super Bowl, they successfully maintain their branding as an underground beer. At time of writing, the 2013 Super Bowl ad had more than 3 million YouTube views and nearly 7,000 related new articles.


A huge budget is not a requisite for owning a piece of the Super Bowl conversation. True, some of the bigger spenders own a larger chunk of the conversation, but that’s okay. Perhaps ideal. For a brand like Old Milwaukee, a multi-million dollar commercial isn’t appropriate for the image they are working towards. Their method fits with the brand and thus provides a high value at a low cost. Plus, we benefit from brands like Old Milwaukee Beer and Oreo by seeing how creativity, ingenuity, and wit can take a brand places that no money could ever buy.


*Note: While quotes are direct, characters are fictionalized



Warfare on the Web: What we can learn from the IDF social media campaign

No matter what your viewpoint is on the continuing Israeli / Palestinian conflict, it is worthwhile to note that the world recently experienced (for better or for worse) the most thought-out, integrated social media war campaign it’s ever seen. The campaign – overseen by 26-year-old Israeli Defense Forces Social Media Director, Sacha Dratwa – touted content spread across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr and blog channels. The goal was to influence conversation and opinion. The result was an intense, real-time war.

The campaign included sharable infographics combining art and data on Facebook, strategically developed hashtags on Twitter to promote trending and to categorize conversations, an embeddable rocket counter widget that showed how many rockets had hit Israel last year, this year and since November 14th and more. Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, even published a series of tweets thanking individuals helping to spread the word via social channels.

While the IDF used social channels for Israel’s benefit, the public unintentionally used it to the country’s disadvantage. The IDF had to ask Israeli civilians not to tweet or post Facebook statuses when rockets fell. They feared the information could be used by the enemy to modify calculations and better pinpoint targets.

Whether or not the campaign was successful is up for debate. According to the IDF, Twitter followers were at 70,000 when the campaign started. As of January 21st they’re at 211,449 followers. In addition, as of November 19th the IDF’s English Facebook page had increased by 27,700 fans. Despite the spike in engagement across channels, some say that turning a war operation into a hashtag trivializes the effort and demeans the lives lost on both sides.

While the jury may still be out on the public’s overall feelings surrounding the campaign, it’s interesting to note that marketing and the military utilize a lot of similar language (i.e. target, strategy, tactic, campaign). So what else can we learn from each other? Just like in battle, it’s beneficial as a marketer to do the following when preparing to take social platforms by storm:

+ Survey the field: It’s important to know what you’re walking into. Be sure to monitor what users are saying about your brand, product etc. before diving in. This will help you devise an appropriate strategy for the environment you’re about to enter.

+ Know your enemy: Okay, maybe enemy is a strong word, but be sure to research your competitors. Knowing how the competition is positioning themselves, what products / services they’re currently touting etc. will help you strategically position and differentiate yourself.

+ Prepare, prepare, prepare: Be sure to anticipate all possible responses in a social media forum and have a plan in place. How do you respond to appropriate comments /discussions versus ones that are inaccurate or negative? That’s not something you want to figure out on the fly.

To read more about the IDF’s social media campaign, check out this Fast Company interview with Captain Eytan Buchamon of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.