Yes And: Improv + Advertising

5 days. 40-plus hours. Hundreds of speakers and sessions to choose from. Social Media Week Chicago was a whirlwind of learning, exploring, networking, and more learning. There were many moments that had me dreaming of next year’s event, but one session that stuck with me as an advertiser was Yes, And: What social media, brands and advertising can learn from Chicago’s improv and comedy roots.

At its core, improvisational theater is based on group acceptance – saying yes and accepting everything that happens on stage. This concept has evolved into “Yes, And” – everyone accepting what is happening (saying “yes”) while the skit expands and develops (saying “and…” then adding a new idea to the conversation).

The “Yes, And” ethos sets everyone up for success and guarantees that a sketch builds the momentum it needs to succeed. But it also sets me up for success in the office. Brainstorming? Collaborating with a client? Spit-balling solutions? Choosing a place for lunch? Don’t shut people’s ideas down. Add to and improve them with the “Yes, And” technique.

Don’t stop the idea – take it further and let it evolve from something that may be mediocre into something that is fantastic. Become comfortable with making mistakes and feeling a bit defeated. In the end, the idea you come up with may look nothing like its original seed, but that’s the point. Great things never came from comfort zones.

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


On Thursday, Facebook announced the first significant redesign of the News Feed since it was introduced in 2006. According to Facebook, the majority of changes will freshen up users’ News Feeds and reduce clutter by focusing on media-rich stories and allowing users to better organize their information.

All these changes are fine and dandy for users. Who’s going to argue with bigger pictures and better organization? But for those marketers wondering, “What does this mean for me?” Here are my two cents… or should I say five cents on how brands can maximize the new News Feed.

1. Emphasize visual content

Mark Zuckerberg opened up the conference Thursday stating almost 50% of News Feed content today is made up of photos and visual content. The Edge Rank algorithm currently favors content with rich media. According to Facebook, the News Feed redesign will not change the ranking algorithm. It will however, place greater emphasis on brand stories featuring photos, videos and links.



2. Rethink your Timeline creative

Timeline creative such as a brand’s cover photo and thumbnails of friends who like the brand will now be featured alongside stories in the Timeline. Ensure your cover photos are timely, vibrant and appealing, while still complying with Facebook page guidelines.


3. Strengthen Link Headlines + Images

Link attachments are getting a makeover. Images will be larger. Titles will be more prominent and lead paragraphs will be longer. Simply tacking on a link will not suffice. Choose links with strong images, and customize titles + summaries to be concise and attention-grabbing.


4. Integrate across channels

The redesign will focus on consistency across devices. This will create a much more unified experience for users on desktop, mobile and tablet. The mobile focus comes as little surprise. Earlier this year, Facebook revealed they had 680 million mobile daily users, exceeding the amount of their desktop users. Smart brands were already providing mobile optimized content for their users, this is now more important than ever. Whether linking off-site to a sweepstakes or e-commerce site, brands must ensure that a user’s mobile experience is simple and polished.


5. Target Ads to Subfeeds

Facebook also announced the launch of subfeeds on Thursday. These feeds will live in the upper right corner of the News Feed and will allow users the opportunity to toggle between different topic categories.

The new News Feeds include:

  • All Friends Feed – Displays only posts from friends. No brand content.
  • Music Feed – Shows what music your friends are listening to, dates of upcoming concerts and content from your favorite musicians.
  • Photos Feed – Features photos shared by friends and pages
  • Following Feed – The equivalent of the current “Pages Feed.” This will share content from businesses you like and public figures you follow in chronological order.

Brands will have the opportunity to target to all of the separate feeds. This is a great opportunity to better segment your audiences. But proceed with caution, just because brands have the opportunity to advertise in the “All Friends” feed doesn’t mean that they should. Users could be irritated by brand interruptions in this friends-only space.

In summary, the changes to the News Feed force marketers to be more strategic about the way they deliver their content. Great brands were already emphasizing rich media, strategically targeting ads, and integrating across channels. As Facebook officially raises the bar, marketers will have to up the ante and think outside the box to get their message across.

Love it or hate it, the revamped News Feed is rolling out as we speak. Sign up here to get on the waiting list. Are you a fan or foe of the new feed? Tweet questions or comments my way: @abinaumann.

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.

Social Media and Beer: 3 Lessons for the Beer Industry

Living in Milwaukee has its perks. One being the beer, they don’t call us brew city for nothing. Recently I attended the PR + Social Media Summit at Marquette University. Naturally one of the sessions revolved around how social media is being used in the craft beer industry.

Like all effective social media campaigns, everything comes back to strategy and authenticity. I think panelist Mike Thiel, marketer for Goose Island hit the nail on the head when he said “For every beer that we’ve sold, we don’t do it through big advertising budgets…Everything we’ve done is through one taste at a time. So the way that we view social media is that is an opportunity to reach every customer, one point at a time and help tell a story.”

With that in mind, below are three authentic social media lessons the beer industry could learn from:

Show Personality
Whether big or small, craft or domestic, local or import – beer companies need to determine what their story is and how they want to tell it. Putting a personality
to a brand is one of the easiest ways to build relationships with customers. Beer companies have an amazing opportunity to profile their brew masters and provide insight into why their employees have a passion for their job. If the story surrounds sustainability or other goodwill initiatives, tell consumers why your company cares about that specific cause by sharing a personal connection story. Whatever the story may be, showing personality develops trust with an audience,
online or off.

Infuse communication with packaging
Often times when we think of social, we assume Facebook, Twitter and email are the only ways we can communicate with our customers. We need to break that mold and think about how we can integrate our offline and online communication. For example, Milwaukee Brewing Co. is integrating QR codes on all of their packaging. Although the fad for QR codes may be dying, I still feel they can add value if used appropriately. I honestly can’t speak to where @MKEbrewco is directing user engagement, but for a company that has branded each product with a unique personality, this is a phenomenal opportunity to continue the story and track analytical data for each product.

A picture is worth a 1000 words
Let’s face it, we are a visual people. When we find something we like, we want to see more of it. Today we are seeing more and more companies including visual components to their social media posts. Our consumers expect us to be at the same level as they are, and with the emergence of tools such as Instagram, they have become amateur photographers. According to panelist Dan Murphy, Milwaukee Magazine Brew City writer, “A few bars around [Milwaukee] have done a nice job with Instagram….They’ll take a picture of a new barrel that comes in and post it. I mean, to the beer geeks, it’s beer porn.” Breweries have the opportunity of providing a “sneak peek” at a new products or packaging before hitting the market as well. Recently Blue Moon Brewing Company gave their Facebook fans the opportunity to help brew the newest seasonal beer: Caramel Apple Spiced Ale.

By the way, if you haven’t heard of Untappd yet – I suggest you check it out if you want to try new beers and bars near you.

Why you shouldn’t be surprised about Facebook + Instagram

It’s probably safe to assume that by now you’ve heard the breaking news about Facebook acquiring Instagram for a whopping $1 billion in cash and stock.

A short matter of minutes after the acquisition was announced Monday morning, the interwebs were a flurry and Twitter was trending with chatter about the merger. Many were shocked, but if we reflect back on the relationship between Facebook and Instagram this acquisition should come as no surprise.

Facebook is currently the largest photo-sharing site in the world. In fact, an average of 250 million photos are shared on Facebook every day.

Facebook’s recent release of enlarged photos, milestones and cover photos in the Timeline roll out demonstrates their belief in story telling through rich media. Pair that with ongoing upgrades to their mobile application, which emphasize check-ins and location-based tagging within status updates. And voila! It’s easy to see how Facebook could benefit from a location-based photo-sharing platform. Sound familiar?

Cue Instagram.

Instagram, a social media darling formerly powered by a strong staff of six, was valued at a mere $100 million just one year ago. Earlier this year their value tripled to $300 million. And mere days ago it jumped again to a valuation of $500 million.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook chief executive, explained his jump to the $1 billion acquisition in his own Facebook post,

This is an important milestone for Facebook because it’s the first time we’ve ever acquired a product and company with so many users. We don’t plan on doing many more of these, if any at all. But providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.

Believe it or not, Facebook and Instagram have been deep in discussions for quite some time now. Last August, Facebook shared plans about the addition of a photo filter application on its mobile application. There were even statements made about Facebook’s failed attempts to acquire Instagram last summer.

This time around, Facebook learned their lesson and made Instagram an offer they simply could not resist, and we couldn’t be more excited. The best of mobile photo sharing is yet to come. We’ll just have to sit tight and stay tuned. In the meantime, continue snapping candid photos of your food and friends, apply whimsical filters, and share on.

PR + Social Media Summit | Key Takeaways

Last week, a group of Laughlin staff attended the daylong PR + Social Media Summit, which focused on the convergence of strategic communications and social media.

While I found the entire day to be insightful, a few of my favorite presentations included Chris Barger’s ‘From Planning to Execution, the Story Behind GM’s Social Media Success,’ Jess Berlin’s ‘From Cirque du Soleil to American Eagle Outfitters: A Social Media Comparison’ and Augie Ray’s Glimpse Into The Future of Social Media, which LC’s @SarahVanElzen wrote about here.

A few key takeaways:

  • Don’t feel like you have to come up with a really big idea. You often find that the simplest ideas take off + drive engagement. (via @AlKrueger)
  • Redefine “influence” – treat everyone as if they have thousands of followers on Twitter / friends on Facebook. You can have the most impact in the small communities. (via @CBarger)
  • Shift from “Big” to Local >> Less expensive, less national push, but more directly effective. (via @CBarger)
  • Listen more than you talk, answer more than you promote and above all provide value. (via @CBarger)
  • Make ALL your content searchable – but more importantly, shareable. (via @CBarger)
  • Unexpected happenings can become the best part of your social media campaign – leverage them. Example: American Eagle’s “Denim Song”  (via @JessBerlin)
  • GET TO KNOW THE PEOPLE THAT LOVE YOUR BRAND! *all caps is necessary (via @JessBerlin)
  • What can your brand offer that users didn’t already know? Offer your social communities exclusive content. (via @JessBerlin)
  • The sharing economy is about to explode. Old: they sell, you buy + own / New: they own, you rent / Future: you own + rent (via @AugieRay)
  • Be real. Advertising cannot save brands that are inauthentic. (via @AugieRay)

Want more? All of the speaker’s presentations are available on SlideShare. Check them out here.

Did you attend PRSMS last Tuesday? I’d love to hear your thoughts + key takeaways @ckostrivas





Laughlin Constable wins three PRSA Paragon Awards

It’s not the Oscars, the Grammys or even the Emmys, but to us, it may as well be: The PRSA 2011 Paragon Communications Awards. Ever hear of them? Well, chances are if you’re reading this blog, you’re interested in the world of marketing so the name may sound familiar. If not, well, StumbleUpon must have incorrectly guided you here. Either way, this is worth a read.

The Paragon Awards recognize outstanding work in public relations campaigns. Similar to the Oscars, these are the type of campaigns that make you laugh, make you cry, or in the marketing world, make you buy in.

Laughlin Constable is thrilled to have brought home not one, not two but three of these awards last night.

An award of merit was given for work on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism iPhone app launch. An advanced look at the app by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and well-planned distribution of a news release to select media helped make the release of the app a great success. Coverage in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Associated Press resulted in hits in, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Times-Picayune and many more. The immediate result was more than 80 million impressions, $3 million in publicity and more than 2,000 downloads.

LC also snagged an award of merit for the 2010 Department of Tourism’s press kit. The team used sound media relations, creative ideas and strategic planning to develop a kit that generated significant awareness of all the unique events, activities and attractions in Wisconsin and ultimately, caught the attention of the media. Not to mention, it looked pretty cool (our designers rock). The team met with more than 25 different media outlets in New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee and also mailed or dropped off press kits to 30 more outlets. Many of the reporters complimented the team for having designed such a useful and easy-to-navigate press kit and supplementary USB flash drive.

And finally, there was an award of merit for the social media successes for the Department of Tourism.  When the Facebook page, Twitter account and blog were initially launched, consumers flocked to the pages within minutes (okay, not minutes, but quickly). The 2010 summer campaign character Miles Feldspar was introduced on these platforms, and unique content, trivia questions, and giveaways followed. From its launch, the Facebook page has grown to over 24,400 fans, with the Twitter account at just over 2,000 followers. The blog has received over 64,181 views since its launch and is consistently a top 10 content section on

All and all, it was a great night. While these are public relations awards, the effort on all three of these campaigns was agency-wide. Our hard work and dedication to our clients really paid off.  So now, after a night of celebrating, where’s the afternoon coffee?

A World Without Facebook [INFOGRAPHIC]

Not that we ever want to imagine it, but take a look at a world without Facebook in this infographic from SingleGrain.

Favorite Stats:

  • The average user creates 90 pieces of content PER MONTH
  • The average user spends 23 minutes ON EACH VISIT to Facebook

One question we ask in assessing a brand (and its relative strength): Would anyone miss it if it closed its doors today?

In the case of Facebook, the answer might be most people. That’s quite a feat in how short a time it’s been around.

Tweet me @ckostrivas

A World Without Facebook
[Via: Single Grain Search & Social Blog]

What Women Want from Marketing

What do women want? So goes the question of movies, marketers and men. What Women Want, the movie, was named after this eternal query. It featured Mel Gibson as Nick Marshall, an advertising exec who experienced professional and romantic success once he was able to read the minds of women. The predictable plotline followed Gibson’s rise to demise, then back to everyday guy when he learned his lesson. (Bonus lesson:  Don’t cross-dress during a thunderstorm).

Nick relied on stealing ideas from his female colleague for campaign concepts that would appeal to women consumers. And according to, appealing to women consumers is important: Women are responsible for 85% of all consumer purchases – ranging from food to vacations to PCs.

If ‘What Women Want’ was made now, Nick would probably be better off checking Facebook statuses, downloading videos from YouTube or monitoring his TweetDeck; the rise of social media gives marketers a broader reach of what women really want. So, Nick Marshall, here a few brands you could learn from:

The breast pump brand’s site offers many ways for expectant and new moms to connect with each other and with experts in the field. There’s also plenty of information about breastfeeding, and a link to an active Facebook page featuring lots of mom interaction. Aside from being able to provide an incredibly dynamic outlet for their consumers, Medela is able to watch and learn from these interactions in order to shape the way they do business.

The feminine care brand is complementing its “tell-it-to-me-straight commercials” for its new line of tampons, U by Kotex. A microsite with consumer interaction functionality allows women to engage in a space that feels secure and intimate for this private issue, and get questions answered by a health expert, a mom and a peer. Kotex is able to position themselves as a resource on the topic while also collecting market intelligence.

Holiday “Blog-a-day”

During the 2009 Holiday season, Coach enlisted popular fashion bloggers and vloggers to boost their holiday sales. The “Blog-a-day” program lasted 30 days, and featured a different site or video link with merchandise overviews, reviews and best of all – giveaways for the readers.  Coach was able to activate many new networks of ambassadors, interact with their audiences through credible sources and drive online sales through direct links from the featured sites.

These are just a few of many examples and we can anticipate that the way brands can speak to and interact with female consumers will continue to evolve. So marketers take heed – we are no longer just telling women what they want – they can tell us. We just need to listen.