Breaking Stuff Without Breaking the Bank

157999383We were in talks with a FORTUNE 1000 brand marketer recently, who described one of the challenges they’d faced with prior agencies: “It’s not that they didn’t come up with some great ideas; it’s just that all of those ideas seemed to come with a $100K+ price tag to execute.”

It’s not that a $100K+ idea (or million-dollar idea for that matter) can’t be awesome and effective, either; but it’s also true that the appetite for such initiatives is naturally small. There are only so many times you can convince a client to do such things. Because they tend to be elaborate they take a while to pull off (that’s an opportunity cost, right there). And in every case the price of failure is high; every project of this nature is born with a target on its back.

Gimme cheap and fast any day. Cheap, fast ideas can also be awesome and effective. They’re low-cost so you can do them far more often.  They are NOT low-risk, especially for a big brand with high exposure risks, but, there is far more forgiveness for breaking stuff if you didn’t also break the bank.


Posted on: February 18, 2013 at 9:24 am By Todd Defren

Toyota Accelerates PR With SHIFT Communications


A few weeks ago I hinted cryptically that I’d have big news to share. Did I say “big?”  I meant BIG.  Here’s the official language from today’s press release:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA–(Marketwire – Feb 14, 2013) – SHIFT Communications today announced that Toyota has selected the award-winning firm as its primary PR agency in the Northeast Region, which includes New York, New England, Washington, D.C., and the mid-Atlantic states. The firm will also play a lead role in strategic planning for the brand; driving earned media nationally with mainstream and social media outlets; and highlighting the motor company’s philanthropic and community relations programs.

SHIFT was selected following a competitive agency review conducted by Toyota’s corporate communications team. The account will be serviced out of SHIFT’s San Francisco office, with regional support from its Boston and New York offices.

“Throughout our agency selection process, the SHIFT team impressed us with their innovative thinking, creativity and responsiveness,” said Steven Curtis, corporate manager, corporate communications at Toyota Motor North America, Inc. “SHIFT clearly understands the new PR model of earned, owned and paid media and we’re excited to begin our partnership.”

“Toyota is a brand with deep roots in innovation,” said Todd Defren, CEO of SHIFT Communications. “That forward-thinking mindset is incredibly synergistic with SHIFT’s approach and we look forward to working closely with the team at Toyota to bring that same level of innovation to its communications.”

I can think of no sweeter Valentine’s Day gift for the staff at SHIFT.  Let’s face it, as a mid-sized agency we tend to be the underdog when presented with such opportunities, so victories like this are a validation of the hard work our team puts in each day to make sure we deserve to bring home the laurels now and then.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the leadership in Toyota’s communications team for their trust, advocacy and partnership. It’s already been a great ride and I am incredibly optimistic about what we can do together!

Posted on: February 14, 2013 at 9:16 am By Todd Defren

When are the worst days and times for press releases?

Office clock

Find out what we discovered and what you can do to break free from the noise on the SHIFT Communications blog.

Posted on: February 12, 2013 at 7:08 am By cpenn

Do you have a PR and marketing chef?

BSF Holiday Party 2010

Imagine standing in your kitchen and seeing crates of supplies being carted in. Bags of fresh produce, jars of aromatic spices, coolers filled with delicious meats, all being piled into cabinets, counters, and refrigerators. At the end of the process, your pantry is completely filled with wonderful resources to make a meal. Now imagine yourself making and eating only boxed macaroni and cheese, because that’s all you know how to cook.

Want to know how this applies to marketing and PR? Swing by the SHIFT Communications blog and learn how to remedy this sad situation.

Posted on: February 5, 2013 at 7:58 am By cpenn

Vine, Snapchat and the Economy of Narrative Opportunity

I’ve been thinking a little bit about video, via Snapchat, Facebook’s updated Poke app and Twitter’s new Vine service. If you’re unaware, these apps allow you to film and post very short videos. My daughter and her friends are constantly mugging for each other via Snapchat.

The key is brevity. Where Twitter’s enforced 140-character limit has trained us to be economical and effective, we can expect the same discipline via these ultra-short videos. Chris Brogan was early to throw out some ideas about Vine. And our own Chris Penn sent out what may be the first-ever 6-second webinar.

Certainly brands should be considering how to leverage these services. But I would caution them to continue to think outside the 6-second window. I can readily imagine a serialized round of 6-second “chapters” (linked via searchable hashtags), e.g., if you were giving a walk-through of a new car, the first 6-seconds might highlight the exterior; the next 6-seconds might look at the interior; the next chapter focuses on the engine; the next shows “how fast we can get this sucker moving in 6-seconds,” with the camera trained on the speedometer. Etc.

The serialization-via-hashtag allows the consumer to watch only those snippets of interest. Same approach would work for various types of product demos, how-to guides, and so on.

The winners in this next stage of marketing will embrace the economy of narrative. The earliest winners will be the ones who can be most effective and comical, with low production value. My guess is that that first class will also impress us in terms of volume. Lots of vinelets (is that a word, yet?), all of the time. The next wave of winners will power-pack those 5+ seconds of video with higher production values and animation.

What’s your 6-second video plan?

Posted on: January 28, 2013 at 11:42 am By Todd Defren

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