Being for the Benefit of Beyoncé (and Pepsi)

Recently, Queen Bey bestowed a teaser video to her loyal subjects for her upcoming single “Grown Woman”. Ever since her dynamite Super Bowl appearance, fans have been more anxious than ever to have access to new Beyoncé material. Naturally, Pepsi’s PR team decided to use the demand for their Bootylicious brand ambassador to their advantage (in fact, it was so brilliant that Diet Coke quickly attempted to follow in the Queen’s footsteps).

As a PR person who loves all things branding and a music person who loves all things Beyoncé, this video was one of the best things that could ever happen to me. Not everyone seemed to share my sentiments, however. A look at Sasha Fierce’s Facebook post premiering the new video reveals a comment by a disgruntled gentleman who laments, “We’ve waited so Long for a PEPSI COMMERCIAL?!” followed by emoticons that further emphasize his disappointment.

Was this a smart move for Beyoncé and/or Pepsi?

The mega popular Grammy winner had already received flak regarding the muddled ethics behind her deal with Pepsi, but I am going to go ahead and say it: Well played, Beyoncé. Well played, Pepsi.

Here’s the thing: Pepsi has consistently striven to remain relevant by latching on to pop icons that shoot Pepsi back into the minds of the masses. For the most part, this strategy has worked for them. The public expects this from Pepsi. The always-second-to-Coke brand had nothing to lose and everything to gain by snagging the ever-fabulous Queen Bey. Even if the “commercial” barely touches upon the brand and focuses largely on Beyoncé’s new music, Pepsi is still winning. They are now attached to her, so by promoting her new music, they are also promoting themselves.

PEPSICO BEYONCE CAN

Ah, but what about Pepsi’s most recent pop culture icon? What is this ad doing for her? Anything? I’d say yes.

I mean, really. Everyone should know better. There is no way Beyoncé would just let this all fly past her. After all, who runs the world? Beyoncé does. Because, as this article brilliantly points out: “Celebrities don’t just want creative approval anymore, they want creative control.” This is why she could turn a Pepsi commercial into a promo video. What I especially enjoyed about this promo video was that it did not just promote her latest song—it promoted her entire career. Viewers were reminded of all her past successes as all the Beyoncés of music videos past joined the most current Bey in flaunting their skills. It promoted Beyoncé as a whole.

In a time where personal branding is of the utmost importance, Beyoncé made a smart move. And, let’s not forget that Pepsi paid her for all this.

Sure, some are annoyed with her brand choice. Still others are annoyed with the way in which she is manipulating the power of anticipation through her teasers and teasers for teasers. But is she going to lose any fans over this? I highly doubt it.

Rather, she’s ensuring that she stays relevant. This Pepsi ad gives her a chance to remind people of her successful past, her successful present, and her (most likely) successful future. You go, girl. #BeyHereNow

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One of the Cool Kids

“I always feel like such a loser!” lamented one of my coolest friends as we sipped from our respective mochas at a downtown Alterra.

An extended eye roll from my side of the table caused her to further elaborate on her melodrama in an attempt to legitimize her case. Realizing halfway through her rant that she was failing to chip away at my disbelief, she raked her pink-tipped fingers through her choppy bangs and blurted out “Becky, I’m serious! This is a real issue!” before driving her face into the nook of her crooked elbow, which was resting on the edge of the table. Her edgy auburn ponytail quivered as she continued grumbling into the ridges of the wooden surface.

I suppose that’s what happens when one is pursuing a career in the fashion world.

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That’s right—this is her! Feel free to roll your eyes along with my past self.

Still, it never fails to boggle my mind when my friend gets into one of these funks. Always on top of the latest trends, my friend is gorgeous, charismatic, brilliant, and loved by everyone who comes into contact with her—save the occasional jealous female who finds my friend intimidating. As usual, I gently reminded her of all the aforementioned things. Dismissing my words with a wave of her hand, she raised her head, let out a deep sigh of exasperation, and asked how I manage to feel cool all the time.

Taken slightly aback, I assured her that I did not always manage to feel cool. Yet, as the phrase escaped from my lips, the words of a dynamic guest speaker a professor brought into my class semester filled my mind: “Be Cool, Stick Out, Make a Difference“. Maybe I should always feel cool.

Hours upon the conclusion of my friend session, I found myself wondering what it meant to truly encompass the arbitrary state of “being cool”. What do I do that makes me feel “cool”? Well, since you asked:

  1. Laugh. Laugh with reckless abandon. Interact with people who’s sense of humor aligns with yours, and don’t try and suppress the joy that bubbles out of your system. Afraid someone will be irritated by your unbridled happiness? Don’t be. As a cool person, you should know that their irritation only stems from jealousy. You are clearly having the time of your life, while they are having a mediocre day at best.
  2. Capitalize on a talent. For me, this includes figure skating. Parents and children have stopped dead in their tracks on route to the public skate rink, mesmerized by the way that my friends and I spun and leapt across the ice. The shiny national silver medal in my room helps as well. This is not to say that your coolness needs to be reaffirmed by the public. Who wouldn’t feel cool blasting N*SYNC at 5:30 a.m. while doing laps on an empty rink?
  3. Read. Do you know how many literary references are made in movies, songs, comedy acts, or simply every day life? No? Imagine how much cooler you would feel if you caught on to that obscure line from 1984 in that one Rage Against the Machine song! On a similar note…
  4. Stay up to date with pop culture. Certainly, you do not need to watch every episode of Glee. Being aware of the basic plot line and a couple main characters could be useful, however. Watch the Oscars. Read some EW articles from time to time—just to make sure you did not miss any breaking news on the latest Chris and Rihanna drama.
  5. Lend a helping hand. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Look over someone’s paper. Become a cat socializer at a local animal shelter. Opportunities to make the world a better place are in abundance. A warm fuzzy feeling will fill your soul and spill over to those around you when lending a hand. To say the least, it is a cool feeling.

Of course, there are a plethora of ways to accomplish the goal of “being cool”. This short list barely touches upon the endless possibilities. Regardless of the route you choose to tread on your quest for coolness, do be sure to ultimately reach that promised land. In the world of Public Relations, being cool is of the utmost importance. Boring people fade into the background, while the loud, creative ones with all kinds of bizarre stories rise to the top. Find out what your cool factor is and flaunt it. Know that others are trying to do the exact same thing, and refuse to be intimidated by their cool factor. Because, if you cannot connect to the power of your coolness—it is unlikely that others will be able to see it.

Being Confident

Earlier this week, I had the great pleasure of meeting with Carrie Nygren of Laughlin Constable’s Milwaukee office. I have known her for years as the mother of an old skating buddy, but recently rediscovered her as a wise woman in the advertising world. We talked about a lot of thing—the sad state that figure skating is in, the differences between the North and the South (she grew up in Tennessee), the pros and cons regarding various agencies in town, and the small world of Milwaukee PR.

As she looked over my resume, Carrie offered up one main critique: “Be more confident”

She smiled, letting the initial wave of shock behind her statement resonate with me before it faded into confusion. Furrowing my eyebrows, I look from my resume to her, then back to my resume. As I opened my mouth to question her, she laughed and explained that she knows I’m confident. “But,” she said as she pointed to the first few bullet points on my resume, “these points do not necessarily showcase that”.

I could feel my eyes reaching full expansion capacity as she continued her bullet-by-bullet explanation. Obviously, she was right. What I couldn’t believe was that I had been doing the same thing that so many women before me had done. I had been doing exactly what so many professors had been warning us about and begging us not to do.

I had been selling myself short!

I know, I know. It's shameful.

I know, I know. It’s shameful.

As Carrie knows, confidence is not something I lack. Maybe this was instilled in me through DSHA. Maybe it was through my life in the spotlight as a competitive figure skater. Maybe it was through my bombtastic friends who always make me feel like a San Fran 49er pre-SB ’13. It could just be my Puerto Rican blood. In fact, my parents might tell you that I came tumbling out of the womb radiating spunk and tenacity. I really can’t say. Regardless, I know I’m smart, funny, fun, talented, and whatnot. Plus, on the few days a month when my hair decides to drop its attitude and behave, I am nearly unstoppable!

Bringing it back to my future career, talking and writing have always been my strongest points. To the dismay of my grade school teachers and the delight of my current professors, it’s what I do best. Everyone who knows me knows this.

Yet, as Carrie pointed out—not once did I mention my communication skills on my resume. Similarly, my writing skills had hardly been touched upon. The same went for my unique ability to connect with pretty much any audience. The points on my resume could effectively let an HR person know that I have had legitimate internships, but it hardly describes the extent to which I threw myself into my work experiences and turned it into something more valuable than a job description on Big Shoes Network.

When professors spoke of women who rely on hedging as a crutch, who are afraid to ask for a raise, and who continuously fail to highlight their successes, I never thought they were referring to me. Surely, blunt and boisterous Becky rose above all that! Right?

I mean, look how strong and aggressive I am!

Look how strong and aggressive I am!

Nope. What’s worse is that I thought I was properly displaying myself to the world. I thought I was coming off as a powerful woman. Alas, I had fallen into the same trap as so many others. As it turns out, the disconnect between women’s true selves and the way they portray themselves on paper is more common than I had assumed. This type of behavior is so customary that some of us are oblivious to our own passiveness!

Talk about a much needed reality check. Looks like “amplify resume’s aggressive power” just got added to my weekend to-do list.

So, to my fellow dynamic female compadres—check yourselves! This could be happening to you. Look over your personal branding material. Could you be taking a more aggressive approach to the presentation of your skill set? Standing out in a crowd is crucial to success, and bland resume statements are the equivalent of a beige sweater.

After all, no one wants to be the Michelle of the group.

After all, no one wants to be the Michelle of the group.

Why I Loved The Oscars

CZJ at the Oscars

Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony was one of my favorites. I have a large amount of movie critic fans who had a host of negative things to say about the way the show ran and the ultimate results. And of course, as many have noted, Seth MacFarlane wasn’t exactly a crowd favorite. Fortunately, as a lover of music, none of these minor details tainted my viewing.

You see, while the Oscars are typically a celebration of film, Sunday’s ceremony  celebrated the importance of music.  It highlighted the extent to which the film (if not entertainment as a whole) industry relies on the glories of music. Tantalizing tributes to musicals sent chills down my spine. Few things are as powerful as hearing the union of so many vivacious voices pairing with the booming sounds of an orchestra. It’s no coincidence that the Academy chose to commemorate 50 years of 007 with a medley of the legendary tunes that have been enhancing the identity of the series since the beginning.

My personal highlight of the night came in the form of a hot jazz number.  Chicago is my all-time favorite musical, and the 2002 movie blew my mind. I was in 6th grade when the movie came out, and the vocal performances of the powerhouse cast left me staring at the screen in awe, reflecting on what I had just experienced as the credits rolled past and the DVD defaulted back to the main menu. Catherine Zeta-Jones has always had a special place in my heart, and to see her reprise her award-winning role as the great Velma Kelly 10+ years after the smash hit movie was released and after she herself went through serious rehabilitation and treatment for her severe bipolar disorder was nothing short of phenomenal. In spite of the years that have passed and the toils she’s worked through, CZJ’s voice rang as clearly and wholly at the ceremony as it does on my well-worn DVD of the movie.

Shirley Bassey

Music is timeless. A song can summon a long-forgotten memory and replay it before one’s eyes. The clarity of an image or of a film can give away its age. Fashion trends come and go. But the sound of one’s voice, or the sound of an instrument, can live forever. Music is the fountain of youth.

Knowing that music can control an audience and fuel a cause is why the Academy chose to celebrate singers and the songs behind the movies as much as actors who brought the roles to life. Sometimes, words and body language are limiting. They can only express so many things. A defining major or minor chord can completely change the way in which a person interprets or relates to a scene.

In figure skating, competitors often chose scores from powerful movies like The Man In The Iron Mask or delightfully artistic movies like Chocolat. We do not do so because of the acting in the movie, or even the plot line. We do so because of the dynamic emotive quality of the scores. It allows us to exhibit our own forms of the characteristics the score originally defined in its film. Music gives us power.

AdeleThis is why fans of an artist get upset when they see a song being misused or misrepresented in a commercial. It pains them to see the power of a song supporting the wrong cause, or simply being forced into a misshapen mold. Using the wrong song at the wrong time can truly hack the life of a movie or a commercial to death. Malformed soundtracks can disorient a viewer and the mixed symbols can cause them to form a negative opinion of the product as a whole.

Putting the right sound to the right product is an underrated art. Few take the time to appreciate how a melody enhanced a movie, or how a song gave an event its identity. There is a fine line between empowering your product and turning off the media as well as your entire target audience. Those who dance on the line and end up taking their final bow on the side of triumph absolutely deserve our attention as well as our standing ovation.

This is ultimately why I greatly appreciate this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. Finally, music gets the attention and the appreciation in the film industry that it so richly deserves. Next time you watch a movie, I encourage you to take note of the melodic accompaniments. Become aware of the way it fills your soul and aids in your cathartic development. Love music the way the Oscars did.

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Ring The Alarm? Some Thoughts on Queen Bey

As everyone knows, Beyonce graced the nation with her presence during Obama’s second inauguration.  We loved it.

You wish you were this flawless.

You wish you were this flawless.

But then the unthinkable happened.  Rumors started being spread that our Queen lip-synced!  News sources all over the world started buzzing and speculating, wondering how this would affect her career and her image.  The media took such issue with whether she did or did not record her voice in advance for the inauguration that Obama and his speech kind of took a back seat to “Beyoncé-gate”.  It even permeated education systems.  In my PR Strategies class, we spent a few minutes discussing what Obama had to say.  However, we spent a solid 10-15 minutes hashing out the Beyoncé situation, discussing potential ways to resolve this “crisis” and debating if this even qualified as a crisis.

While the Beyoncé buzz developed a sizable amount of hype, the public actually seemed to be having the same reaction as Alica Keys: Why does it matter?  We all know that Beyoncé can sing.  As a dedicated lover of all things related to the wife of Jay-Z, I read every article I could find about this situation.  I also read what people were saying in the comments section.  Without doing actual math, I’d guesstimate that about 83.24% of the comments mirrored the same sentiments as Ms. Keys.

What's that? Something about me lip-syncing? Oh, I'm sorry.  I can't hear you over the sound of my NUMEROUS GRAMMYS.

What’s that? Something about me lip-syncing? Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t hear you over the sound of my NUMEROUS GRAMMYS.

So then, is this a crisis?  There seems to be an air of nonchalance in the room.  Bey’s reputation does not appear to be tarnished (unlike that of poor Ashlee Simpson or Milli Vanilli).  Even the media has moved on to speculate about her next very public performance, and many of the sources aren’t even hinting at Monday’s festivities when they bring her name up.  Does she need to issue a public statement?  Should a PR rep say something for her?  Or should she just keep quiet and let her upcoming Super Bowl performance distract the naysayers?  Can the former Destiny’s Child star just get away with anything?

In my opinion, she’s fine and should just let it go.  Beyoncé has built such a solid image for her and her music that it would take something significantly more scandalous for the public to legitimately turn on her.

But, let’s face it: I doubt Queen Bey could ever be dethroned.

Twittering: A Reflection Post

From late August through early December, I tweeted with the hashtag #ADPR3600 50+ times.  I think it’s safe to say that this ongoing assignment was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable semester-long projects that I’ve participated in during my collegiate years.  Not only was it fun for me to tweet, it was fun to click on the #ADPR3600 hashtag and see what others were saying.  Seeing what others were up to was often as insightful as it was entertaining.

Sure, there were ongoing posts about Irene’s inability to stay healthy for more than two days, and at one point Rosalee and I were tweeting about Jimmy John’s, but overall it gave me the chance to learn and explore.  Through the #ADPR3600 project, I learned about Zara, some pro tips for accelerating my career, corporate communication missteps after Sandy, and more.

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Alright, but bringing up Jimmy John’s again was a mistake. I’m really hungry.

Since it’s so crucial to have a presence on Twitter in the communications field, I appreciated that this class encouraged us to develop and maintain our professional image on this popular social media source.  Thanks, Gee, for simultaneously teaching us how to hone our PR writing skills on Twitter and for ensuring that we keep up to date on the happenings in the PR world—something most classes do not make time for!

It’s been a great semester to be in Gee’s #ADPR3600 section.  I’ll definitely be on the lookout for what next semester’s #ADPR3600 class has to say, too!

“We Never Retire”—The Secrets to a Successful Life in Communications

Last week, I had the honor of dining with Mary Henige after listening to her speak in my PR writing class and before I heard her speak again at my PRSSA meeting.  This polished and powerful woman hails from Detroit, where she is currently the Director of Social Media & Digital Communications at General Motors.  For over two decades, Mary has been blazing trails through a variety of communications-related positions at GM (which, as a side note, has been rated as one of the best places to work).

Fortunately for us at Marquette, part of Mary’s simple success formula is helping others.  “Always give back,” she told both our class and our PRSSA chapter.  As a result, Mary makes sure to do what she can to help budding PR professionals like us succeed in today’s communications environment.

Speaking of her simple success formula,

  • Be prepared:  This is the second guest speaker to have emphasized the importance of preparedness.  As we all know, “expect the unexpected” is a phrase that anyone in the communications field needs to embrace.  Stay on top of your toes, and be able to adapt to anything.  We were just discussing this at my internship just last week!  One girl mentioned that she had once participated in an interview where the company inquired about her thoughts on zombies.  We can only imagine that this was asked in an attempt to both test her creativity and her ability to ad-lib.  After all, no one plans on being asked about zombies (I think?).

  • Show up:  Whenever Mary made a point, she attached a famous quote with it.  The quote for this one was by far my favorite: “80% of success is showing up”—Woody Allen.  How great is that?  It certainly is true, though.  Eventually, if one continually shows up at meetings and events, they are bound to get noticed.  Simply continuing to be present implies a certain amount of responsibility and dedication.  Showing up can lead from anything like great networking to a future career!
  • Get involved:  Similar to showing up, getting involved can seriously boost one’s reputation.  Not only will it reveal one’s passion for their work, it provides more opportunities for “showing up” and obtaining leadership positions!
  • Work hard:  Mary truly emphasized the importance of working hard.  First of all, no one likes a slacker!  Secondly, working hard encompasses everything a PR professional should strive to be.  It covers all the little things.  The phrase “work hard” means be professional at all times.  It means pay attention to detail.  It means expand your network.  It means follow up with people.  “Work hard” also means be self-directed.  In sum, “work hard” epitomizes everything about working in the communications field.  Do it all, and do it well.
  • Keep learning:  Things are always changing in our world.  Social media takes on new trends, the public develops new opinions, people begin to learn differently, technology upgrades, celebrities appear in the news, and politics continue to make waves.  For these reasons (and many more!), we need to keep learning.  PR professionals need to keep digesting new information every day.  This applies to everyone, whether they are in school, whether they just graduated, or whether they have been at their job for 20+ years.  Re-invent yourself as time goes on.  What can you add to your repertoire?  Learn, learn, learn!
  • Help others:  The reason I am able to write this post is because Mary graciously donated her time and knowledge to our class and community for a couple days.  Mary emphasized that we all blessed with the knowledge and the skills to go somewhere with our lives.  However, none of us would be where we are today without the help of a variety of people.  It is our duty to continue that chain of donating our services to the community.  Quite simply, it is the right thing to do.

See?  That is all it takes to conquer the communications industry.  Take it from a pro like Mary!

 

Thanks again to Mary Henige for speaking to our class and PRSSA chapter!

How Pinteresting!

Imagine a world where delectable recipes, cute do-it-yourself crafts, phenomenal fan art, memorable quotes, and life-saving wedding planning tips are organized into neat little boards that are easily accessed and shared among your friends.  Well, this world exists, and it is called Pinterest.

Identified as a “virtual pinboard,” Pinterest is “a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.”  Pinterest can connect to the Twitter or Facebook accounts of their users to draw friends from and expand one’s Pinterest community.  In addition to allowing users to peruse the pins their friends have added to their boards, Pinterest provides an easy-to-install “Pin It” button which allows its users to conveniently find pictures or recipes on other sites and, as the button implies, pin it to one of their boards.  Below are a few examples of the fun things to be discovered on this social media site:

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Naturally, the million dollar question is: How can such a magical place be used for PR?

This B2C website boasts about the consumer interests and the sheer amount of traffic that Pinterest receives.  How can companies harness this power?  Tip #1 from this creative agency is to make sure that your products are “pinnable”.  The easier it is to pin your product, the more likely it is that others will catch on and repin your products.  With the mass amounts of traffic that Pinterest receives, as long as your product gets pinned, it will be sure to receive recognition.

The more creative you can be with your product, the more likely it is that it will catch on.  Pinterest is all about DIY products and cutesy-creative crafts that can be easily replicated.  Can your product be used to brighten up a room?  Display it in a way that will be attractive for pinners.

Personally, I quite enjoy Pinterest.  This may be due to the fact that I am a social media addict, but it truly is a fantastic site.  It certainly doesn’t compare to Facebook or Twitter, but then again, it isn’t supposed to.  It’s a way for people to flex the muscles in their right brain and discover new things.  For example, through Pinterest, I discovered a lovely website that offers a plethora of low-priced boots.  It would not have happened without Pinterest!  I am forever grateful.  Thanks, Pinterest!

“Be Cool, Stick Out, Make a Difference”

On Tuesday, our professor brought in MU alum, PR professional, and inspirational quote machine Molly Currey to speak to our class about public relations outside of the classroom.  Since 1999, Molly has been working at Chicago’s GolinHarris—where she’s done some amazing things.  Molly was the driving force behind the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago and the Elysian along with an impressive litany of successes with her motorsport clients.  Needless to say, she knows what she’s doing.  We learned a great deal from her, but here are some quotes that particularly impacted me:

  • “You never know what will happen the day you walk in the door.”

Molly labeled this nugget of wisdom “the biggest lesson” she’s learned over the years.  I have to be honest, the first thing that came to mind when she said this was the song “Be Prepared” from The Lion King.

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Be prepared, indeed. Watch your step, Simba! Uncle Scar’s got it out for you.

But honestly, Molly speaks the truth.  Every time I’ve been interviewed for an internship, the interviewer emphasizes how important it is to be able to adapt to any situation.  I am often told that every day is different.  PR professionals have to be on top of their game.

  • “You can do it all.  Play hard.  Work hard.  Live hard.”

This made me smile.  Some other things you may not know about Molly are that she is a former off-roading world champion and that she is a breast cancer survivor.  She epitomizes the idea of living hard.  Seeing her passion inspired everyone to fight for their goals—both personal and career oriented.

  • “Be cool, stick out, make a difference.”

When discussing how to succeed in the PR industry, Molly put serious emphasis on the importance of being awesome and showcasing your life experiences.  Everyone will have some amount of former experience.  What’s important is the lifestyle experience you’ve had.  Shy and boring are two qualities that cannot be applied to any successful PR person.  Having a unique perspective and interesting life stories imply creativity and an ability to tell spin extravagant tales with ease.  Again, be passionate.

So, to sum it all up:

  1. Expect the unexpected.
  2. Give it everything you got.
  3. Don’t be afraid to showcase your awesomeness.

Thank you, Molly, for sharing your wisdom with a room full of young hopefuls.  What wonderful lessons to live by!

The Latest Trends

Advertising!  Public Relations!  Journalism!  What’s happening in the wonderful world of communications?  Well, this article claims that brand journalism is the current hot topic in marketing communications.  In fact, it’s such a hot topic that the Public Relations Society of America has actually declared it to be one of the top 12 latest trends.

You see, standard advertising is no longer having its desired effect on today’s population.  People are tired of being bombarded with advertisements and harassed by salespeople.  We ignore their suggestions and instead look to someone we can trust to weigh in: friends, family, coworkers, friends of friends.  Really, just about anyone whose salary does not rely on force feeding you a product.  Therefore, companies have been trying to figure out a new angle at which to approach the public with their products.

In an attempt to reach out to the general population on a deeper level, communication professionals have delved into the idea of storytelling.  Everyone loves a story.  Stories reel people in and bring corporations down to a more human-like and relatable level.  It makes former salespeople seem significantly more similar to that friend you trust to give you solid advice.  Suddenly, they aren’t in your face with an obnoxious pitch.  Rather, they are just communicating with you in a meaningful way.

Storytelling is powerful.

Out of storytelling comes brand journalism.  Brand journalism gives your product a story to which people can relate.  Blogs and other social media sites have given companies the power to create a personable persona and cultivate a relationship with their target audience.  Brand journalism is the phoenix that was reborn out of the ashes of old ads and defunct journalism.  And this firebird is taking off.

PR professionals are loving it.  I’m loving it.  Everyone’s loving it.

Stories are magical.  It’s about time that we start using it this way.

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