Welcome to Gray Digital Group’s new SC office downtown Anderson, SC

We are so excited about our new office downtown Anderson, SC. We moved here last November and loved the space ever since. Dan McKinney of PixelPoint Graphics owns the building and has his shop below.

Here is our new address:

Gray Digital Group
109 Sharpe Street, Suite A
Anderson, SC 29621

We also have offices in San Antonio and Austin, Texas where our interactive/web team, SEM/SEO team, and our account services team reside.

Come visit us!

Are people remembering then searching for your story?


Image credit: DailyGalaxy.com

I was looking around for the perfect billboard image and I thought this fit so well. I just read and article from SearchEngineLand.com surrounding the idea of attribution in the world of marketing.

What is attribution?
Attribution is the process of identifying a set of user actions (“events”) that contribute in some manner to a desired outcome, and then assigning a value to each of these events.Marketing attribution provides a level of understanding of what combination of events influence individuals to engage in a desired behavior, typically referred to as a conversion. (from wikipedia.com)

As I was thinking through this article, I began pondering some of my larger clients. I was thinking about how they spread their marketing mix (spend) across the spectrum and how it relates to the related online search.

One of the take aways: “The biggest conversion rate (90%) is the person that uses a single click or with the same keyword typed.”

So, how do I apply this to a large organization’s marketing/pr efforts…especially as it involves our social/digital efforts. Heck, let’s narrow the field to a large hospital system.

First…it is all about the search! On all media mixes, it is more important to make our searchable keywords (that drive traffic to our conversion rates) extremely apparent. From billboards, television, to digital ads; we have to consider visually displaying the keywords we want people to use to search Google/Yahoo/etc.

Basically, this is a typography/visual design exercise. When designing any media, the words that we want people to use to search for our final digital destinations must be most visible, most readable, and most apparent.

So this is a shift in thinking a bit, especially for me.

What is our digital keyword brand?
Think about a billboard on the interstate. As we drive by, which keywords do we remember from that billboard. Which keywords catch our attention? Are the keywords people remember the ones that match our branded message? Does our audience type those branded keywords correctly into the search engine to find our services.

Think about that television ad. Which keywords are used in the ad? Are the displayed words in the ad the same keywords we want people to use to search for that service? What will they remember?

Social Media/digital ads are different…we should be already giving links with updates as we point people to final destinations.

I would love to hear your thoughts as you read through this article. Maybe you are implementing this strategy, and I am wasting your time. But, I found this research interesting as it relates to large organizations (especially hospitals) that use a multi-channel media mix.

Facebook is loosing steam with the Millennials and Generation Z


Image Credit: Mashable.com

I just read an OPED on Mashable.com today, it’s title: “I’m 13 and None of My Friends Use Facebook”. Yep…things are changing. Let’s look at a few statements in the article that peaked my interest. This article is from the viewpoint of a 13 year old. Her name is Ruby Karp.

“Facebook is losing teens lately, and I think I know why.

Part of the reason Facebook is losing my generation’s attention is the fact that there are other networks now. When I was 10, I wasn’t old enough to have a Facebook. But a magical thing called Instagram had just come out … and our parents had no idea there was an age limit. Rapidly, all my friends got Instagrams.

Now, when we are old enough to get Facebook, we don’t want it. By the time we could have Facebooks, we were already obsessed with Instagram.”

Yes…and there are so many other reasons why teenagers are migrating away. None of their friends are using Facebook. Why? There is no community for this generation.

Ruby continues:  “This leads me into my next point: Although I do have a Facebook, none of my other friends do. My friends just thought it was a waste of time. I decided to get a Facebook just to see what it was all about. I soon discovered that Facebook is useless without friends. My only friend is, like, my grandma.”

Her next point peaks my interest. She beings to examine the idea of  surveillance. She explains parents spend so much time on Facebook, some of which to monitor what their children are doing. As a communication consultant, I remember having a Facebook training session for a group of hospital marketing/pr staff members. The main reason they attended, to figure out how to watch what their children were doing, with who, and where.

“Let’s say I get invited to a party, and there’s underage drinking. I’m not drinking, but someone pulls out a camera. Even if I’m not carrying a red Solo cup, I could be photographed behind a girl doing shots. Later that week, the dumb-dumb decides to post photos from that “amazing” party. If my mom saw I was at a party with drinking, even if I wasn’t participating, I’d be dead. This isn’t Facebook’s fault, but it happens there.”

So who is the average user on Facebook? Buffer’s blog shares some demographics“According to the research, it’s a young, 25 year-old woman, living in a big city, with a college degree and a household income of more than $75k a year.”

Above are some interesting statistics from Pew Research Center surrounding the Landscape of Social Media Users. Once again, look at the breakdown of social users and their choice of social media outlets.

With all this said, I think there is a unique separation between the Generation Z (born after 2000) and the Millennials (Generation Y). The Millennials look like they might be last generation of Facebook diehards. But…these diehards, the supporters of this social network that brought them together are slowly departing. They are tired of the “drama” and being overly exposed to the world.

Here is an interesting commentary on YouTube between a group of young professionals. They fall into the Millennial generation.

At :37 seconds into the video, the young man says, “There is always going to be something new.” And this is point of this blog post. We as communicators have to understand that Facebook taught us to adapt from our “traditional” mode of marketing/pr communication. And once again, it is going to teach us that we have to continue to evolve and stay true our goals as practitioners. We are communication practitioners and not technicians.

The moment we put all our eggs into one communication basket, we will be taught once again that this communication paradigm is going to shift once again.

Asking the right questions…storytelling

It was just yesterday I was working on a project for a group in Portland, Maine. An upstate portrait artist has been commissioned for a project and it was important to capture his story during the process. The artist’s name is Jerry and he grew up in Spartanburg.

The client for this project is actually an old friend of mine, Mike Redding. He is not old, we just worked together close to ten years ago.

He sent me a note with some of the questions for the interview and I could immediately recognize his thought process. One of the questions was buried in the midst of all the questions…and I wondered. It was a personal question that seemed to need a little extra attention.

I know Mike…there is a reason for this question. It was just not a throw away…it was important. Later, he sent me a note warning me Jerry might get annoyed with answering these personal questions and he actually might get mad. That immediately told me this topic was not only important to the story, but also a series of questions that needed to be asked.

People want to talk. People want to share their story. We just have to ask the right questions. When people like Jerry agree to an interview, they subconsciously agree to share the deepest part of their lives. We just have to be willing to ask the right questions at the right time. Most importantly…we have to remember the interview process is about trust.

I have learned not to dive right into the most controversial question at the beginning, unless I am working on a documentary or investigative story that requires me to capture that question immediately. We have to slowly work our way into the important questions. We have to learn to build trust.

I am asked so many times, “What do you do?” I tell people I am a storyteller. I find, capture, tell, and share stories for people to enjoy. But what I really do is ask the right questions.

Passion can be found in someone’s story!

Meet Dot…she is amazing and has a powerful story to tell. Many people camp out all night for iPhones, iPads, and other gadgets. She camped out all night to be the first in-line to receive free medical care. Why? She needed it and was willing to just about anything for the opportunity. To me…that is about as entrepreneurial as it gets!

From TheState.com
There were more than 1,300 patient interactions at the SC Mission 2013 this past Friday and Saturday in Columbia, SC at the State Fairgrounds.

Patients received healthcare, eye care, prescriptions and women’s care, including pap smears and mammograms.

The SC Mission aims to meet the needs of residents who are underserved an uninsured. There were about 1,000 clinical and non-clinical volunteers including about 500 healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses and optometrists.

These individuals, those 1300 people that came through the doors have passion. Their story surrounds us here in South Carolina with over 250,000 people who are uninsured.

Many times we have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. Or we are not motivated to get the day started. Sometimes it is hard to make that first step on a project or we have been procrastinating with that todo list.

I took note this past Friday. People like Dot and the 1300 individuals that waited inline to receive medical care. Many of them made sure they were first in line, waiting all night.

Passion…very entrepreneurial to me!

Bye Bye 20% Rule

It seems as though little by little content managers of Facebook Fan Pages are getting a bit more room to push their message visually on a pretty serious piece of fan page real estate – the cover photo. Previously we’ve shared with you the top Three Practices That Will Shut Down Your Facebook Page and in just a short amount of time practice #1 was turned on its head.

Contact Information in the Cover Photo
Unfortunately, cover photos are not the place to advertise. It’s a great idea, great location but according the the Facebook TOS, they must not include more than 20% of text, price or purchase information, contact information, calls to action or references to Facebook features such as like or share.

Take pride in the fact that the user is already on your page and woo them with your intriguing content.

Earlier in the year, the rules changed to a bit to reflect more lenient standards of including any desired copy in your cover photo, as long as it did not exceed 20% of the total image. More recently (July 1) the 20% max copy rule was lifted as well.

What does this mean for your page?
Just because it’s OK by Facebook, doesn’t necessarily mean you should indulge. As always, make sure the cover photo plays well with the profile picture but don’t feel like you have to include every character from your main message on the first image your fans see (and the image that pops up in a user’s newsfeed when their friends fan a page). Play around with different layout styles and choose an image to copy ratio that works for you, and more importantly, works for your fans.

iStock.com asks… “What is craft?”

I love this video…I love the email they just sent. I agree with the video above…and I agree with their thought process.

Here is the quote from the email:

Your seeds of creativity
Craft is the root of our artistic passion and surgical attention to detail. It’s the beat of our creative drum. Watch and rediscover how our love of craft got us all into this creative racket to begin with.

Well…once again, I agree!

And one last time…I agree with this image in the email:

I am getting back to my roots. More to come!

Thanks iStock.com for confirming my direction and intuition!

Taking Ownership of the Message & Crisis Communication – The Thank You Video from the Cleveland Kidnappings

It just came across this morning. I first noticed it on CNN’s Facebook page, then a local television stations Facebook page (WYFF-TV)….then people started sharing.

CNN recorded the YouTube video from the computer screen, then wrote and produced their own story to fit their news commentary. Many other news outlets just shared links to the YouTube video. But what really happened here…the three girls and their families took control of their message and how they delivered it to the world.

News outlets, journalists, bloggers, and many others have been trying to capture an interview with these three girls after being found in a home, victims of a kidnapping. From the very beginning…the families have contended that they wanted their privacy and have stuck with that strategy.

If you look at the description below the YouTube video released, you will gain more context:

Published on Jul 8, 2013
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight would like to say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world who have offered support to them. They are extremely grateful for the tremendous outpouring of kindness they have received and wished to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages with this video.

The women still maintain a strong desire for privacy and ask that everyone continue to respect their wishes in that regard going forward. Thank you.

NOTES ABOUT THE VIDEO THANK-YOU
The video was filmed on July 2, 2013 at the law offices of Jones Day in Cleveland, Ohio. Visible in the background of the video is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The male off-camera voice heard in the video is that of Howard Fencl (pronounced FEHN-sill), vice president of Hennes Paynter Communications. The attorneys, public relations firm, social media strategist and videographer involved in the production of this video are all working pro bono on behalf of the three women.

This was not a price gauging event to leverage this story for the immediate monetary benefit of a law practice, pr firm, and video production company. This was done all pro bono. Now I am sure people will be contacting these businesses and even hire them since they effectively executed a strategy to share this story. But…I want to quickly look at the heart of this matter.

These three girls and their families chose not to be subjected to a press conference, which would lead to a feeding frenzy of who would get the next on-camera interview. They chose not to hold a press conference so they would be subjected to some of the most ridiculous questioning from both seasoned journalists and bloggers. They chose to control the message and share it in a way that made since for their lives and fulfill their desire to maintain their privacy.

Now I am sure the feeding frenzy has escalated since this release. But…the video was shot on July 2, 2013…7 days ago.

  • They were able to share the statement they wanted to share.
  • They were able to edit the video to meet the expectations of not only the legal team, pr firm, but ultimately the family.

We have the ability to control our message. Admittedly, there is a need to involve the main stream media for many awareness campaigns; but sometimes it is just best to bypass this process.

As a former journalist…I know first hand how the process happens, especially when we interview people that have experience this type of event. We have time constraints. Whether it is an immediate deadline or the length of the story…time creates a lens by which journalists create and distribute content. Sometimes that lens can minimize the context of a story. Sometimes, the competitive nature of being “the first” to report do alter the message even more.

I have worked with SO MANY large organizations that are consistently challenged by many mainstream media outlets…tired of their story/comments taken out of context. They/We know it best…news outlets chopping interviews into soundbites that meet the needs of their business model and/or deadline constraints. Yes…if you just chop two more words out of that interview…we won’t make the executive producer mad for going 2 seconds over the time limit of their newscast. A 2 second cut can mean the world to these three ladies.

Kudos to Hennes Paynter Communications, law offices of Jones Day, and the video production staff…they put the best interests of these three girls and their families first.

Say Hello To Facebook Graph Search

According to Mashable, Facebook is scheduled to launch it’s highly anticipated new structure, Facebook Graph Search, today. Before your mind shifts into overdrive thinking about where you will find your profile pic and favorite timeline posts, understand that this overhaul is not exactly an update like the others.

Facebook Graph Search is all about the ability to search anything and everything on Facebook. Protip: Check your privacy settings today and again once you see changes (and they will be obvious).

Let’s say you want to know who of your friends have been in Paris and what their favorite restaurants are. Simply type in:

Friends who have been to Paris.

The next screen will populate all of your friends who have been to Paris according to their Facebook check-ins, which is nice if you’re planning a trip. Below those results, you will notice a few prompts of “Related Searches”: My friends of friends, Places my friends have been, etc.

Want to get more specific? There’s room for that. How about:

Places in Paris, France visited by my friends

Facebook Graph search

Of course, although the ability to search friends of friends exists, you ultimately control your privacy settings and need to take a look at them after this new search tool goes live.

What will you search for? Beat Facebook to the punch and go live with Graph Search here.

The Clemson Ring, The Bataan Death March, & Col. Ben Skardon

Col. Ben Skardon - Class of 1938

There are days when you are not sure what is going to cross your path…but then there are days when think you are prepared for a good story. Today was a combination of both…one of anticipation yet one of amazement.

I just finished a project telling the story of one Clemson’s most precious graduates, one who has experienced so much, and one that has so much to share. Col. Ben Skardon is that man, class of 1938 and served in World War II. Not only did he serve, but he was a prisoner of war where he did something that seemed so insignificant but has left a tremendous legacy.

As a prisoner of war, he took part in the Bataan Death March:

“Which began on April 9, 1942, was the forcible transfer by the Imperial Japanese Army of 60-80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war after the three-month Battle of Bataan in the Philippines during World War II. All told, approximately 2,500–10,000 Filipino and 100-650 American prisoners of war died before they could reach Camp O’Donnell.”

“The 80 mi march was characterized by wide-ranging physical abuse and murder, and resulted in very high fatalities inflicted upon prisoners and civilians alike by the Japanese Army, and was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a Japanese war crime.”

But what makes this story so fascinating  is that his Clemson Ring was the one thing that helped saved his life. He used that ring while a prisoner of war to “buy” food in order to survive. He traded it for rice, the nourishment necessary to stay alive.

The only thing he has left from that experience was the spoon he used to scrape food together, his dog tags, what was called a “chop” that was used as currency, and the identification card that was made after he was released.

I am have embarked on a project to tell his story and finally I can share…one that I will remember for a lifetime. A few years ago, I sat down with him to capture the first part of his story, here is the completed project…in his own words.

*Reference information from Wikipedia.