The Hired Hand – Not just another blah-blah-blog

May 31, 2014

Hire me – Part II

Filed under: Advertising,Public Relations,Social Media — Darcy Grabenstein @ 11:33 pm
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To new beginnings.

The day I was laid off from my job at the ad agency (along with 11 others, thanks to the loss
of two major accounts), we had tickets to a Phillies game that night.

My son (of legal drinking age for five whole days) and I did what any self-respecting Phillies fans would do… we started “tailgating” that afternoon at home. I promptly poured him a beer, poured myself a glass of champagne and toasted to new beginnings… and then I promptly posted my celebratory photo on Facebook. I’m not one to cry over my glass of wine; I’m one to raise it in toast.

As we got ready to head to the stadium, I kept thinking what a great PR idea it would be to
announce my job status at the game. After all, there would be thousands of prospective employers fans there (well,
only about 24,000 fans – but that’s another story).PR at the Phillies game

“So I got me a pen and a paper” and I made up my own not-so-little sign. Forgive the improper grammar; I couldn’t resist citing those familiar song lyrics. What did my sign say? It read: “Hire me! Darcy G at LinkedIn.” I promptly posted it on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Since we were in the nosebleed section, I didn’t make it on camera or the jumbotron. I’m getting a little more mileage
out of my photo, however, by blogging about it.

To cap off my stellar day, my seat number was 13, and the Phillies lost 4-1 to the Mets.

There’s always tomorrow….

May 29, 2014

February 28, 2014

Using cause-related emails as a PR tool

Filed under: Branding,Email marketing,Public Relations — Darcy Grabenstein @ 12:55 pm
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by Darcy Grabenstein

Many companies use cause-related marketing to boost their brand image, build goodwill and create positive PR. This is widely apparent at holiday time and during October, for example, as businesses jump on the breast cancer awareness bandwagon.

Following are several examples of how companies employ cause-related marketing in their email campaigns.


Bon-Ton wisely incorporates social media into this anti-bullying campaign, using both Facebook and Twitter (even asking for a retweet). The subject line, although a bit long, is designed to attract anyone who wants to join in the (virtual) fight against bullying or who simply can’t resist a contest: Support STOMP Out Bullying + enter for your chance to WIN!

While the email audience is likely parents, not kids, Bon-Ton also encourages subscribers to send a text for discounts. Bullying has become a hot topic lately, and the moms who receive this email probably will give Bon-Ton a few brownie points.

Bonton email - stomp out bullying

Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein includes a celebrity endorsement – from model Christy Turlington – in this striking email. The fact that the email is in black and white makes it stand out from others in the inbox. The subject line is as simple and straightforward as the email itself: Calvin Klein Supports Every Mother Counts. However, the preheader is basically a repeat of the subject line. Instead, CK could have stated the offer: We’ll Donate $1 for Every Bra Purchased.

Calvin Klein email - every mother counts

Alex and Ani

This email also captures your attention, but with a strangely compelling image. Who knew monkeys were so fashion conscious? Alex and Ani is betting on the hope that its subscribers are environmentally conscious, too. The email is a perfect example of how to tie in a cause to your product line. And the subject line – Monkey around for charity – and headline add a lighthearted touch.

Alex & Ani email - animal welfare


Most of us can agree that texting and driving can be a deadly combination. This email from AT&T promotes its participation in the “it can wait” campaign. The dynamic subject line of this email is an effort to personalize the message: [First name], take the pledge to end texting and driving.

While I’m not convinced that a pledge alone will keep people from texting and driving, I applaud AT&T for taking part in this educational campaign. (However, pledging via Facebook for all your friends to see is a clever option.) What’s truly admirable about the website is that the sponsors’ logos are not plastered everywhere. In fact, the “Champions” (sponsors) are accessible from a link in the footer. (Other sponsors include Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, among others.) The campaign, apparently geared more toward teen drivers, includes the hashtag #itcanwait and video endorsements from the likes of One Republic, Demi Lovato, Olympian Gabby Douglas and more. Other videos, on the par of those you might remember from your driver’s ed days, are also featured. There’s even a simulator so you can see how texting impairs your driving ability.

AT&T email - don't text and drive

Brooks Brothers

This email does a nice job of driving traffic to retail stores. The subject line says it all: Ends Today – Enjoy 25% Off When Donating a Coat. And the headline has the double meaning of both physical and emotional warmth.

 Brooks Brothers email - give a coat, share the warmth


Belk also drives traffic to its stores, but takes it a step further by emphasizing support for the local community.

Belk email benefitting local charities


Walmart leaves me wondering how I can help fight hunger. Personally, I’d like a few more details before I click through to its site.

Walmart email - help make a difference for hungry families

Ethan Allen

While I give credit to Ethan Allen for offering a discount, I’m not sure 20% is enough for victims of Hurricane Sandy. The subject line reads: Still recovering from Sandy? We’ve extended our special savings offer. (Full disclosure: I’m a New Jersey resident.) The question is whether those hit by Hurricane Sandy would even have Internet access, depending on when this email was sent and how long the offer ran. To truly reach those most impacted, the email could have included wording along the lines of: Know someone who is a victim of Hurricane Sandy? Share this information with them today!

Ethan Allen email - discount for Hurricane Sandy victims


“Join us in global change. Vote to make a difference” reads the subject line. The H&M Conscious Foundation asks subscribers to vote on which three initiatives it should support. I find this interesting, as H&M in the past has been the focus of complaints regarding labor violations in Third World countries.

H&M email - vote for your favorite cause

Jos. A. Bank

With all-American colors – and even a photo with an American flag in the background – this email plays to the patriotic pride of its subscribers. The rather long subject line spells out the promotion: Buy 1 Suit, Get 2 FREE + ‘Give’ 1 to a Returning Veteran.

Jos. A. Bank email - helping veterans

Stella & Dot 

Stella & Dot follows suit (pun intended) with this subject line – Support our troops – and offer:

Stella & Dot email - support our troops

Michael Kors

Michael Kors uses an indirect product tie-in to its campaign against hunger.

Michael Kors email - campaign against hunger

Warby Parker

Following in the footsteps (pun intended again!) of TOMS shoes, Warby Parker donates a pair of glasses for every pair purchased. By the way, TOMS also donates glasses as well as shoes.

Warby Parker email, donating glasses to those in need

Juicy Couture

Instead of featuring a photo of a needy child, Juicy Couture features a photo of Lydia Hearst. Who is Lydia Hearst, you ask? Obviously the subscribers know who she is, since the subject line is: Lydia Hearst hearts Operation Smile!

Lydia Hearst is an actress, fashion model, columnist…and, yes, socialite and heiress to the publishing fortune. As someone who has developed materials for a company in support of Operation Smile, I have to wonder about this approach and can only assume that it resonates with Juicy Couture’s audience.

Juicy Couture email - Operation Smile

Supporting a cause is commendable, but it works even better when the cause ties in to your company’s product line. Asking subscribers to join you in the effort increases the likelihood for buy-in, and creates a sort of team spirit. I would suggest that, depending on the size of your company, you focus on a single cause instead of diluting the effectiveness across several causes. And any time you can share a personal story of how the campaign positively impacted someone’s life, it creates an emotional pull that draws in your subscribers.

December 11, 2013

WestJet publicity stunt puts the ‘Merry’ in ‘Christmas’

Filed under: Public Relations — Darcy Grabenstein @ 3:19 am
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WestJet video

by Darcy Grabenstein

Kudos to Canadian airline WestJet, which staged the perfect holiday publicity stunt, complete with a virtual Kris Kringle. Here’s the video – narrated with a script mimicking “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The video included a Twitter hashtag as well: #WestJetChristmas. (My only criticism is that the apostrophe is backward on the introductory frame of the video.)

WestJet managed to give customers with a good feeling about not only the airline, but about the dreaded baggage claim area as well. The airline is certain to get a lot of mileage out of this one.

Here’s my humble homage to WestJet:

’Twas a day prior to Christmas, when all through the land
PR people everywhere proclaimed WestJet as grand.
The preparations were made by WestJet with care,
including a video, which thousands did share.

You see, the virtual Santa was more than a display
for the lucky passengers who flew WestJet that day.
He asked each one what they wanted to receive
before they boarded the plane and were to leave.

As the passengers were flying up in the air
(like Santa and his reindeer, if you must compare),
WestJet workers were busy making a list
to make sure no passenger’s wishes were missed.

They bought all the gifts, which they proceeded to wrap
and brought them to the airport in a snap.
When the passengers arrived on the WestJet plane
they didn’t know they were part of a PR campaign.

Young and old alike approached the baggage claim
and as the conveyor belt moved, they began to exclaim.
Expecting to find their luggage and bags,
they found something else (and later hashtags)…

Instead of their luggage they each found a gift
and – just like an airplane – their spirits did lift.
Low tech, high tech, even a big-screen TV,
the passengers’ reactions were a sight to see.

The geniuses who envisioned this caper in their heads
deserve a standing ovation – it goes unsaid.
And the employees who willingly played Santa’s elves
thought more of others than they did of themselves.

WestJet had some help with its PR tour-de-force
from Best Buy, Under Armour and other fine stores.
So I say to WestJet, which knows how to do PR right,
“You certainly made the holiday season more bright!”

November 6, 2012

Get out and vote… and get outta my way!

Image courtesy of

After all the struggles groups such as women and blacks have gone through in order to vote in America, the right to vote is still taken for granted – or, worse, ignored – by many.

Voter turnout is typically sparse for local elections. Of course, when it comes to the presidential election, public interest ratchets up a few notches.

I’m not going to complain about those who do or do not exercise their right to vote. I am going to complain about the campaigners who get in your face at the polls – at least in Pennsylvania.

You see, in Florida where I voted for probably half my adult life, campaigners are not allowed to solicit voters within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling facility. Thank you, Florida.

Not so here in Pennsylvania. It’s like an obstacle course simply trying to make your way down the walkway and through the door. Campaigners flank the sidewalk, waving sample ballots in your face, smiling their Cheshire cat smiles, and blurting out the names of their particular candidate. In fact, one year I had to elbow my way past the campaigners and accidentally bumped one as I, like a football fullback, tried to reach the goal… the polling booth. As I passed her, I heard her outraged complaint about how I almost knocked her over. She’s lucky I didn’t go for the tackle.

I guess you can’t blame them. They’ve got a captive audience. And, during a presidential race, voters could be stuck in line for quite a while.

But seriously? Do they think I’m so naïve or uninformed that, minutes before I enter the polling booth I’ll sway my vote because of their strong-arm tactics? In my book it’s a new form of PR: Political Rudeness. It’s an insult to my intelligence.

Unfortunately, enough voters must be influenced by these carnival-like hawkers to make it worth their while. I wonder if any exit polls have been conducted to find out if these campaign tactics have a negative effect on voters’ behavior at the polls.

In any case, I will make my way to the polls today and put up a brave front against these in-your-face campaigners. (Actually, I try to avoid all eye contact. Maybe today I’ll pretend I don’t speak English.)

So who will be worth of my vote? The candidate who institutes a mandatory “no soliciting at the polls” law across the nation.

Now go do your civic duty.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

June 22, 2012

The end of lifetime as we know it

Filed under: Public Relations — The Hired Hand @ 11:49 am
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American Airlines AAirpassI have something in common with Jacques Vroom and Steve Rothstein. Well, sort of.

These two men had purchased an AAirpass with American Airlines. For about $350,000, they bought the right to unlimited, lifetime first-class flights, anywhere in the world. Sounds like a pretty good deal, eh? Apparently, it was too good a deal.

After each traveler racked up approximately 40 million air miles, American Airlines  banned them from further air travel – at least until the courts sort all this out. The airline has claimed to have lost millions of dollars each year since the AAirpass program began in 1987. Last year, the airline filed for bankruptcy, and it currently is in contract negotiations with unions.

While the two men may have stretched the rules of the frequent flier program to the extreme (think of it as frequent fliers on steroids), they did not technically violate the terms of the program.

So what do I have in common with these guys? I’m certainly not a world traveler (although one can always hope). Let’s face it, I don’t even sit in first class. Sigh.

It appears we’ve all reached the end of our lifetimes.

Their AAirpass programs were supposedly good for lifetime use. I had not one but two gym memberships that were said to be lifetime, but – poof – they’re gone. Does that mean I am gone, too?

OK, the first membership was paid for and the second one was a gift from the gym. But the point remains: Doesn’t “lifetime” mean for one’s entire life?

As I usually do, I think of these types of consumer experiences in terms of PR. American Airlines may have lost money with its AAirpass program, but now it’s also losing invaluable public relations points as a result of revoking these travelers’ privileges.

The gym that canceled my free membership is losing my positive word of mouth (and gaining negative word of mouth). When I used the facility or attended classes, I would rave to my friends about it. Now I’m ranting instead of raving.

What it boils down to is that people don’t like to have things taken away from them.  It’s your inner toddler shouting: “Mine! Mine! Mine!”

I can think of other examples where companies taketh away, whether from customers or employees:

  • A company that offered summer hours to employees, then cut them back to half the summer, then to every other week for half the summer. Employees still must work the required number of hours every week, so what’s the big deal here?
  • A company that had a “casual Friday” dress policy (jeans) but backpedaled on it – even for employees who have no contact with clients. Say what?
  • A company department that doesn’t allow its salaried employees to work remotely or make up a few missed hours here and there (other departments do). Aren’t we all adults?

So I guess it’s caveat emptor.

All I know, is we’re so irate we’re rolling over in our graves.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

April 18, 2012

The quiet person’s guide to getting people talking online

My blog post originally was published by SmartBlog on Social Media.

Computer screenMuch to my chagrin, behavioral experts would consider me an introvert. For a PR professional, it’s almost a death knell. For a creative type, however, it can be a blessing. And for someone who dabbles in the digital space, it could be a perfect match.

Lucky for me, I’m all of the above.

Let’s get something straight: An introvert isn’t necessarily a shrinking violet. Technically, an introvert is someone who finds crowds draining and who is energized by solitude.

Research has revealed that introverts not only are highly creative, they also can be extremely effective leaders. What do Albert Einstein, Warren Buffet, Charles Darwin, Mahatma Gandhi, Al Gore, Sir Isaac Newton and Rosa Parks have in common? You guessed it. They’re all introverts.

So what’s all this got to do with social media? With a little creativity and a lot of savvy, introverts can use social media to their advantage as a public relations tool. (Don’t worry, we won’t get into the discussion about who should “own” a company’s social media outlets — PR? E-commerce? IT? That’s a topic for another day.)

Here’s how introverts can maximize their social media moxie in terms of PR:

  • Learn from being a lurker. If you observe more than participate on social networks, that’s OK … to a point. Take the time to understand the various players — customers, media, competitors — then use that knowledge to best position your product or service.
  • Make the most of online relationships. Introverts, as a rule, are more comfortable with one-on-one communications. That’s the beauty of social media. While you have access to many audiences at once, you can focus on one conversation at a time. There’s a reason it’s called public relations.
  • You’re a good listener. Prove it. Compared to their extrovert counterparts, introverts are said to be exceptional listeners. Listen to what your customers are saying about your company — both good and bad. Listen to what people are saying about your competitors — both good and bad. Go beyond just listening to your constituents. Let them know you truly hear them.
  • Devote some face time to Facebook. I’m not asking my fellow introverts to share your personal lives with thousands of your BFFs. Instead, make sure your business has a separate Facebook account/page, and use it to interact with current and prospective customers. You’ll be surprised at the honest feedback you’ll get.
  • You’re a person of few words? No problem. Twitter’s the social network for you. You’ve got 140 characters to state your case, so make them count. Twitter is ideal for customer relations and crisis communications. You can deal with crises in real time — and even avert crises with timely, up-front tweets about the situation at hand.
  • You’re a person of even fewer words? Pinterest is for you. Take a few pointers from Kotex Israel, which launched a successful PR campaign on Pinterest. Here’s a snapshot (pun intended) of the campaign: Kotex targeted 50 inspiring women on Pinterest, then created personalized gift boxes for each, based on their boards. To receive the gift boxes, the women had to repin the Kotex invitation. The key takeaway here is that Kotex, with help from the Smoyz agency, took the time to get to know its target audience. PR professionals can do the same, whether it’s the media or consumers.

So don’t use your introverted nature as an excuse to shy away from social media as a PR vehicle. In fact, social media is tailor-made for us introvert types. Gone are those awkward silences we so dread in face-to-face communication.

See you online.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

March 29, 2012

Pinterest and the perfect pitch

Filed under: Branding,Email marketing,Public Relations,Social Media — The Hired Hand @ 11:23 pm
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In the old days (before you could update your relationship status on Facebook), getting pinned was a precursor to becoming engaged. Today, it refers to a whole new kind of engagement. That is, if you’re talking about Pinterest.

It’s a visual way for people to engage with one another, and for brands to engage with their consumers.

Pinterest has taken scrapbooking to a whole new (digital) level. And one company – Kotex Israel – has taken the art of the pitch to a whole new level. Working with the Smoyz agency, Kotex created “Women’s Inspiration Day by KOTEX.”

Smoyz found 50 inspiring women on Pinterest, then created personalized, handmade gift boxes. The boxes were filled with items the women might want, based on their boards, and were decorated the boxes in styles that reflected each woman’s pins. Kotex is taking this “personal products” thing a bit seriously, don’t you think?

To receive their personalized gift boxes, the women only needed to re-pin Kotex’s invitation. According to Kotex, the project has had 2,284 interactions with total potential impressions of almost 700,000.

As the Israelis say, “Yofi!” (“Fantastic!”)

Engagement? Looks like Kotex is ready for a long-term relationship.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

March 27, 2012

The blog that wasn’t

My blog disappeared in cyberspace. One minute it was there, the next it wasn’t.

So I’ve found a new home for my blog, and I’ve been furiously re-creating it as best I could. Thank goodness for the Internet Wayback Machine.

Now that “Mad Men” is back on the air (hooray!), I’m sure I’ll have a few snarky comments from a copywriter’s perspective.

Stay tuned.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

Talk about sticking it to the consumer…

New Zealand agency Colenso BBDO went out on a limb with its recent ad campaign for crushed cider.

Colenso packaged twigs inside random 12-packs of client Monteith’s Crushed Cider. The point? To reassure consumers that Monteith’s is made using fresh fruit, not concentrated fruit syrup.

Billboards and mock apology ads read “Sorry about the twigs. Not from concentrate.”

My guess is they didn’t run this PR stunt by their legal department, which undoubtedly would have put the kibosh on the campaign.

Supposedly the stunt led to a massive run on their cider. That may be great in the short term, but what about the long-term fallout? It’s a sticky situation.

In my opinion, they should stick to more traditional methods, going back to the roots of responsible PR.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

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