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Robby Schlesinger – My First Week in Review: Life Among the Amplify Relations Tribe

As I walked from my car to the steps of my new office, I felt like Jane Goodall must have before plunging into the wilds of Tanzania to live among the great apes. Granted, downtown Reno isn’t much like Tanzania, nor are my coworkers much like chimpanzees (for the most part). I just mean I felt the same sense of trepidation I imagined she felt before setting off on a new adventure, to live among a group she did not belong to.  At least the chimps didn’t expect Goodall to actually do anything. I on the other hand had been hired to do a job, and if I was going to do it right, I would have to study the behavior of this small troop, learn their ways, and blend in so that they might accept me as their own. Though my time with them has been brief up to this point, I’ve learned much from them already.


 

Day 1:

Field notes in hand, I cut my way through the foliage of the lobby (maintenance really didn’t like that), arriving to face the tribe’s sentry and gatekeeper, the one I’ve come to know as “Colby.”  There was no fear in his eyes when he saw me. To my surprise, instead of raising an alarm warning of an outsider, he instead greeted me warmly and offered me something called coffee, one of the tribe’s talismans.  He guided me through the bright passageway to the den of one of their great chieftains, she who I now know as “Megan.”

I greeted her in the customary way befitting one of her status, with a handshake and a respectful utterance of “How’s it going?” She took her seat and gestured for me to do the same, then proceeded to lay out a complex array of scrolls over her desk, something she called “new-hire paperwork.” I was astonished; they had a written language! What’s more, it seems my new role would be that of a scribe, or “copywriter,” a position Megan explained to me in detail, along with words like “PPO” and “Wellness Program” and other strange things I did not understand.

The scrolls bearing my signature, Megan led me further through the halls, arriving to another den that was to be mine, with a desk and a flat silver device with a symbol of an apple emblazoned on it surface. Their advanced technology surprises me; clearly, they have had contact with the outside world before.

Day 2:

The troop is small, numbering no more than ten. These findings will put to rest previous assumptions of the PR professional being a carnivorous selfish spin-doctor; they work together for the good of the tribe, collaborating on everything, and depend on each other for survival. Initially, I was worried about overcoming the language barrier, but I quickly learned how easy it was to understand their strange jargon, and soon I was joining in multiple instances of a ritual they call “brainstorming.”

Day 3:

No day is like the one before here; the tribe’s activities shift throughout the day, and mine with them. In the morning, I write a short story about cigars, and by late afternoon, I write a full course plan. In between, I meet with the shamans upstairs, those they call the “creative team,” discussing character archetypes, plotlines, and production budgets. Later, I gather around a great table with another subgroup in the tribe, the “PR team,” and discuss course curriculums, assessment rubrics, and one of their idols, a tortoise god they call “Sage.”

Every task is performed with a sense of urgency. I find myself constantly accepting calendar invites, splitting my time between writing in my den and attending meetings. Far from being left to work alone, I am offered help and guidance from each member in turn; they are all eager to teach me their ways.

Day 4:

Today we celebrated the tall, ancient one called “Patrick.” All week he has worn a series of the most outlandish headwear, though as a display of dominance or for punishment for incurring the wrath of those they call “the Alli’s,” I cannot say and dare not ask. We surround him at the table where they hold conference, with offerings of sweet bread adorned with many candles and three old beers found in the back of the fridge. He exhales with an impressive vigor for one as old as he and extinguishes the flames, divvying the sweets equally among all of us gathered there, but keeping the beer for himself, as is his right as an elder of the tribe.

Day 5:

I spend the morning gathering images of cats asking for cheeseburgers to be somehow “shared” the following week, before joining the tribe at their temple, a bar and grill across the street called “Brickies.” There, they invite me to join in a ceremonial cleansing of the sins, buying rounds of drinks as penance for mistakes made that week. We toast our victories, and they share with me stories of the tribe’s past. I am among warriors, I realize, and it is with great honor that they accept me into their ranks.


 

Clearly, further research is necessary to fully understand the ways of the tribe at Amplify Relations. I will continue to work among them, to study their behavior, and to contribute to the group to the best of my ability. For science. And a paycheck too, but mostly for science.

MeganRobby Schlesinger – My First Week in Review: Life Among the Amplify Relations Tribe
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Allisa Robertson – 5 Public Speaking Tips as Told by Eminem

Palms are sweaty. Knees weak arms are heavy.
There’s vomit on his sweater already. Mom’s spaghetti.

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Have you ever felt this way before a big presentation? I have. I almost exclusively feel this way before I need to speak in front of an audience; but through years of practice, I’ve learned to cope with glossophobia: the fear of public rapping speaking.

There are very few people completely comfortable and confident with public speaking. In fact, most people would rate it as their worst fear. Inevitably, the time will come when you will be asked to speak in front of a crowd, and you’ll be faced with the dilemma to either run from this fear or face it head on. These simple tricks will help lessen your anxiety and take the stress out of presenting.

Practice makes perfect

Practicing your lines, hand gestures and walking patterns is perhaps the most critical thing you can do to prepare for giving a speech. Practicing in front of a mirror is a great way to discourage looking at your notes, and it allows you to get comfortable making a connection with the person in front of you.

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Plan Ahead

Sometimes technology fails you, or you are forced to change your speech last minute; be comfortable enough with the subject matter that you can roll with the punches and avoid feeling caught off guard.

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Be Aware of Your Body Language

Your entire message can be skewed if your body language is setting the wrong tone. It’s important to remember to smile, make eye contact, breath, and stand up straight. If possible, walk around; movement is great way to capture your audience’s attention mid-speech and stress important points.

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Embrace Your Audience

Make your audience more than just a spectator; make them a viable part of your speech. Even something as simple as making eye contact helps to bridge the space between you and your audience.

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Rap it up

Having a strong conclusion will ensure your audience leaves with a lasting impression of you, your presentation and the brand you are representing.

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BONUS TIP: Believe in yourself

Remember that there is a reason that you have been asked to speak. You put a lot of effort into your presentation and people have come to hear what you have to say, so don’t forget to own it with pride and recognize the huge accomplishment you have made.

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While not everyone is born to give Ted Talks, you can overcome the anxiety that comes with public speaking. Using these simple tips, your next presentation will feel like a walk in the park and leave your audience speechless.

Now, will the real Slim Shady please stand up?

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Amplify RelationsAllisa Robertson – 5 Public Speaking Tips as Told by Eminem
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Alli Williams – Make it Newsy: Finding Your Angle When Pitching News to the Media

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The media is unpredictable. A hot button issue one day will likely be old news the next. With these ever changing preferences, it can be difficult to latch on to what’s trending at any given time. This is exactly what PR professionals are doing on a daily basis. In order to obtain news placements for your clients, you have to know what’s currently in the news. So how do you make a press release, pitch, or story idea “newsy”?

  1. Read the News

Don’t only read the news, read the articles written by reporters who you want to pitch to. You will get a sense for what kind of topics they cover, their writing style, and the kinds of things they will actually print. You can easily tailor a pitch or press release to a specific reporter or publication. The more relevant it is to the reporter, the more likely your piece will make it to print.

  1. Don’t Spam Journalists

You want your press releases to be targeted. If you are arbitrarily sending story pitches blindly to an email list, you WILL get ignored. Worse yet, any future press release you send to a journalist you spammed before may end up seeing the same fate, whether you tailored it to the publication or not.

In my toolbox: At Amplify Relations, we use the program Cision PR, which allows users to search for journalists by location, publication type, job title, and beat. This way, I can easily narrow down who I want to pitch a press release or news story too. I can even set up automatic emails with stories by specific reporters, from certain publications, or containing a set of keywords!

  1. Add Quotes

Quotes will humanize a press release, and will give more credibility to the content of your story. Plus, it’s one less source a reporter will have to seek out themselves to create their story. Offer pertinent quotes with good information and substance, and your reporter will likely publish at least fragments of your original press release.

  1. 5 W’s

Within the first paragraph, the reporter who received your press release should be able to answer the 5 W’s: Who? What? When? Where? Why? In reviewing your press release, ask yourself these 5 W’s. There’s no news angle if these questions can’t be answered.

  1. Recognize Deadlines

We all work off of deadlines, but the most important deadline to keep in mind is the journalist’s. If your release is timely, you will want to make sure to give plenty of lead time for a reporter to cover it. Don’t send something untimely or “breaking” and give no wiggle room for the reporter to fit into their print schedule. This is how your once newsy press release will become old news.

It’s important to remember that journalists scan across dozens – sometimes even hundreds – of news pitches and press releases daily. To avoid instant-deletion, realize that you need to pitch something worth reading – something newsy. Find your angle and go with it, just make sure that it’s interesting not only to you and your client, but to your client’s audience, your journalist, and your journalist’s readership.

Amplify RelationsAlli Williams – Make it Newsy: Finding Your Angle When Pitching News to the Media
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Elizabeth Brass – Time to Nerd Out: Raster vs Vector

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Have you ever zoomed way in on a photograph online and noticed that it was made up of individual squares of color? These squares of color are called pixels. Pixels are the make up of raster based images, or raster graphics. Raster graphics are best used for non-line art images. Examples of these are digitized photographs, scanned artwork, and detailed graphics. Raster graphics can be very rich in detail because each square of color or pixel can be a slightly different color. This can create subtle gradients, much more detailing in shadows and highlights, and can intensify vibrancy.

The downside to raster graphics? Image degradation. Raster graphics are resolution dependent, meaning they are measured by pixels per inch (ppi). Let’s say you have an image that is a 1 by 1 inch square and there are 300 pixels in that area. If you want to blow that same 1 by 1 inch square into a 6 by 6 inch square, there are still only 300 pixels in that image. This means those same 300 pixels have to cover six times more space. This is why sometimes images look jagged, and you can see individual pixels. This degradation is called bitmapping. Bitmapping is the reason that Logos should not be made by raster based software, the most popular being Adobe Photoshop. Raster images can be scaled down more easily, but it will not look as crisp as the original.

So what is the best way to create a logo? Vector based graphics software, the most popular being Adobe Illustrator. Vector graphics are created using lines and points to create shapes. These lines are created and managed using mathematical formulas to create lines, points and shapes. Like numbers, there is no limit to how large or small you can make a vector graphic. It can be made large enough to take up a whole billboard and small enough to but on a business card without ever loosing image quality.

Type is a vector based graphic. That is why you can have one-point font and blow it up to 6400 points and still have crisp edges.

One downside to vector graphics is they can lack detail. If you draw a square and fill it with blue, the whole square is blue, leaving no room for gradients. In order to get a true vector gradient, you would have to create smaller and smaller rectangles at slightly different shades of blue.

Another down side of vector graphics is the limit of effects. They are created using simple lines and points, with no pixels. Therefore, they can’t handle certain styling effects, such as drop shadows or inner glows. It is possible to get raster based effects such as drop shadows on your vector image. This does, however, make the whole file a raster based image. It is still more scalable than a raster based image, but the effect can be bitmapped when blown up.

The last difference between Raster and Vector graphics is file size. Raster images, as I said before, are made up of pixels. If you have an image that is 18x24in and it has a resolution of 300 ppi – that’s 129,600 bits of information that has to be saved. This means files sizes can get huge really fast. Vector graphics on the other hand, only has the points and lines to be saved, witch can mean much smaller file size.

So, if you are looking for rich detail, or lots of fancy effects, than raster is the way to go, but if you are creating a logo that needs to scale to multiple sizes vector is the best option.

Amplify RelationsElizabeth Brass – Time to Nerd Out: Raster vs Vector
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Megan Bedera: Why We’re Giving Back

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Amplify Relations celebrated its birthday last month, and it got us thinking about the future. Bryan and I founded Amplify Relations in 2009 out of necessity during the worst part of the recession, and now we are a growing and thriving business that is creating jobs and generating positive economic impact.

But as we reflected on the future, we wanted to do more. Bryan and I already volunteer in the community; but it occurred to us that if only the two of us increased the hours we give, we would simply be adding a few more a year, or alternatively, we could extend the invitation to volunteer to the entire Amplify Relations team and multiply the number of volunteer hours we can give in the communities where we work. We decided to multiply, so starting in 2016, Amplify Relations will be incentivizing our employees by providing two paid days for volunteering each year with a 501c3 of their choice. Today, that equals 160 hours.

Amplify Relations has barely outgrown the title of “startup”, and we run a lean operation, but this is important to us, and it should be important to you, too. Look for the character of a company through actions, not words. You have a choice when you select a company to work with, and we firmly believe that you get better products from companies that care.

Being a good community partner is part of Amplify Relations core values, and our paid volunteering comes in addition to providing good, high-paying jobs. Since our beginning, we have paid even our lowest paid employees enough that they didn’t need nor qualify for food stamps or government assistance. Amplify Relations employees also receive paid days off for sick or vacation, paid disability to cover time off for surgery or pregnancy, health, dental and vision insurance, and now paid volunteering.

We are truly blessed, and now it’s our turn to pay it forward. Every day the Amplify Relations team works on projects for businesses, governments and political clients that have the potential to change the world, but volunteering is one small action we can take to make a difference in the biggest way, by doing work that directly impacts our communities.

Amplify RelationsMegan Bedera: Why We’re Giving Back
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Bryce Keil: Elevating the Creative Mind

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When last we spoke, we discussed what, in essence, sets good creative apart from bad creative, and the best, most useful steps on how to reach the former. That process is a much simpler affair than what we are about to delve into today, though the two are intrinsically linked. Bear with me–we may get a little sappy.

We are all professionals and as such we constantly strive to better ourselves in our line of work.  It’s important to have our fingers on the pulse at all times but, as a creative team lead, it’s also important to indulge in your ‘out side of work’ self.  It can be easy to write off extra curricular activities as time wasters (and an easy excuse to tell yourself that you need the come-down time), but by being in touch with yourself–you are at your best. Why is this important? That answer is a few fold, one of which we will answer now. When you are at your purest mind, your best ideas flow freely. You gain a certain clarity that allows you to truly step away and ask yourself ‘why’ with some perspective. This will save you and your team time by weeding out ideas that potentially meet the cutting room floor before they have the chance to. For me, it’s always been about feeding the pure artist. As my background is rooted in performance art, my primary insatiable appetite is fed by theater.

Why theater? It’s the most revealing form of art. When an actor is on stage, everything in life is on the floor for the world to see. When he embodies another human being, he forces himself to look at life through a different lens–to experience the world through someone else’s perspective. He begins to strip away everything that he knew previously. To see the world through someone else’s eyes is to have understanding. It takes incredible work to truly grasp another’s human experience. But that’s it. That’s what sets apart a good actor from a serviceable one. As such, the relationship between a performer and an audience member is the most intimate romance, sweetest dance, and darkest secret (I told you we’d get sappy). As the person orchestrating that relationship, all eyes are on him–people hanging on every word.

We’ve now arrived at the second part of the previously aforementioned two-fold answer. This practice, the ability to understand someone else’s perspective, is key to our topic–elevating the creative mind. The above-mentioned relationship is precisely what we do in the office. By getting in touch with something deeper, that’s when we our creative juices are flowing the smoothest. Theater may not be your choice of avenue, but the takeaway from it all is this: stop, think, experience, change your perspective, live in someone else’s world for a moment, orchestrate the relationship between head and heart (and client and product, respectively) and know that, most of all, it takes time. When you can grasp this, no creative problem will seem out of reach.

Amplify RelationsBryce Keil: Elevating the Creative Mind
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Megan Bedera: Campaign Secret Weapons

 

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We all know the only silver bullet in a campaign is hard work, but there are secret weapons out there that can help catapult your campaign forward. Whether you are a firm expanding your toolbox or a campaign seeking a competitive advantage, here are a few of the secret weapons you want in our arsenal for 2016.

Public Relations and Media Monitoring Software:

Tools like Cision Public Relations (formerly Vocus) or PR New Wire can be game changing in communicating, monitoring and understanding the media. Before tools like this, creating a press list took hours, and even days in large markets. These tools provides campaigns with a database of reporters nationwide and includes information about their beats and interests so you can be sure your press release is in front of the right reporter. Even more, they unlock the power of national outreach for your campaign through their wire press release distribution services.

Proof and Project Management Software:

When your campaign is in full swing, it is essential you have a locked in and bullet proof approval process. Nothing is more frustrating than drafting that runs up costs or printing errors that cause thousands of pieces of material to be thrown out. Project management software like ProofHQ streamlines the process, allowing campaigns to have peace of mind knowing what they see on their screen is the final version, and firms are able to receive an immediate confirmation from clients that a proof is approved. Additionally, it gives you access to a variety of tools right in your browser to mark up proofs ranging from written documents to print proofs and even television and radio.

Combined Management, Public Relations and Creative Working Groups:

The one most valuable secret weapon you can have is a solid team of advertising professionals who work as a combined team, taking your campaign to the next level. Too often campaigns work with small teams or in silos which doesn’t allowing for collaboration around the coffee machine where the best ideas often happen. When you work with a team, you get access to experts in every skill, including strategy, creative, public relations, government affairs, advertising and campaigns.

Most of these tools are expensive, require training and top level staff to operate; however, campaigns are not alone in making these types of investments by partnering with bigger firms and building the costs into the base overhead of campaign. Even the smallest races can gain access to the a few secret weapons that will give you an edge on Election Day.

MeganMegan Bedera: Campaign Secret Weapons
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Alli Williams: The Essentials of Online Fundraising

iStock_000036916998_LargeRaising money for a cause can be difficult if you don’t have the right tools. The medium of online fundraising is an ever growing area, and there are a few things to keep in mind when embarking on an online fundraising campaign.

The first essential component to an online fundraising campaign is to establish a goal. When donors and organizations have a clear goal in mind, it’s easier to raise funds to meet that goal. Goal setting also gives the organization a quantifiable metric to compare results. What gets measured can always be duplicated or improved, so the efforts for next time can be that much more effective.

Amplify RelationsAlli Williams: The Essentials of Online Fundraising
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Patrick Murphy: I Am Sales and You Can Too (3.5 Great Sales Lessons)

I’ve spent my entire adult life in some form of sales, with products ranging from roses and pianos to politicians and ideas. After twelve years, a lot of folks ask how I’ve been able to sell so many different things as effectively as I do.

Looking back on the last twelve years, it comes down to three lessons I’ve learned across fifteen states and dozens of political and corporate brands.

Amplify RelationsPatrick Murphy: I Am Sales and You Can Too (3.5 Great Sales Lessons)
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Rebecca Jackson: Kids, Fun and Sales – The Art of Managed Childhood Excitement

Children reading a bookWe all have seen the uncontrolled power of childhood excitement, ranging from squeals of joy on Christmas morning to a kicking fit in the toy aisle. Used for good or evil, it’s a powerful force in influencing family decision-making. Our challenge is, how can the PR and Ad industry use that power to drive buying decisions, dinner table conversations or classroom interactions?  Children are no longer bystanders in buying conversations; they are leaders!

Children of all ages love advertising’s bright colors and catchy phrases. The brands children see and know are trusted, like a good friend! Sometimes, the engaging words and the shiny new product can be just too inviting to pass up. We can all relate to the plight of Woody in Disney’s “Toy Story” as Buzz Lightyear arrives on scene!

Amplify RelationsRebecca Jackson: Kids, Fun and Sales – The Art of Managed Childhood Excitement
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