Mar 14 2011

Boise-based Joanne Taylor PR to donate $3,500 worth of BSU merchandise

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What do you do when a friend calls from Vegas and says he has six large boxes full of Boise State merchandise left over from the Maaco Bowl and asks you to sell it for him in a place where more people would be interested in buying it–a place like Boise.  Makes sense, right? And easy enough to do. Turns out, though, that not that many people are interested in BSU football gear once the season is over and, in this case, the bowl game is history.

Out of six boxes, I still have four. Great looking, high-quality hats, t-shirts and hoodies. I didn’t want to ship it back and my friend wasn’t too enthused about taking up space in his warehouse. So, I bought it for one lump sum, on behalf of Boise-based Joanne Taylor PR, so I could donate it to a local, youth-based non-profit.

My first thought was the Treasure Valley Boys and Girls club. There didn’t seem to be much interest there, though, and I started to think that it would be better to give it to a group that is less visible but in just as much need. The merchandise, worth about $3,500 at retail, could either be given away to the kids that the non-profit serves or sold to help fund programs.

I’m still working through this so let me know if you have any suggestions…


Feb 9 2011

Boise-based Joanne Taylor PR weighs in on Tom Luna’s public education reform plan

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Auto Tech online?

Below is a copy of a letter Joanne Taylor of Boise (that’s me!) wrote to Idaho legislators that represent District 16.* The letter voices concerns about Tom Luna’s proposed public education reform plan.  Many thoughts and opinions have been expressed about the plan but there might be a few new ones here. Please feel free to comment and, if you feel strongly about this issue, please consider writing to your legislators.

Dear Representative Higgins,

My name is Joanne Taylor. I live in Boise (District 16) and have two children who attend Cynthia Mann Elementary School.

I do not take writing to you lightly. It is the first time I have done so, as I have reserved my voice for a time when needed most.

That time is now.

I am very concerned about the education reform plan Tom Luna has proposed. There are many reasons for my concern, but I will focus on three.

The first is class size. My 4th-grader, a straight-A student this year, has 29 classmates. While she maintains good grades, she, like all the other students in her class, gets very little attention from her teacher. This isn’t because the teacher is not adequate or caring. It’s because there are only so many hours in the day, and just keeping order in a classroom that size is a full-time job. In order to keep up, the teacher arrives early and leaves late–oftentimes, after 7 p.m.

This situation is not uncommon. Before making a vote on the proposed education reform plan, I urge you to sit in on a classroom of this size for one day, so that you can get a clear picture of the dynamics of an over-crowded classroom, and the challenges it presents to the teacher and the students.

My second concern is the provision of laptops to high school students. I ask you to consider whether careful consideration has been given to the cost of maintaining thousands of laptops throughout the state. IT support, a help desk, software upgrades, laptop repairs, losses due to theft and/or damage, virus fixes, and recovery of identify theft should be among the time and costs that are tallied and accounted for in Luna’s plan.

In addition to maintenance and repair costs, questions of possible abuse must be addressed. Porn sites, social media networks, and online dating services are among a host of distractions that unsupervised use of laptops will put at the fingertips of teenagers.

My third concern is lack of motivation on the part of state leaders to find alternative solutions to close the budget gap in order to minimize public education cuts. I’ve heard of two such solutions in the past two weeks–the sale of the empty and costly “Governor’s Mansion,” and privatization of state liquor stores. Both ideas have been rejected.

Another alternative, which there is very little talk of but great need, is the pursuit of federal and private grants. The federal government and private foundations are offering hundreds of grants to help fund public education. Grant funds are used for school programs, curriculum development, professional development for teachers, technology equipment and software, and technological training. One school district in Nevada, the Washoe County School District, raised $63 million dollars last year through the application of grants. If every student does indeed come first, perhaps the state should explore how it might work with Idaho school districts to develop a strategic plan to apply for and win federal and private grants.

As a Representative for District 16, please take into account these concerns, as well as others voiced by your constituents.

Thank you,

Joanne Taylor, Boise

*District 16 legislators are Les Bock, Grant Burgoyne and Elfreda Higgins.


Jan 26 2011

Joanne Taylor of Boise Shares Glimpses of Vegas, Behind-the-Scenes Photos

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Before moving to Boise and eventually starting Joanne Taylor PR, I worked in Vegas (and Reno) promoting big-name entertainment, special events, world-class restaurants, and, of course, gaming. I recently came across some old photos from those years and wanted to share a few of them. I posted more on my Facebook page, including a few from my dad’s stash.  Click here, if you’d like to take a look.

It’s funny how callous you become to the whole Vegas thing when being part of it is your job–like the night I stood ringside, at the ropes, next to a Sports Illustrated photographer during the much-anticipated Chavez vs. De La Hoya fight. Great night, and a fierce  fight, but it was mostly work, and I thought of it as such. The three weeks prep time beforehand wiped me out and at 11 p.m., when VIPs and stars broke into full party mode, I went home.

I never asked anyone to take my photo at events or with stars because I was too busy stressing out about everything coming off right. But sometimes, it just happened. Someone would walk up and snap a photo and give it to me later or, in Wayne Gretzky’s case, “their people” would send it to me in the mail (The Gretzky picture was taken after a news conference I organized for the Kings and Rangers at the Hilton). I never asked for autographs, either. My dad taught me not to ask for them. “They’re just people,” he’d say, “most of them with more problems than the rest of us. And, besides, they’re working. Don’t bother them.”

Once, not that long ago, my dad was conducting for Tony Bennett. He asked me if I wanted to tag along, as he often did when I lived there or was in town for a visit. We talked to Tony backstage before the curtain for about 10 minutes. He and my dad were the same age and had become friends over the years they played together. They were reminiscing about the “old days,” laughing, and even talking about their ailments–like older people do. I didn’t think of this as a big deal but I did enjoy the moment. Not because I was talking to a star, but because I was in on this bit of their history, and shared love for music and life. I didn’t need a photo or an autograph; the scene is indelibly etched in my mind.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these few bits and pieces of a time long gone by, and oftentimes missed…

Joanne Taylor of Boise and Jonathan Frakes

This photo was taken of me and Jonathan Frakes at the "after party" of one of the largest and most elaborate events I've seen. It was the groundbreaking for "Star Trek The Experience" at the Las Vegas Hilton. We worked with Paramount to plan and pull it off. The event and party budget was $1 million!

The champ after a training workout in Reno. Foreman is a great guy. Always smiling. Always time for the fans. I ended up sitting at the ring on a milk crate, next to his doctor, during this fight (Foreman vs. Ellis, 1991)


Dec 6 2010

Facebook, twitter unleash the (cowardly) lions

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Facebook and twitter were alive last week with mean-spirited, angry people who used someone’s misfortune to unleash their fury. That someone isn’t a high school misfit or attention-grabbing celebrity. That someone is Kyle Brotzman, a Boise State Bronco who has scored more points than any other player in the school’s history. He’s the NCAA’s active career scoring leader–a guy who has made numerous key plays for the Bronco’s.  A few missed field goals against the University of Nevada, and people start bashing him relentlessly. The treatment he got was so unfair that the Los Angeles Times took note in this article entitled, Boise State’s Kyle Brotzman is a kicker with enough foot but too much on his shoulders.

By now most everyone has seen or heard about this story. My points here are simple, and there are only two. First, this ridiculous state of affairs is reason #43 I say be wary of social media sites and the “friends” who frequent them. Sadly, many who are quick to point fingers, laugh, criticize and ridicule have found a platform-and a hiding place-on Facebook and twitter. Most everyone sees them for who they are, but best to ignore them.

Second, those who are too weak to address an issue with someone face to face, rather than whisper behind walls, and are so miserable that their only enjoyment comes from watching others in pain, should seriously consider a new gig.


Sep 13 2010

With reputation on the line, companies respond to social media pressure

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A lot of good has come of social media in the way of corporate responsibility and accountability. Now, companies that once didn’t give a damn about their publics are just as focused on reputation management as they are on revenue growth. This isn’t news. It’s long been the topic of discussion among business and finance media, bloggers and social media enthusiasts who herald the use of social media as a changing force in the dynamics of corporate responsibility.

Last week, Joanne Taylor PR, a boise-based PR and marketing firm, experienced and benefited from this phenomenon. During the summer, we worked on a campaign for a top search engine. Our contract does not allow me to discuss which one but you can probably figure it out. The campaign was focused on educating small businesses about a new set of services specifically designed for them. It was a fun, and a lot of work.

But payment, which was promised upon completion of the work and receipt of invoice, was slow to come. I let it go for a few weeks and then began to inquire about it. The agency that managed the work answered by saying, on three separate occasions, that the check was on its way. Last week, I found out that the check was not on its way, and I decided to get a bit vocal.

I found the names and email addresses of several people who managed the agency that managed the work. I sent them messages politely making them aware of the situation. I didn’t go twital (that’s like going postal but on twitter) but I did post a few tweets to @s who I knew would see them, and understand the implications if word started to spread. Several companies have experienced the results of social media outcry, and most who are aware of those results probably don’t want to go there. It wouldn’t look good for a company to launch a we-help-small-businesses-succeed campaign and then not pay the small businesses that did the work on time.

Anyway, the response was immediate, and three hours later I received an email saying I would be sent a tracking number in the morning and receive a check the next day. Both happened… now let’s just hope the check clears.

If you want to read more about companies that are doing more to balance reputation and revenue, here’s a related article from Forbes: Making Money in the Reputation Economy.

Thanks for your time and interest. Leave a comment, if you’d like, about how social media has helped you or your company.


May 14 2010

For PR Pros, Digital Media Does Not Change Rules of Engagement

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I’ve been gearing up for a somewhat unusual product launch the past couple of months. The product—autopitch.com—is sort of like reverse eBay. People post the car they want, and dealers and sellers compete for their business. If successful, Autopitch could change the way people search for and buy cars online.

The launch plan called for direct outreach to auto, tech and mommy bloggers, print media, and industry influentials. Communication vehicles included email, twitter and Facebook, chat rooms, community forums and discussion boards.

How different this scenario is from something typical of 3 or 4 years ago. The product, and the communication methods being used to introduce it, would have been completely foreign to most in the PR profession.

The approach, however, is the same. We researched the automotive industry, our targets, their news outlets, and their readers. We became part of the auto industry’s most popular social media circles. We developed a couple strong news hooks, and identified several outlets beyond the obvious where the story got some play. Simply put, we did the groundwork. At launch (May 3), we were prepared.

For the most part, journalists want to talk to PR pros who can offer story ideas and resources. But they expect you to know the rules of engagement. They want you to know when their deadlines are, and they assume you will respect them. They appreciate a brief conversation that has more than just a bit to do with the topics they cover. They expect you to spell and/or pronounce their names right. The only way to ensure you get these things right is by doing your research.

Before you send a single text or direct message, post a tweet, or comment on a blog post, you must do research. There are no exceptions to this rule. If you aren’t knowledgeable about the product, service, trend or topic you are pitching, it will be noticed. If you aren’t familiar with your target and his or her audience, you’ll be mocked in the newsroom or, worse yet, exposed online. (See related TechCrunch article here).

Steve Casimiro, editor at Adventure Life (www.theadventurelife.org) and former West Coast bureau chief at National Geographic Adventure, backs this up.  “Social media, twitter, texting, email all support your message but the most powerful tool is still going to be your relationship with the press,” he said. “Direct, informed contact is always best.”

Pitching profiles posted on the likes of Media Atlas are also telling. BusinessWeek’s “Technology and You” Columnist Steve Wildstrom writes, “The best PR pros read my stuff so they can pitch me on the sorts of things I write about. Don’t send unsolicited products. Don’t call to find out if I got your email. If I don’t respond it’s either because I’m really busy and will get to it later or I’m not interested and don’t have time to respond saying so. The key,” he says, “is understanding how a product or service you are pitching fits into the themes I write about.”

Also remember that despite the brevity that digital communication begs and current generations accept, writing skills are still important. Jill Kuraitis, an editor at NewWest.net, says, “Grammar and punctuation absolutely still matter. The format of your pitch, not so much.”

“Remember,” says Casimiro, “PR people are valuable to the press because they help us do our jobs by providing information we can’t get or can’t get easily elsewhere.”

This was true before the digital age and remains so today.


Jan 22 2010

Boise-based Joanne Taylor PR: Social media is not a strategy

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It’s a medium. Just like TV, the Web or earned media. You don’t start with a social media strategy. You start with a marketing strategy, then employ social media as one of the ways to execute the strategy. For those who keep up with the industry, this isn’t news.

Still, I hear a lot of chatter from people who claim to be social media experts and promise to solve all the marketing ills of the world with a Facebook page, twitter account, or LinkedIn group.

Don’t get me wrong. Social media is effective, as a medium, when used appropriately and judiciously. And, its impact has been proven many times over.

But to hang your hat on social media isn’t doing the company(ies) you represent or yourself any favors. And, it’s limiting to your longevity. It surprises me that even some of the most popular social media players fail to talk about how the tools measure up in the context of the bigger picture–a strategic, integrated marketing plan.

I enjoyed coffee and a good chat yesterday with Sydney Sallabanks of Gallatin Group who said she, too, was tired of social media hype and the number of people claiming to be social media experts. “So what?” she said. “So is my 14-year-old!”

Last thought and something to keep in mind for those who are overusing social media tools: If you are always on–your audience might soon turn off.

Until the next time….