Category Archives: marketing

Mansfield U Zombie Byte Goes International

Recap: I interviewed World War Z author Max Brooks when he visited Mansfield University  in November 2012.  Down-to-earth, direct and  honest, Brooks is an interviewer’s dream.

I had read the book in preparation and knew from hints in the pop culture press,  that the movie would generate international buzz.

I’ve described in the first two posts how we did two half hour TV shows, then pulled a five minute clip in which Brooks talked about how much the movie has in common with his book (none).

We posted the two full interviews.  In May, the Vanity Fair cover story on Brad Pitt and the movie World War Z hit the stands.   That was the opening shot of the international publicity and promotion for the movie.

That’s when we released the five minute clip.  Numerous bloggers and sites, including Fandango, linked our video and posted blogs based on their interpretation of the interview.

I talked in the last post about the mistake I made which probably cost me several thousand views.

Now for the bit of luck I had which gained us several thousand views.  That  came in June, when Brooks declined to talk with mainstream media.

That left them no choice but to reference the Mansfield University video interview for information.

Two of the biggest media outlets –the Associated Press and Yahoo News —  did articles on the movie and the book, using the Mansfield University interview as a source of information.
Both of these articles appeared on the same day, boosting the views of our video  by over 1,000 in 12 hours.

Higher Ed communications guru Dick Jones explained the implications of this.

“The fact that the Max Brooks interview at Mansfield University was referenced by Yahoo and The Associated Press resulted in worldwide media attention for the school,” Dick said.  “That’s because Yahoo and AP are important third-party indicators of quality to media outlets and individual news consumers everywhere.  If AP and Yahoo run with a story, then editors and news directors at all media outlets will view it in a much more favorable light and are much more likely to run it.  And so it proved with this story.  Once given that seal of approval by AP and Yahoo, there was no stopping this one.”

He added that there are a handful of traditionally credible news sources.  “The AP is right at the top.  Yahoo, while much newer, has great clout also due to its platform as the default news provider for millions of individuals.”

Dick concluded by saying, “One take-away from this project has been the affirmation that for AP and Yahoo—and by inference for many other media outlets—YouTube interviews are a credible on-the-record source for journalists today—given equal value with original reporting.”

The other take away is that while the media has changed, the core values of good reporting, honest interviews and solid facts, remain of utmost importance.


Zombie March Leads Viewers to Mansfield University

I hadn’t planned a second post on this but it’s been an adventure and a learning process.
As of today, seven weeks after posting the Max Brooks five minute interview in which he talks about his novel World War Z and the Brad Pitt movie, it has earned  about 36,200 views, 18 comments, 216 likes and 8 dislikes.
We’re grabbing  about 600 views a day.
I had mentioned in the first post that numerous genre bloggers had posted links to the video and did their own commentary which helped enormously.
The international promotion machine designed to guarantee that the movie was a success, only helped our videos.
The  full length Conversations One and Two  interviews have also had steady growth in views, staying almost dead even with each other at around 3,200 views, telling me that viewers seek out the shows following the short version.

Here, I confess a big mistake, or at least a large oversight that no doubt cost us in the publicity game.
A viewer commented on the short video that she wished I had included the last two minutes of Conversations 2.  I had no idea what she was talking about so I reviewed the show’s last two minutes.  Brooks is talking again about how he wants people to know that the movie is nothing like the book.  He says the publishers insisted on doing a movie tie-in edition.  “I don’t want Brad Pitt on the cover of my book,” he says quite forcefully.  “I don’t want people thinking Brad Pitt is in my book.”

I had totally forgotten this segment.  So had my two cameramen and the editor.  It was the perfect sound byte and a line that dozens of bloggers and media outlets would have picked up on.

We decided that doing an “expanded” or “director’s cut” version including the two minutes would just confuse people and to leave well enough alone.  I don’t know if it was the right decision or not.

What I had done was to go to the show and fast forward until I hit the section I remembered and told the editor to pull that five minutes, give it a new intro and we’d post it.  Lesson: I should have reviewed the entire show.

We’re all trying to do several things at once, meet numerous deadlines and rushing to keep up.  In this case, it hurt us.

To survive  in this business, you acknowledge your mistakes or oversights, make a mental note, and move on.  But for a time, I will have visions of headlines in the Huffington Post, Slate, National Enquirer and blogs: “Author says, ‘I Don’t Want Brad Pitt on the Cover of my Book!'”

How often does that chance come along?

Oh yeah, about once in a lifetime.


Next: A bit of luck that gave a major boost to our views and a small, important revelation from communications guru Dick Jones.

Repurposing Zombie Interview for Lively Results

When our Student Activities Director said he’d booked Max Brooks, author of the  post-apocalyptic zombie novel World War Z: An Oral History, for a visit to Mansfield University campus in November 2012, I asked him if I could have the author for a couple hours  to interview him on my half hour talk show “Conversations.”
I also volunteered to take the author to lunch. I knew the novel was a best seller but research showed that Max Brooks is a very respected name in the zombie world.

And the zombie world is huge.
I wanted to do the interview for two reasons.
1. Brooks knows his stuff: geography, politics, climate, plagues, infrastructure,  communities and nations working together to rebuild after international calamity. That’s why the Naval War College takes him seriously.
2. Problems plagued the film production. It began with a bidding war between Brad Pitt and Leonardo DeCaprio before the book was even published. Pitt won and the problems began with the script and continued through production and post production. This was going to build to really major publicity.  MU could be in the mix.
My show airs weekly on regional cable outlets, but I also have my own Mansfield University YouTube channel where we post all the shows. It was a no-brainer that World War Z the film was going to create a lot of chatter world-wide and I was being handed a gift.
I read the novel , an interesting, intelligent treatise in the manner of Studs Terkel’s oral histories.
Brooks and I had lunch in a quiet restaurant and began talking. Almost immediately he exclaimed: “You’ve read the book! I can tell in the first 30 seconds if the interviewer has it – and 90 percent of them haven’t.”
We had a lively discussion ranging from zombies to his parents  to his childhood fears that led to his study of zombies. Later we did two half hour interviews. The first was about zombies, what they represent and how to survive zombie attacks. The second was about the writing life and growing up in Hollywood with parents Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, and, of course, the movie.

Once they were posted, the interviews did respectably for a specialized subject – a few hundred views each. Then, in April 2013, when the Vanity Fair cover story on Brad Pitt and World War z hit the stands, I pulled a five-minute clip from “Conversations” and produced a stand-alone video, and an audio podcast.
I took the information from the interview and wrote a blog for Huffington Post entitled, “World War Z Author Says Movie and Book Share Title Only.” It included links to the two shows and the shorter interview. It went live May 9.

By the end of the day, the video had picked up 48 views.  Folks on my FB page began sharing it.  Genre bloggers grabbed the clip and posted blogs about the interview.

Ten days later  the interview had scored 6,150 views, about 600 views a day.  The “Conversations” interviews picked up several hundred more.

Of course,  Mansfield University is mentioned at the beginning of the shows and in the Huffington Post blog.  I expect all will continue to attract viewers and readers as the World War Z promotion machine kicks into full throttle.

None of the above cost the university a cent other than my time.

Footnote: Producing your own talk show is not complex. I use our TV Services director. We shoot it in the studio and occasionally on location. I give him general directions, sometimes provide photos for B-roll , and he does the editing. It’s great for college-community relations and YouTube, of course, gives you a potential international audience.
I’ll do a future post on  hosting and distributing your own show in the future if you’re interested.

Why My Book Was Banned

I’m posting this because it was a PR/Library project that was wildly successful.  Some people told me that promotions like this sometimes backfire.  No one said life is safe.

Librarians keep track of books, answer questions and help people in their quest for knowledge.
I never thought of them as courageous.
But something happened this week that gave me a profound respect for several librarians in particular and the profession in general. In a discussion about Banned Book Week recently, one librarian said that in her high school Lord of the Flies was banned because it depicted a group of boys taking power too far.
“Then you should ban mine, “ I said, referring to One Woman’s Vengeance. “It’s about a female protagonist who takes the law into her own hands and kills people. It’s violent. It has graphic sex and a lot of adult language.”
A few days later Amanda Sanko texted  and asked if they could talk with me. So we met. “People in general are complacent,” Nichole Book said. “They don’t understand how dangerous censorship is. We want to find a way to wake people up.” Jamie Harris agreed. Scott DiMarco, library director, agreed.
They asked if they could ban my book.
These are four librarians passionate about their beliefs that everyone should have open access to all knowledge.
“You’ll take criticism,” I said. They nodded. They understood.
Scott stopped in my office later. “We’re doing this for a good reason – to remind people of the importance of having access to information,” he told me, knowing what they were getting into. “I hope we’re redeemed in the end. We have never banned a book in this library, and we never will again.”
They made a simple announcement on Facebook that One Woman’s Vengeance was removed from the shelves due to a parent complaint.” I shared it on my wall. The reaction was immediate. Within 15 minutes a reporter called. Alumni wrote in. My Facebook friends posted their outrage.
The criticism was intense and widespread.
Someone created a Facebook page protesting the band. Messages came in from around the country.

Librarians are the guardians of open access to knowledge and everyday a librarian somewhere is tested. All it takes is one person with a passionate belief to pressure a principal or a school board or a board of a community library to remove a book from the shelf, taking it away from the community.
It’s a symbolic form of book burning. For centuries, kings, churches and despots have understood the power of the printed word. They have known, and still do, if they control what knowledge you receive, they control your thoughts and actions.
This control is widespread in many parts of the world. It is shameful that in this “land of the free” that even one book can be banned.
Why? Because once one book is banned, all books are targets.
This extends to TV, radio and the Internet.
I thank everyone involved in the banning of One Woman’s Vengeance, from the librarians who courageously created the project and saw it through, to students, alumni and fans who expressed their thoughts and feelings.
I hope that people were inspired to think about– and be aware of– censorship not just one week a year but every day. One of our most important rights is the freedom to read, watch and listen to anything we want without fear of reprisal or censorship.
Understand that I don’t see any financial gains from this. All proceeds from my two books go to a scholarship fund for future MU English majors. My goal is $10,000 to endow it and benefit students for generations.
The aim of the Vengeance Project was to emphasize the importance of freedom of information to everyone, everywhere, forever.
Thank you for making this a lively, thoughtful and passionate conversation.

Here’s the video finale.

Love Me Tender: Elvis’ Top 20 part 1

August. Off topic. Let’s have some fun. This is a repost from a recent Huffington Post blog. Read, watch, listen. Enjoy

I grew up in the ’50s listening to Elvis. As a musician, I played Elvis songs. On my weekend radio program I had a regular Elvis spotlight. I know Elvis’ music.

But then, so does everybody, of all ages.

On the 35th anniversary of his death I decided to round up the top 10 Elvis songs. I called upon my Graceland Irregulars (okay, Facebook friends) and was overwhelmed. He was so influential in our culture for two decades, that I wound up with the Top 20 Elvis songs.

There are three stages of Elvis, each combines music and image.

There’s the ’50s Elvis, the rebellious hip-swinging sultry sex symbol, the likes of which no one
had ever seen before. The ’60s Elvis starred in cookie-cutter mediocre movies (with a few exceptions). The 1968 black leather Elvis morphed quickly into the ’70s, cape-wearing,Vegas showman and uncontested King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

From Ed Sullivan to Hollywood to Vegas, Elvis changed his image and his music and created an indelible icon stamp at each stage. No one in the history of music had ever done this and probably won’t again.

Here’s the Top 10 from his early years:
“Heartbreak Hotel,” 1955. He took a good song and made it great, moving from an anguished scream to a cellar low “I get so lonely I could die,” creating both musical and visual moods that are still fresh.
“Blue Suede Shoes,” 1955. Driven by his energy on stage and in the studio, Elvis turned silly songs into cultural dictates, unleashing the pent-up feelings of ’50s teens (and scaring the hell out of adults who smashed his records).
“Don’t Be Cruel,” 1955. Listed as No. 197 in the Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and again is a masterful play between beseeching apology and masculine declaration. Summary: Sorry I made you mad. Let’s get married.
“Hound Dog,” 1955. Elvis took Big Mama Thornton’s steamy, female sex dictum and turned it into a larynx-ripping call to rock. Children sang it and still do.
“Love Me Tender,” 1956. Just Elvis and guitar, displaying an nuanced display of gentle strength and pledge of love. The timeless ballad is a masterpiece in simplicity and, well, tenderness.
“All Shook Up,” 1956. The phrase entered young society’s vocabulary while giving Elvis an overt reason continue honing sexy moves. (A friend told me that her teacher told her class that she experienced her first orgasm at an Elvis concert.)
“Jailhouse Rock,” 1957. The driving two-chord slide and solo drum paved the way for power chord songs of the ’60s and ’70s.
“Are You Lonesome Tonight,” 1960. It’s a masterwork of desolation, loneliness and rumination and if you truly listen to it and feel it, you will cry, because we’ve all felt this way at some point in our lives.
“It’s Now or Never,” 1960.His biggest selling song ever is based on the “Oh Solo Mio” tune. It’s the ultimate seduction song. The singer comes on with the statement “It’s now or never,” and moves from manly determination to a soft plea, ending with a soaring cry of primordial masculinity: “My love won’t wait.” Elvis’ masterful inflections encapsulate a mating game that every man has performed for centuries.

“Viva Las Vegas.” Elvis did 31 movies, from mediocre to vacuous, but the 1964 “Viva” captures the energy, abandon and glitz of the city that rejected Elvis, until he came back and took it over. (Note the pre-Michael Jackson moonwalk steps.)

Next post: Elvis gets serious, ups the musical ante and changes stage shows forever.

Pinterest: Evolution Means You’re Not In Control

We in the marketing business are shameless users, snatching  the latest social media hit which always starts out as a fun, sharing platform among students, hobbyists, musicians, grandparents.

As soon as we see it grab traction, we jump on the machine  to see if we can steer it toward our purposes.

But in the beginning, we never have control of the steering wheel or the direction.

Pinterest is the latest platform exploding onto the scene.  Its mission is  to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting.”

Wikipedia also reports that for “January 2012 comScore reported the site had 11.7 million unique U.S. visitors, making it the fastest site ever to break through the 10 million unique visitor mark.”
Recently there was an interesting CUPRAP thread (CUPRAP is the world’s best organization for PR and marketing folks.)
There were many questions.  Who uses Pinterest?  What is the ROI?  Who is the  target audience?
It’s too early to ask these questions.   We’re in new territory.  Study it, play with it and experiment.
Seven years and a universe ago,  MU gained international attention for its use of podcasting. Now it’s not in the news but tens of millions of people listen to podcasts. Facebook was a college game and evolved into a $100 billion business.
Is Pinterest headed in the same direction?  My guess is yes.
Remember, we, the marketers are the intruders. Pinterest started as a site where people (mainly women) shared recipes, patterns, quilts.
It grew quickly  into much more and now we’re trying to make it work for us.
Don’t try to control it. You can’t. Social media evolves itself. Don’t ask right now what your target audience is. The target audience finds you if you do it right. Don’t ask what the ROI is. The target audience delivers it if you do it right.
How do you do it right?  You experiment.

As Mike Moran says Do It Wrong, Quickly.

We’re exploring Pinterest  at Mansfield and I’m experimenting with it personally.  UW Tacoma has a good site with variety and a sense of play, and other schools are fast joining the party.

Forget the “suit” questions right now.

Have fun and make sure your boards — interesting and substantive —  are there when your audience comes searching for  for you.

Pinterest: Have Fun, Keep It Real

I’m seeing Pinterest as a new wave viewbook.  Granted, high school students and parents haven’t caught up with it, but then, neither have colleges.

Our current viewbooks and recruiting materials are our packaged goods using  the old media philosophy of “this is who we are and we hope we can sell you on who we say we are.”

Pinterest offers a new slice of the 2.0+ philosophy.  The 2.0 language is: “This is who we are and we invite you to join in our discussions.”  The new spin is “this is who we are and we invite you to share our pictures/videos and comments.”

A student or a parent can poke through the boards to get a feel for the campus, its programs and activities.  But like all social media, it has to be real.  If you create boards that are as stiff, clunky and, mmm, didactic as printed materials sometimes are, your boards will fall flat.

There is a discussion about copyright which revolves  around people repinning photos of others, not knowing if they’re copyrighted.  Almost everything we post is ours. We own the pictures and we want you to repin them.  Just as we want you to share the photos on our website, our videos as well as our Facebook and Twitter material.

One reader commented on the last post that she’s worried about copyright if the school posts, say, the cover of a faculty book or bookstore items.  I’m not a lawyer but I can’t imagine a publisher or manufacturer getting upset about promoting their products.  As long as there is no misrepresentation or a third party making profit from their works, there shouldn’t be a problem.

The only glitch we’ve had is an artist who insists on approving photos taken of him in performance.  We’ve been waiting now for several weeks.  We haven’t heard from hm so we’ll use what we want.  Marilyn Monroe might have had approval rights, but this is a different age, one in which an audience member takes a picture and posts it on YouTube before the artist finishes his first verse.

Right now it’s important to get a Pinterest board started.  The possibilities are nearly endless.  The seasons, club activities, video testimonials,  and projects.  The secret is to keep it real and create categories that others — parents, students, alumni and constituents –are  interested in.

And it should cost next to nothing.  At Mansfield, we have a photo library of 40,000 + photos, student video testimonials, TV shows and more.  With some creative thinking about boards, they  fall together pretty easily.

It does take time to produce each board but with careful photo/video selection and tight writing, they shouldn’t have to be updated too often.

In fact, by the time your boards need to be updated, the print viewbook might well be a historical mention in Wikipedia.

A good introduction is The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Your Blog, Podcast or Videos with PinterestIt’s a free download and aside from the writers using “great” every other graph, it is written in a simple and lively way and has good, solid information.

It didn’t take long for us marketing folks to see a new venue to promote our stuff. Is it a good venue?

Actually, I think it’s excellent.

The bottom line is to be there when the audience comes looking for you.