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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Your vote matters

Election Day – Tuesday, November 2 – is approaching quickly. In a state of more than five million people, some wonder if one vote really matters. It does. Hundreds of federal, state and local elections in the United States have been decided by less than a percentage point, including several races in the past decade.
  • The memorable 2008 Coleman/Franken Senate election was decided by a margin of only 312 votes.
  • In 2008, an election for the Alaska House of Representatives was decided by one vote following a recount.
  • An election for the Oklahoma House of Representatives was decided by only two votes in 2006.
  • A gubernatorial election in Washington State was decided by 133 votes in 2004.
  • A primary election for the Ohio Senate was decided by 22 votes in 2004.
  • A U.S. House of Representatives election in Colorado was decided by 121 votes in 2002.
  • George Bush narrowly won the Presidential election in 2000. He won in Florida by 537 votes and in New Mexico by 366 votes. The margin of victory was less than 5% in 12 states and between 5 and 10% in 10 states, making it the closest Presidential election since 1876.
  • Going further back in history, Minnesota’s closest statewide race was decided by only 91 votes. In Minnesota’s 1962 gubernatorial election Karl Rolvaag defeated Elmer Anderson by a margin of 0.01%.
Although the state gubernatorial race has been getting a lot of press over the past few months, there are also several important city and county referendums and races that might not have grabbed the attention of the media. Because fewer people vote in these elections, it is even more important that voters make informed decisions and vote. The Minnesota Secretary of State website has sample ballots listing who and what will be on your ballot.

On November 2, remember to go to the polls, because your vote really does matter.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rock Star PR Move: The Wishing Tree

While strolling around her favorite Minneapolis lake a couple of weeks ago, this GH Spin blogger and her husband stopped abruptly when tiny pieces of neon-colored papers waved at them from a tree along the walking path. Before even knowing what we were seeing, we couldn’t help but smile at the whimsy. Turns out, this “wishing tree” was the first part of the 52-week Hokey Pokey Project, launched by Minneapolis mom Deb Arora and her family. Passersby were prompted to write down their wishes on the tiny pieces of paper and hang them from the tree with pieces of yarn. There were hundreds of them, calling on the giver of wishes for everything from world peace to a dog.

Photo courtesy of the Star Tribune.

We mention it here, not just because it brightened our day, but because it is also a hall-of-fame-worthy Rock Star PR move.

On her blog about the project, Arora said, “For the next fifty-two weeks, my family will strive to create a weekly public project that will serve no other purpose than to make people smile – perhaps hundreds of people or maybe just one. But smiles are the primary goal.”

Arora, a former advertising pro, says her husband’s dream is for the Hokey Pokey Project to become a global phenomenon. As both a do-gooder and savvy marketer, Arora just might pull that off. Her idea has already appeared in the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, and the blogs of other young moms and Lake Harriet enthusiasts.

Friday, October 22, 2010

In case you missed it

It’s been another busy week in the fast-changing communications world. Here are a few updates from The GH Spin’s “In case you missed it” file.
The next odd couple: Northwest Publications, the Pioneer Press’s publisher, announced yesterday that it is partnering with The Onion, and will run the paper’s Twin Cities business operations, including sales, production and distribution. The GH Spin hopes the Pioneer Press takes advantage of The Onion’s outstanding headline writers. Read more here.

The social network meets the retail opportunity: Target has expanded its partnership with Facebook this week past Farmville gift cards. Minnesota’s own discount retailer announced this week that customers will be able to print pictures directly from their Facebook accounts at in-store photo kiosks. Read more here.

Internet use swells to 2 billion: Does it seem like the Internet is getting a bit more crowded? New research says the World Wide Web is on pace to reach more than 2 billion users before the end of 2010, according to a recent report. That means nearly 30% of the world’s 6.9 billion people have access to the Internet. Read more here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Putting the hyper in hyper-local news

There is a new online news source heading into our market that The GH Spin is watching closely.

AOL-owned Patch is putting the hyper in hyper-local news. It is creating community-specific sites for suburbs in 18 states so far (mostly near the coasts). It covers everything from little league games to crime, business openings and “average folks doing extraordinary things.” It will also include directories of local restaurants, businesses and organizations.

In Minnesota, Patch is hiring staff to create sites for several cities in the West Metro (plus Eagan). The first site, covering Edina, is slated to go live on November 1. Local staffers say Patch will expand into the East Metro eventually, but not yet. They don’t plan to serve the downtowns of Minneapolis and Saint Paul because that’s not where the advertisers want to be. Such is the continuation of the micro-targeting of those who consume news and ads.

Mainstream media has been wrestling with the best way to provide the trendy hyper-local news. In this market, Channel 5 has a “Where you live” section on its home page, but the content is light. The Star Tribune has shuffled its special zoned sections several times, trying to find the right fit, and MinnPost is working hard to claim its piece of the online news share in the state. All of these outlets should be watching patch.com very closely, as should local weeklies.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why not to start a sentence with “We need a PowerPoint on…”

I’ve written plenty of PowerPoint presentations in my time. They can be effective and interesting.

But an editorial by Nancy Duarte for CNN.com reminds us why we shouldn’t approach a presentation by thinking of it as a PowerPoint. The better way to approach it is by asking ourselves why we are being asked to speak and what our audience should take from it. After all, the purpose of communicating is to reveal meaning, not just to throw information at people.

I recently wrote a 15-minute speech for someone that included a PowerPoint. The PowerPoint itself consisted of only eight slides (photos, a basic graph, and a memorable quote). That’s because the presenter’s message was strong enough to stand on its own. She used PowerPoint for only one reason: to help make her strongest points resonate with her audience.

Next time you are asked to make a presentation, think first of what you want your audience to remember. Then determine if PowerPoint will help.

Editor’s note: The flowchart referenced at the beginning of Duarte’s editorial was first blogged about by G&H’s Chris Georgacas in March 2010.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Distrust of the media rises

A record number of Americans (57%) said that they have little or no trust in the media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly, according to a recent Gallup poll. This number has been steadily climbing since the mid-1990s, when 45% of Americans distrusted the media.

Additionally, 48% of Americans think the media is too liberal, while only 15% think the media is too conservative. (One-third of Americans believe the media is unbiased.)

What does this mean for the communications world? As media relations specialists, we take these statistics into account as we help clients identify story opportunities, tell the stories in meaningful ways, and share them with the right media outlets. A reliable and trustworthy source is critical to making sure your messages are heard and understood.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Serving intercontinental joy

In 2004 the Minnesota National Guard was not sure what to think about a group of people from Saint Paul who wanted to serve an intercontinental steak dinner to active duty troops in Kosovo and their families at home. Something like this had never been done in the history of the U.S. military.

Six years and seven missions later, Serving Our Troops has become an important partner of the Minnesota National Guard. Volunteers have helped serve more than 50,000 steaks to active duty troops and their families in Minnesota, Mississippi, Kansas, Kuwait, Iraq, and Kosovo. In the process, Serving Our Troops has helped make Minnesota a national leader in supporting active duty members of the National Guard.

On October 3-4, the Minnesota National Guard found a very special way to show its appreciation for the volunteers who made these missions possible. Members of Serving Our Troops participated in a Civic Leader Orientation program, touring the 134th Airlift Wing operations in the Twin Cities, Camp Ripley in Little Falls, and the 148th Fighter Wing base in Duluth.

The volunteers learned more about the Minnesota National Guard, its facilities, and the people who are serving our country. They also flew in C130 airplanes and Blackhawk helicopters, fired weapons from a tank and a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and watched F-16 jets scramble. The slideshow below features pictures from the two-day trip.

Goff & Howard has been a proud supporter of Serving Our Troops since the beginning, and Mike Zipko is one of the founding members. To learn more about the group and to help support what they do, visit www.servingourtroops.com.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Will you ‘friend’ the Facebook movie?

The Social Network opens in theaters today. While the GH Spin does not condone comparisons of this film to Citizen Kane, we can’t help but recognize the significance of a movie that attempts to dissect an empire that has caused a global shift in how we socialize.

In this work of art by Aaron Sorkin and slighted Facebook founder Ben Mezrich, the lead actor looks like Mark Zuckerberg’s twin but many say the similarities don’t carry through the plot. There are squabbles over details such as whether or not Zuckerberg ever really rowed crew or not (who cares?) and when and where a Facebook groupie was arrested for cocaine use (the arrest itself is not disputed.) But, we hope the movie does somehow capture what went on in the early days of the creation of this social media mega-player.

Zuckerberg says he won’t even see it (though there are rumors he sneaked into a preview). Will you?