Six Ways to Get Media Coverage

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As the editor of an outdoor sports monthly magazine – The Outpost – I receive dozens of pitches for media coverage each week. Whether they concern new products, new hunting or fishing shows or (much more commonly) “the most interesting hunting experience anyone has ever had” pitches, I can count on several pitches to be waiting in my email in-box every day.

I am also a content developer and communications specialist for Prejean Creative. This means I have the opportunity to execute content-based marketing programs for our clients which include pitching media outlets for earned media to help leverage this content.

As you can see, in my job (s) I jump from one side of the media desk to the other. When I put on my editor’s hat, I’m deciding whether a story is worth our reader’s time. But when I have on my communications advisor/content developer hat (it’s a little black beret, by the way), I focus on getting our client’s story everywhere their customers might be – including the 10 p.m. TV newscast.

media_coverage_02I’ve been doing this kind of work since I went to work for my little hometown radio station. Okay, I was in high school and we didn’t get a lot of real news there, but I still thought of myself as “the media!” So, I’ve been either pitching or deflecting media pitches forever!

In spite of all the new media tools available to reach your audience – social networks, blogs, video blogs, digital newsletters and magazines – generating traditional media such as newspaper and television coverage for your business or that of your client is still an important part of engaging with existing or potential customers. The marketing theory at work here is: if you engage them, they might actually buy something from you.

Six Ways to Garner Media Coverage
In the years I have been in this line of work, I’ve noticed that there is a right way and a wrong way to do this. (See, your mama was right!) In fact, if you have been tasked with managing your company’s public relations, content development, media relations or anything approaching this dark art, there are at least six things that you should keep in mind.

media_coverage_03If you’re mindful of these six things, you will still not get that story about the kitten who came into your store, hopped up on the cash register and rang up a sale on the front page of the daily newspaper. You will, however, have a better shot of getting real news about your company in front of potential customers, and, if you plan it correctly, they might even start following your company on social networks and sign up for your newsletter. In other words, a good content plan, which is based on good stories and good writing, will help you engage customers.

Make Sure It’s News
This brings us to the first law of media solicitation. Make sure your story is actually news. Every editor believes she’s over-worked and under-compensated and in most cases, she is. The last thing an editor wants to see or hear, first thing in the morning, is an unsolicited story pitch that’s silly, cute or so self-serving it’s nauseating. Don’t be that person.

Editors don’t care about helping you promote your business. They expect you to pay money to their ad sales people for that. Minor changes in staff size or adding a new product to your offerings may not be newsworthy unless they impact your business substantially.

On the other hand, if your CEO has won an award for her philanthropic efforts or your company has won a multi-million dollar defense contract which will allow it to double in size in the coming year, these are real news stories and you should get your facts straight and consider the next step.

Get the Story Angle Correct
Nothing is more infuriating for an editor than getting a pitch from someone who has obviously never read the publication or seen/heard the news program they are pitching. If you’re pitching a magazine, read it before you send the email query. Who are their readers? How old are these readers? Is it gender specific? Do they even cover hard news? Do they run product reviews? Is the subject matter of your story appropriate for them? Why?

media_coverage_04If you get the answers to these questions, it will inform your story’s angle. You will then be prepared when after you email the editor, you follow up with your phone pitch and he asks the inevitable, impatient question: “OK. What d’ya got?” 

Know the Deadlines 
This is the most violated of all media pitching laws. The story may be a monster – full of intrigue, compelling facts and riveting conclusions – but the pitch came after the editor’s deadline and can’t be used. Of course, this drives the editor and the content developer/publicist nuts!

They only stop the presses in movies. The earlier you can get a query in front of a potential media gate-keeper the better. If you’re waiting for some important fact or quote to come in before sending the release, contact the editor, tell him everything you can and ask if it would be acceptable for you to get him the crucial fact as soon as you get it. In most cases, if the story is good, the editor will put together his piece and plug in your last-minute facts.

Every medium has a different deadline. It’s the job of a professional communications specialist to know them all.

Avoid the Tchotchkes – Focus on the Story
Let the story sell itself. Most editors who are worth their salt don’t respond to gimmicks and company paraphernalia. When I receive gifts with a press release, I am immediately suspect of the story.

media_coverage_05The best way to get a story covered is to write a press release or advisory with a compelling, but not bombastic lede paragraph, add 3 to 5 supporting facts and give a brief background on the company. Include a simple email query to the appropriate editor, noting the 2 or 3 reasons why this story should warrant her attention and ask if she would rather you call, text or email for a follow-up.

Get to Know the Editors
If it is possible, arrange for a time when you can have a cup of coffee with the news directors or assignments editors for the media you are hoping to interest in stories about your company. It doesn’t have to take more than an hour and it doesn’t have to be at a fancy restaurant. You should also avoid any direct pitch during this first meeting.

Coffee and conversation about your company and what they are looking for in stories should be the only objectives of this meeting. If it’s not possible to get a face-to-face meeting, try using Skype or the old fashioned phone call to get to know these editors and what their objectives are.

Integrate Your Content over All Media
If you’re still using a press release as your only tool for generating media coverage, you’ve been watching too many episodes of Mad Men. There have been many changes in the way content marketing is used in an integrated communications strategy and you should be using them to build customer engagement. In fact the very term “content marketing” is misunderstood by many marketing/public relations practitioners.

Compelling, knowledgeable content, which is packed with facts, quotes and video, when properly deployed, can yield impressive results for customer engagement. It can also lead to additional media coverage. Here’s an example. A highly specialized medical practice hired me to write a series of blogs which are posted every week and tied to a topic that is trending on the popular search engines. My task (and it’s not a simple one) is to tie the trending topic to the search engine keywords and services of the medical practice.

By using appropriate links and tags and by scrupulously choosing a highly trending topic, this “smart content” blog has resulted in a substantial increase in traffic to the practice’s website. We have also aggressively posted links to this blog on their social media which has resulted in even more readership.

Interestingly, it has also resulted in the coverage by the local media in this Top 10 U.S. market. In several cases, the blog post was used as a tool to solicit local and regional television, radio and daily newspaper coverage. Plus, when this story appeared in other media, we produced follow-up blogs which featured the video/audio/print clips from this coverage. Now, the medical editors of the traditional media in this city get RSS feeds of every blog we post.

And Finally…
Make it easy on the poor editors. They know you have a job to do, which is to promote the company you work for, but they have one, too. If you consistently give them real news, written in a professional and concise manner, you will become a valuable resource for them. If you give them hyperbole with no news value, you won’t.

The best advice is to really think it through before the pitch queries start flying out of your laptop. Know their audience and your objectives. With a good pitch and some luck, you might even get that kitten at the cash register story covered.

If you have questions about content marketing or public relations, give us a shout.

Six Ways to Get Media Coverage

media_coverage_01b

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the editor of an outdoor sports monthly magazine – The Outpost – I receive dozens of pitches for media coverage each week. Whether they concern new products, new hunting or fishing shows or (much more commonly) “the most interesting hunting experience anyone has ever had” pitches, I can count on several pitches to be waiting in my email in-box every day.

I am also a content developer and communications specialist for Prejean Creative. This means I have the opportunity to execute content-based marketing programs for our clients which include pitching media outlets for earned media to help leverage this content.

As you can see, in my job (s) I jump from one side of the media desk to the other. When I put on my editor’s hat, I’m deciding whether a story is worth our reader’s time. But when I have on my communications advisor/content developer hat (it’s a little black beret, by the way), I focus on getting our client’s story everywhere their customers might be – including the 10 p.m. TV newscast.

media_coverage_02I’ve been doing this kind of work since I went to work for my little hometown radio station. Okay, I was in high school and we didn’t get a lot of real news there, but I still thought of myself as “the media!” So, I’ve been either pitching or deflecting media pitches forever!

In spite of all the new media tools available to reach your audience – social networks, blogs, video blogs, digital newsletters and magazines – generating traditional media such as newspaper and television coverage for your business or that of your client is still an important part of engaging with existing or potential customers. The marketing theory at work here is: if you engage them, they might actually buy something from you.

Six Ways to Garner Media Coverage
In the years I have been in this line of work, I’ve noticed that there is a right way and a wrong way to do this. (See, your mama was right!) In fact, if you have been tasked with managing your company’s public relations, content development, media relations or anything approaching this dark art, there are at least six things that you should keep in mind.

media_coverage_03If you’re mindful of these six things, you will still not get that story about the kitten who came into your store, hopped up on the cash register and rang up a sale on the front page of the daily newspaper. You will, however, have a better shot of getting real news about your company in front of potential customers, and, if you plan it correctly, they might even start following your company on social networks and sign up for your newsletter. In other words, a good content plan, which is based on good stories and good writing, will help you engage customers.

Make Sure It’s News
This brings us to the first law of media solicitation. Make sure your story is actually news. Every editor believes she’s over-worked and under-compensated and in most cases, she is. The last thing an editor wants to see or hear, first thing in the morning, is an unsolicited story pitch that’s silly, cute or so self-serving it’s nauseating. Don’t be that person.

Editors don’t care about helping you promote your business. They expect you to pay money to their ad sales people for that. Minor changes in staff size or adding a new product to your offerings may not be newsworthy unless they impact your business substantially.

On the other hand, if your CEO has won an award for her philanthropic efforts or your company has won a multi-million dollar defense contract which will allow it to double in size in the coming year, these are real news stories and you should get your facts straight and consider the next step.

Get the Story Angle Correct
Nothing is more infuriating for an editor than getting a pitch from someone who has obviously never read the publication or seen/heard the news program they are pitching. If you’re pitching a magazine, read it before you send the email query. Who are their readers? How old are these readers? Is it gender specific? Do they even cover hard news? Do they run product reviews? Is the subject matter of your story appropriate for them? Why?

media_coverage_04If you get the answers to these questions, it will inform your story’s angle. You will then be prepared when after you email the editor, you follow up with your phone pitch and he asks the inevitable, impatient question: “OK. What d’ya got?” 

Know the Deadlines 
This is the most violated of all media pitching laws. The story may be a monster – full of intrigue, compelling facts and riveting conclusions – but the pitch came after the editor’s deadline and can’t be used. Of course, this drives the editor and the content developer/publicist nuts!

They only stop the presses in movies. The earlier you can get a query in front of a potential media gate-keeper the better. If you’re waiting for some important fact or quote to come in before sending the release, contact the editor, tell him everything you can and ask if it would be acceptable for you to get him the crucial fact as soon as you get it. In most cases, if the story is good, the editor will put together his piece and plug in your last-minute facts.

Every medium has a different deadline. It’s the job of a professional communications specialist to know them all.

Avoid the Tchotchkes – Focus on the Story
Let the story sell itself. Most editors who are worth their salt don’t respond to gimmicks and company paraphernalia. When I receive gifts with a press release, I am immediately suspect of the story.

media_coverage_05The best way to get a story covered is to write a press release or advisory with a compelling, but not bombastic lede paragraph, add 3 to 5 supporting facts and give a brief background on the company. Include a simple email query to the appropriate editor, noting the 2 or 3 reasons why this story should warrant her attention and ask if she would rather you call, text or email for a follow-up.

Get to Know the Editors
If it is possible, arrange for a time when you can have a cup of coffee with the news directors or assignments editors for the media you are hoping to interest in stories about your company. It doesn’t have to take more than an hour and it doesn’t have to be at a fancy restaurant. You should also avoid any direct pitch during this first meeting.

Coffee and conversation about your company and what they are looking for in stories should be the only objectives of this meeting. If it’s not possible to get a face-to-face meeting, try using Skype or the old fashioned phone call to get to know these editors and what their objectives are.

Integrate Your Content over All Media
If you’re still using a press release as your only tool for generating media coverage, you’ve been watching too many episodes of Mad Men. There have been many changes in the way content marketing is used in an integrated communications strategy and you should be using them to build customer engagement. In fact the very term “content marketing” is misunderstood by many marketing/public relations practitioners.

Compelling, knowledgeable content, which is packed with facts, quotes and video, when properly deployed, can yield impressive results for customer engagement. It can also lead to additional media coverage. Here’s an example. A highly specialized medical practice hired me to write a series of blogs which are posted every week and tied to a topic that is trending on the popular search engines. My task (and it’s not a simple one) is to tie the trending topic to the search engine keywords and services of the medical practice.

By using appropriate links and tags and by scrupulously choosing a highly trending topic, this “smart content” blog has resulted in a substantial increase in traffic to the practice’s website. We have also aggressively posted links to this blog on their social media which has resulted in even more readership.

Interestingly, it has also resulted in the coverage by the local media in this Top 10 U.S. market. In several cases, the blog post was used as a tool to solicit local and regional television, radio and daily newspaper coverage. Plus, when this story appeared in other media, we produced follow-up blogs which featured the video/audio/print clips from this coverage. Now, the medical editors of the traditional media in this city get RSS feeds of every blog we post.

And Finally…
Make it easy on the poor editors. They know you have a job to do, which is to promote the company you work for, but they have one, too. If you consistently give them real news, written in a professional and concise manner, you will become a valuable resource for them. If you give them hyperbole with no news value, you won’t.

The best advice is to really think it through before the pitch queries start flying out of your laptop. Know their audience and your objectives. With a good pitch and some luck, you might even get that kitten at the cash register story covered.

If you have questions about content marketing or public relations, give us a shout.

How Economic Theory Can Affect Your Next Campaign

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Consumers tend to make up their minds about products and services based on the last thing they heard about them. If you think this is too simplistic or you’re dubious, please take a minute and Google “Daniel Kahneman” or just click on this link. This search will likely lead you to his theory of “availability heuristic” and this might encourage you rethink what you are absolutely certain is true.

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Aside from being a tongue-twister, availability heuristic can be broadly defined as making a decision or leaping to a conclusion based upon the most immediately recalled memory related to that idea. Dr. Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize for Economic Science in 2002 and wrote his bestselling book Thinking Fast and Slow  in 2011, is the world’s leading expert on the psychology of judgment. His concept of availability heuristic is one of several cognitive ways we humans make mistakes based on bias.

How about an example of this pesky but all-too-human tendency? Someone might say people who drive red cars get more tickets because the person making the statement has a buddy who has a red car and gets lots of tickets. There is no data supporting this theory of red cars = more tickets and the reality is the buddy likes to drive fast and therefore gets tickets because of this. A conclusion was leapt, and unfortunately, this type of leaping happens every day at the grocery story, the car dealership, the voter’s booth and every other venue where human judgment is tested for accuracy.

Why Should You Care?
If you’re someone who’s involved in marketing, advertising, promotion or public relations, the fact that consumers are making up their minds on products, services and even elected officials based on whatever rises to the top of their consciousness – whether it’s true or not – should give you pause. At the very least, those of us who are in the business of telling compelling stories about our products should be thinking long and hard about the way in which we’re telling these stories.

If the concept of the available heuristic is valid (and it seems to be), how do we ensure our message stays top of mind? Our jobs as designers, copywriters, web developers, bloggers, marketing executives and every other link in the marketing food chain must be to apply the best possible strategic thinking and tactics towards shifting a consumer’s memory and helping him/her avoid an inaccurate judgmental bias.

economic_theory_quotes2This requires us to make our ideas, and those of our clients, come alive. Boring facts delivered by a talking head – especially a talking head which is screaming about the latest discount offer for a commodity – will not rise to the level necessary to overcome most of the biases of the vast majority of consumers. Real stories, told in an elegant manner will trigger emotional responses which, over time, will become memorable and lead to a better return on investment in advertising and design.

Another important factor in overcoming the availability heuristic involves having a way to measure the acceptability of the product or service in the minds of potential customers and to ascertain when our message is (or is not) moving the sales needle. Many of us who are involved in the creative process chafe at what we feel is the unending process of comparing metrics – before and after our brilliant campaigns have been launched. However, with no pre- and post-marketing analysis we are just hoping our words and pictures are making an impression on the customer’s attitude. So, even if we’re successful, we don’t know why.

What’s It Going to Take?
Decision-making is a fascinating aspect of economic theory. We can’t always overcome the availability heuristic and other human biases. However, we can be conscious of their existence and develop honest, compelling stories which take them into consideration.

This demands that we create smart messaging – great stories – within a magnetic, consistent design and that we have a way to honestly measure its effectiveness. Without it, predicting the consumer’s decision nothing more than a crap-shoot.

 

 

 

 

 

The Wonders of Facebook

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Facebook users may think their newsfeeds contain nothing more than teens posting selfies, music fans posting cliché lyrics, students ranting about school, or an array of complaints about how horrible Louisiana drivers are. However, a recent personal experience has convinced me this is wrong.

Oh, sure, there was a time when teens and young adults ruled Facebook, but like every great trend, moms, dads and grandmas decided to hop on the Facebook bandwagon. Businesses and marketers soon realized that Facebook is an efficient social networking device. So many target markets and audiences are present and soaking up every minute and every word posted on their newsfeeds.

Marketers and businesses are faced with a tougher task than personal posters when it comes to Facebook posts. They must be sure that every word contributes to the message of what they wish to convey to their audience. They aren’t just posting about what they ate for breakfast. Also, they must be sure to proofread. Businesses with Facebook profiles have turned something so common and routine (i.e. personal profiles) into something that can potentially gain or lose customers.

My Experience
I was able to get a glimpse of the magic of reaching target audiences through Facebook when I was assigned the task of gaining recognition for the Southern Garden Festival. I thought to myself, Facebook posts? No problem; I post at least three a week on my own personal Facebook. However, I did not realize the weight that each word has when you are an administrator for a page and you are not actually posting personally.

Unlike blog posts and personal Facebook posts, copy posted on businesses or organizations’ pages must be short and sweet. It is important that the audience is able to understand the message being conveyed in a short amount of time.

1461627_10152278424631702_3264342206373508477_nThe Southern Garden Festival is an event produced every year in the gardens of Harold and Sarah Schoeffler. The festival benefits a local non-profit organization, Family Promise of Acadiana.

The target audience for this event, horticulture aficionados and art lovers with giving hearts, took to Facebook fairly quickly with fervor.

The posts on the Family Promise Facebook page covered the musicians, the artists and exhibitors, and also the events of the Southern Garden Festival. There were several posts included on the Family Promise Facebook page each week.

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As posts grew more prominent and were posted more regularly, Family Promise views and likes increased substantially. In the end, page likes increase by about 30 percent. The audience became more engaged with the Family Promise page, sharing and commenting on posts.

Covering all the bases of the Southern Garden Festival and giving little teasers beforehand helped get the audience invested in the event and the cause.

What have I learned?
From my experience with the Family Promise Facebook posts, I have learned that it is important to gain interest of the target audience by relating the posts to them. High quality photos that go along with the post also help do the trick. One is never too old for picture books.988435_10152278390681702_8638517945918688120_n

I had the opportunity to attend the Friday night event of the Southern Garden Festival, an Evening Under the Stars, and I was greatly surprised by the large number of people in attendance. It crossed my mind that perhaps our Facebook posts had something to do with this.

Facebook was an important part of the tactics used to increase recognition for the Southern Garden Festival. Alongside social media; newspaper advertisements, email campaigns, PSAs and event calendars also aided in reaching the audience.

970703_10152278396021702_5412790697746644380_nI’m not sure if it was solely social media that brought the guests in attendance to the gardens of the Southern Garden Festival, but I do know that Facebook has made an impact on the people who visit the Family Promise Facebook page. They have become invested in the Family Promise cause.

 

 

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons Sean MacEntee

Getting a Handle on Habits

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Finally! The resolutionaries have retreated back to their couch-potato, carbohydrate-consuming and slovenly ways. It usually happens on or before the Ides of March or at the very latest, April Fool’s Day, every year. They wake up one day and mumble something like: “What the heck was I thinking? I can’t keep doing this! This is crazy!”

You probably know a resolutionary or two. For that matter, you might be one.

They are those well-meaning people who while basking in the glow of that last glass of champagne early on New Year’s Day RESOLVE to change any number of their deleterious ways. They really, really mean to try and do better in the coming year, but somehow they never do.

Automatic Behavior
This predictable turn of events informs a subject which has perplexed mankind and kind women for centuries. The subject is, of course, habits. How do they get started? If it is a bad habit, how does one stop it? If it’s a good habit, how does one start more of them?

In his fascinating book, “The Power of Habit,” business writer Charles Duhigg, explains this phenomenon. As is the usual case with the human condition, it all starts in the brain.

power of habitNeuroscientists trace our habit-making behavior to a part of the brain called the “basal ganglia,” which also plays a key role in the development of emotions, memories and pattern recognition. The much more proactive behavior – making a decision – is made in a completely different part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.

Here’s a key point. As soon as a behavior becomes automatic – lighting up another cigarette, pounding down a six-pack and a bag of potato chips or any of thousands of other habits – the decision-making part of the brain goes into a sleep mode. It’s on autopilot and the plane is going wherever it wants to go.

Looping the Loop
Duhigg notes that every habit starts with a psychological pattern called a “habit loop” which is a three-part process. First, there’s a trigger which tells the brain to go into automatic mode and allow the behavior to go crazy. Then there’s the routine which is the behavior itself. The third step is the reward. This is something your brain likes and helps it remember the habit loop in the future.

habits_quotes1Do you have any bad habits? No. Me neither. However, for that “friend” who might have a few, you might want to encourage him/her to take a vacation.

Habits thrive in the same old routine, taking place in the same old environment. However, when the routine is removed – such as when one is on a vacation – all of the old triggers and rewards are not there. If you want to stop smoking, try starting this process while on a vacation.

Marketing Habits
Choosing which brand of toothpaste or laundry soap is pretty much habitual. Certainly, this brand loyalty must be earned at the beginning of the consumer/brand relationship. However, after this has been completed, the power of the habit loop works its magic. In many cases, a consumer can’t even articulate what pleasurable experience is being derived from his or her purchasing habits.

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According to Duhigg, the marketing gurus of consumer product behemoth Proctor & Gamble used the power of the habit to turn fabric odor eliminator Febreze into a successful product. When this product was first introduced, it came in only one scent and the company’s advertising pitched it as a way to get rid of bad smells. As it turned out, this was the wrong way to start a buying habit.

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After those first (dismal) sales figures came back to the company, P&G pivoted. That’s when it reformulated Febreze to include different scents.

Duhigg notes, “As soon as they did that, people started using it at the end of their cleaning habits to make things smell as nice as they looked,” he says. “And what they figured out is that people crave a nice smell when everything looks pretty. Now, no consumer would have said that, but companies can figure this out, and that’s how they can make products work.”

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The book also notes how chain stores such as Target zero in on pregnant women because their old habits are dramatically changed by the new little bundle of joy in their lives. All of the routines are jettisoned and “suddenly a marketer can come in and sell you new things.” The analysts at Target regularly amass terabytes of data, often collected at the check-out counter, of individual buying habits. This is cross-referenced with credit cards and this is used to start marketing campaigns.

As a sidebar, the privacy breach of Target customers’ credit cards during last Christmas shopping season suggests a little “tweaking” of their data-gathering might be in order. Perhaps the big data collectors at this retailer should spend as much time and resources on monitoring the security of this information as they do in building shopping histories.

Getting a note from the bank saying that one’s credit and debit cards have been compromised by cyber-thieves is one very effective way to break the habit loop of choosing the same old place for shopping. Target now has the challenge of rebuilding the trust lost by the privacy debacle and taking steps to reconstruct the old shopping habit loops. The science behind habits suggests this will not be easy.

So, what’s the most difficult habit you’ve ever overcome? Post below and make us feel better about ourselves.

 

 

 

Agency pro bono work pays off, just in a different way.

fpa_01Like all ad agencies, we at Prejean Creative often have the opportunity to apply our skills to any number of pro bono projects. While these efforts don’t bring cash to our bottom line, they give us something that in many ways is much more valuable — a tremendous amount of satisfaction in knowing that our work is having a positive impact in our community. We’ve adopted one particular nonprofit agency on which to focus our pro bono work, Family Promise of Acadiana. Personally, I’ve been a volunteer for the program since my church became a host congregation, and I am now serving as the local organization’s board president. Seeing the need firsthand made the choice to offer our agency services free of charge was an easy one.

Part of a national network, Family Promise of Acadiana is a shelter program that helps homeless families regain and sustain long-term independence. It is the only area shelter program that accepts entire families, including men and teen boys.

1972552_10152278449986702_8752295384948965536_nThis weekend, Family Promise of Acadiana hosts its primary fundraiser, the annual Southern Garden Festival. It’s a weekend full of wide-ranging activities including  an elegant alfresco dinner during Evening Under the Stars, garden tours and expert gardening advice, boat tours along the Vermilion Bayou, eco and conservation information, artist exhibits, live music in the gazebo, and more — whew! — all on four beautiful bayou-side acres at the home of Sarah and Harold Schoeffler.

The fact that the Schoefflers open their home and property to this public event is testament to their lifetime of community service. Talk about pro bono work. What we do as an agency to promote the event pales in comparison.

Like us, though, the Schoefflers do this because they believe in the cause it supports.  Statistics, nationally and locally, may surprise you. Since its beginning in 2004, Family Promise of Acadiana has served 86 area families, including 178 children. The majority of our guests are children, and nearly half of the families were unable to enter another shelter because the family included either an adult or teen male. Other shelters require men and teen boys to be sheltered separately from moms, wives and sisters. So that means a single mother with a teen son, a married couple or a single dad with young children face the choice of being separated or staying together with no place to sleep.

This quote in a thank you letter from a single father who graduated from the program says it better than I can: “There is not a whole lot support for a homeless male with children. When I was stranded while visiting Lafayette, away from my spouse with two of my sons, the barriers to shelter were impassable. Many seemed surprised to find a man in my situation. The best advice I got was to place my kids with friends or family and go to the men’s shelter. A family shelter is a blessing, but Family Promise in its mission to teach us to fish, is divine.”

Many of these families have adults who are employed, but simply cannot find affordable housing. While the local housing market is strong, there is a real lack of housing for people making minimum wage or slightly higher. Divorce is often a factor that puts once-stable families into being homeless. Not only do we put a roof over their heads, but provide social service resources to help them beat the cycle of homelessness and achieve long-term independence.

Through the work of our wonderfully dedicated executive director, Renee Menard,  our board, our network of local church congregations from various denominations, and more than 400 volunteers, Family Promise of Acadiana has helped 86 percent of our guest families graduate into permanent housing, with a 92 percent employment rate. These percentages are significantly above the national average for homeless assistance programs.

All reasons why I give my personal time and our agency devotes its pro bono efforts to this organization. I invite you to find out more by visiting the organization’s website and Facebook page. And, plan a visit to Southern Garden Festival this weekend if you can. It’s a fun event and your support will help keep a homeless family together when their world is falling apart.

 

Getting into the Zone

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We’ve seen it happen too many times to be merely coincidence. A basketball player hits a couple of long shots and then becomes unstoppable. Everything he/she throws up is nothin’ but net. For some unexplainable reason, these players enter a kind of ethereal performance trance and take over the game.

This happens in other games, too. For example, there are baseball players who go on extended hitting streaks, hockey players who can’t miss the net, tennis players who blast ace after ace, quarterbacks who complete an uncanny number of passes in a row or golfers who sink a series of difficult putts.

This phenomenon of being seemingly unstoppable is known by a variety of colorful expressions.

  • Having a hot hand
  • Feelin’ it
  • On a roll
  • In the zone
  • Playing lights out

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Skeptical sports experts such as coaches, psychologists or other non-players have always equated this idea of “having a hot hand” as a myth. They chalked up this surreal play to serendipity. In the minds of these naysayers, the player who just hit 5 or 6 three-pointers in a row was just lucky. “There’s no hard evidence,” they say. “This is seeing patterns in randomness.”

Well, don’t look now but there is some hard evidence of the existence of having a hot hand and if this research is true, the favorites of the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament had better watch out!

New Research About Being in the Zone 
According to the Wall Street Journal, “It turns out that popular intuition about the hot hand may have been right all along.” The newspaper, known for its business and not its basketball acumen, notes the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will be the site where three Harvard grad students present their research validating the theory of the hot hand.

hh_03The paper, written by Andrew Bocskocsky, John Ezekowitz and Carolyn Stein, notes “a small yet significant hot-hand effect.”  As the WSJ notes, “They devised a formula that, for the first time, controls for variables such as a shot’s location and a defender’s position to better understand its difficulty. The hot-hand effect was masked in the past by the players themselves, the authors contend, since many attempted lower-percentage shots when they were “feeling it,” as the announcer Marv Albert would say.

After analyzing shots in better detail — they surveyed more than 70,000 from the last NBA season and cross-referenced them against play-by-play summaries — the authors say a player can be more likely, not less likely, to make his next shot if he has made several in row. Their hot-hand estimate ranges from a 1.2 to a 2.4 percentage-point increase in likelihood.”

This hot-hand research could also impact the NCAA tournament and the friendly wagers which will inevitably be made on these games. College basketball games are eight minutes shorter than NBA games, and the shot clock is 35 seconds instead of 24. This reduces the number of times each team has the ball, and thus increases the odds of an upset in the single-elimination NCAA tournament if an underdog team gets “hot.” It also can help a postseason favorite like eighth-ranked Creighton, which is tops in the country in three-point percentage.

Just a word to the wise when you’re putting together those brackets this year.

So What?
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Maybe your days of playing basketball are over. Why should you even be interested in this concept of a player having a hot hand unless you have a friendly wager or two on the NCAA tournament? Here’s why.

If an athlete can be on a roll and virtually unstoppable, can this phenomenon extend to the real world of work? We’ve all heard the sports metaphors used in a work situation; e.g. that new product was a home run! In fact, many people – especially those in competitive industries – think of their job as a contest. Money is just a way to keep score.

This begs the question: Can companies have a hot hand? The simple answer is yes, they can. However, as your economics teacher probably noted, “the devil is in the details” and these details are made up of myriad and often subtle factors.

Unlike an individual player who starts lighting up the scoreboard, an enterprise can only get a hot hand when (1) factors in the market favor this and (2) it is prepared to take advantage of this opportunity. Getting a hot hand in business seldom (if ever) occurs in vacuum. To torture the sports metaphor even further, the playing field must be conducive to a company getting in the zone.

Recent business history is replete with companies coming from virtually nowhere to market dominance. Apple, Facebook, Google, just to name three, were companies that had brilliant leaders, innovative products, adequate capital and perhaps most importantly, strong market demand for these products. However, for every Apple there are hundreds of companies, such as BitCoin, which went from boom to bust in a very short time.

What Companies Have a Hot Hand Now?
hh_02bThe combination of market forces, innovative leadership and adequate capital are giving some companies a hot hand today. Recently, MSN Money picked five of these companies and suggested why they were in the zone.

 

 

  • Yelp
    The company likes to say these reviews put “word of mouth” online, for the 100 million-plus people who use the site each month. But starting next year, those reviews will also start putting profits into Yelp’s bank account. Analysts expect Yelp to earn 22 cents a share in 2014, compared with expected losses this year.
  • Tesla
    The Model S is hot. It won the Motor Trend Car of the Year award for 2013. Starting in late 2014, Tesla hopes to do it again by rolling out the Model X, a minivan-SUV crossover. Unlike other car companies, it owns its dealer network. This helps Tesla keep inventory costs down.
  • KEYW Holdings
    With all of the news about stolen consumer identities, we sometimes forget about the national security threats. KEYW Holding gets most of its money by selling cybersecurity products, spy gear and analytical tools to U.S. intelligence and national security agencies and the Department of Defense.
  • Black Diamond
    It sells outdoor gear — rock climbing equipment, skis, ski poles, bindings, helmets, backpacks, tents, boots and lanterns. It’s capitalizing on its brand strength to expand into apparel. Clothing lines will hit the shelves this fall. Next: footwear. Black Diamond just took over distribution of its products in Japan, and it hopes to use that base to expand in the rest of Asia.
  • KB Homes
    Housing is heating up again, so homebuilders are putting in some scorching growth. KB Homes, which builds in California, Arizona, Colorado, Florida and six other states, should see 41% earnings growth this year, say analysts. Sales rose 59% in the quarter ending Feb. 29, driven by higher prices and robust demand. Net orders rose 40%.

I Think I Can
It’s exciting to see science confirming what athletes have always known. Getting into the zone, having a hot hand, playing lights out or getting on a roll is absolutely intoxicating, whether you’re an athlete or a company. Whatever magic causes this amazing experience it is likely tied to something Norman Vincent Peale coined many years ago – the power of positive thinking.

When you are absolutely convinced that you can do something, more often than not, you can.
Photo Credits: arturodonate , Scott* , ed_needs_a_bicycle , yersin via photopin cc

LEGO Creativity Experiment

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For a toy that’s been around for more than 82 years, LEGO is more popular now than ever before. The LEGO Movie opened on February 7, 2014, and it has been the top box office movie for the first three weeks – grossing $183 million. The plot of this animated gem is not complicated – much like the LEGO blocks – but it is compelling.

An ordinary LEGO mini-figure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary Master-Builder, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil LEGO tyrant from gluing the universe together. 

Meh. Not exactly The Godfather, but take a look at this clip and you’ll see the best product placement (Hello? It’s all LEGOs!) in the history of the cinema. This movie will no doubt introduce an entirely new generation to LEGOs and it begs the question: How has LEGO remained popular with kids of all ages for more than 80 years?

There are many reasons for this LEGO popularity and we’ve snapped together a few of them below. Renewed interest in this remarkable toy also affords us the opportunity to do a little scientific study on creativity.

For this research we have enlisted an award-winning architect – Lynn Guidry – who has designed schools, firehouses, public buildings and private homes throughout south Louisiana and is the man responsible for designing the beautiful Carencro Veterans Memorial, scheduled to be built later this year. Plus, as a lifelong LEGO fanatic, Lynn is also the perfect expert to help us delve into the creativity magnet that is LEGO.

In addition to an outstanding architect, we have asked several brilliant LEGO artisans, of various ages and both genders, to participate in this experiment on creativity.  As you read this post, please notice the various designs, randomly placed throughout the post. They are all completed with the same number and shapes of LEGO pieces. Lynn will give us his analysis at the conclusion and you can add your own opinions to the comments.

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Creative Folks Love LEGOs
According to a 2012 post on the company blog of Shaw Contract Group, a division of the behemoth Berkshire Hathaway Group, LEGOs have inspired 99 percent of practicing architects. That sounds about right. Our own expert – Lynn Guidry – is part of this 99 percent and he continues to enjoy using these multicolored plastic blocks to build elegant columns placed delicately on tasteful plinths with his grandkids.

The LEGO Group, which turned 82 in August, can look back onto an impressive success story – from 1932 to today. The company, founded by Ole Kirk Christiansen as a production company for wooden toys in the Danish city of Billund, has moved from the original small workshop back in 1932, to become the third-largest producer of play materials in the world.

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At the end of the 1940s, the first bricks hit the market, which resemble the modern classic of today. In 1958, Christiansen perfected the LEGO brick with the familiar knobs-and-tubes connecting system, which is what the now 3,120 different LEGO elements are still based on. It is currently represented in more than 130 countries with approximately 10,000 employees.

LEGO Imitates Modern Design
Not only did LEGO affect architects but, according to the Shaw Contract Group, modern design influenced LEGO. “In the 1960s, Modern style became popular in America. LEGO Group challenged its designers to invent a set of components that would add a new dimension to LEGO building. They decided on a smaller LEGO brick that made it possible to construct far more intricate models than ever before. Soon after 1962, the LEGO ‘Scale Model’ line, directly inspired by the work of architects and engineers, was born.”

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Even the most popular newspaper in our nation’s capital, The Washington Post, felt obliged to recognize the importance of these little bricks. “During the time when Modernist skyscrapers touched city skylines, an infinite combination of LEGOs rose to great heights in our childhood bedrooms. This is what makes LEGO so inspiring – that first, tempting taste of what it could be like to dream and build boldly in addition to the possibility and wonder of architecture itself.”

What Can You Tell From a LEGO Design?
Can there be any doubt that LEGOs are the building blocks for creativity in all ages and  both genders? We think not. What is not clear, however, is whether one can determine something about the personality of our LEGO builders, based on their designs.

We asked Lynn to apply his professional expertise and LEGO-centricity to give us his thoughts on the three designs, pictured above. Let’s see what a trained architectural eye sees in these three designs.

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morgan_animated_75DESIGN A:
Very symmetrical, very proper, and loaded with attention. I especially like the vertical element with the horizontal arms. Reminds me of acrobats at Cirque du Soleil, or a venue for diving at the Summer Olympics. But its strongest gesture is in its religious content, so I see a church, Christian-based but probably not for a traditional denomination. At a smaller scale, it could also be a broach on a lady’s lapel. If we turn it on its side, it could be a snow removal machine.

The creator seems to be very grounded and thoughtful. He/she is probably strong in math and engineering, but also has a flair for design. He/she built a box, but found a way to escape the box.

 

                                                                                                                      


nora_animated_75DESIGN B:
 Unbalanced elevation and in plan, which piques our interest. Seems to have a door or window near its base, so the building I see is people-friendly, perhaps vehicle-friendly. Could be a convenience store, or a fast-food restaurant, or a building with an ATM. But because of the forms and colors, I see a Dairy Queen!

The creator appears to be very curious, and searching for excitement, as is seen in the wall opposite the door. That wall uses Legos in a non-horizontal way, making what would otherwise be an un-interesting wall into one that draws our attention. He/she sees the world through fresh eyes, and has a creative gene.

 

                                                                                                                      


kevin_animated_752DESIGN C:
 Could be lots of things. I see one or two people dancing. I see a crab eating. I see excitement and amusement and movement. I see a machine that is used in the construction industry to finish concrete, called a Whirlibird. I see a museum where you take an elevator to the top and walk your way down to see various exhibits.

Very un-symmetrical, but not haphazard; there is a system there. Has height and width. Not tied to a base. Seems fun, but well-constructed as witnessed by the piece near the top that connects at one level, extends out, and then connects at a higher level. It’s casual, but also well thought out.

Creator is an aspiring artist or musician. Buy him/her a bigger box of Legos!

                                                                                                                      

So, do you agree with Lynn? Those of us who managed this experiment were amazed by his insights, because we know who designed each LEGO edifice.

Can we get a drumroll please?
Here are your 2014 Prejean Creative LEGO designers:

DESIGN A was completed by Morgan Chandler,  a 16-year-old, extremely talented visual and performance artist. Her interest in performance art is found in Lynn’s reference to “Cirque du Soleil” and she does, indeed, have a “flair for design!” Rating for the analysis: Spot on!

DESIGN B was completed by Nora Pelloquin who is 5 years old and the daughter of Prejean Creative designer Brent Pelloquin. Lynn nailed her precocious, curious personality, her “creative gene” and her “fresh eyes” (they don’t get much fresher than 5 years old). Rating for analysis: Amazing!

DESIGN C was completed by someone whose job is to design things every day. Kevin Prejean, principal and creative director, built this LEGO design and Lynn absolutely nailed his personality and creative sensibility. He is indeed an “aspiring artist” and we plan on buying him a “bigger box of LEGOs.” Rating for analysis: Uncanny!

What do you think about our three designs? Do you agree with architect Lynn Guidry? Do you still play with LEGOs? Tell us by posting below.

 

Be My Valentine

heart2heartBIt may surprise you to learn that Valentine’s Day was not invented by the chocolate, floral, greeting card, jewelry and restaurant industries. Legends about this February 14th celebration, named after Saint Valentine, abound.

According to The History Channel, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Another story suggests that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. While imprisoned, Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting after he fell in love with a young girl — possibly his jailor’s daughter — who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine.”

Take This Job and Love It
While these Valentine legends may or may not be true, February 14th has evolved into a day where “love” is on the minds of just about everyone. In spite of the mass media’s focus on romantic love and its requirement that couples prove this love with flowers, candy and cards, Valentine’s Day can also remind us of those other things we love – like our job.

If you love your job, you are one lucky person. Since we spend 8 to 10 hours every day (most of our waking hours) on our jobs, it takes most of our energy and time. It’s a “relationship” which can be mercurial, frustrating and demanding. It can also be rewarding, gratifying and fulfilling.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we asked a few of our friends, clients and colleagues to complete the sentence: “I love my job because…” Here are their responses:

mechePeyton Meche  |  Membership Coordinator  |  Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce
I love my job because I love Lafayette and every day I get to work with energetic business-minded people who are invested in making Lafayette a greater place to live, work and raise families!


Kevin Prejean  |  Principal/Creative Director  |  Prejean Creative
I love my job because I love the creative process – ideation, designing, illustrating and problem-solving. It’s rewarding to hit a big idea and move the needle for our clients.

NancyFullWebNancy P Marcotte  |  Broker/Operating Partner  |  Keller Williams Realty Acadiana
I love my job because every day I get the opportunity to solve problems, work with wonderful, fun and high-integrity people, learn new things and help people get into the home, office, land, camp or whatever they are looking for! I also work for the best real estate company in the world, Keller Williams Realty!

Brent Pelloquin  |  Associate Creative Director  |  Prejean Creative
I love my job because it allows me to enjoy the same basic creative exploration process I’ve enjoyed since I started drawing for fun as a kid. I also love the fact that I get to produce work for such a wide variety of industries. One project may be for healthcare, the next for the oil and gas industry, and each project gives me the opportunity to learn more about those fields. It’s anti-assembly line and that makes for some fun days on the job.

tarverMatthew Tarver   |  Assistant Director of Brand Management and Creative Services
Office of Communications and Marketing   |  University of Louisiana at Lafayette
I love my job because I build bridges for the University. My role as branding manager is to connect our business partners and our fans. I get to help develop ways for people to showcase their love of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and to express their Ragin’ Cajuns spirit.

Kim Bonin Chandler  |  Business Manager  |  Prejean Creative
I love my job because it’s doing something that I love, and working alongside some of the most creative people I know!

durelJoey Durel  |  City-Parish Mayor-President  |  City of Lafayette
I get to wake up every morning knowing I will have a chance to make a difference in the lives of people in my community. I know for sure, that every day, I will have a chance to help people.


Lisa Prejean
 |  Principal/Account Director  |  Prejean Creative
There’s a new reason every day to love my job, because each day brings something different. I love helping our clients tell their stories and reach their goals. And I work with some really wonderful people who make my job so much easier because of their talents and positive attitudes.

Allison Dickerson  |  Business & Marketing Analyst  |  Lafayette Utilities System
I love my job because I get to meet and collaborate with new and exciting people every day!

Jordyn LeBlanc  |  Intern  |  Prejean Creative
I love my job because as a new intern, I feel very welcome here. I haven’t been here very long but I already feel as if I am a part of Prejean Creative.

brasseauxGlenn Brasseaux  |  Mayor  |  City of Carencro
I love my job because we have a great team, consisting of our council members, our employees and myself that work hard every day to make our community one of the best places to live, work and raise our families.


Gary LoBue, Jr.
  |  Prejean Creative
I’ve always had the feeling that some of the best things in life are intangible. The job I have is one big, honking intangible; consistently full of surprises (the kind that makes the heart flutter). As such, it smacks dead-nut into my best-things-in-life category. It’s not Westley and Buttercup true love – that’s reserved for the wife, but my job is something I look forward to most every day. That must be love.

wolfMike Wolf  |  Internet Marketing Manager  |  The Stow Company
I love my job because of the great people, the culture of continuous improvement, and the shared passion and empathy for our customers. Everybody from the top down is genuinely committed to success and it makes for a fun, fast-paced, environment with a lot of opportunities to make a difference.

Megan Gonzales  |  Intern  |  Prejean Creative
I love my job because it is a free, creative environment where I can not only learn from and get advice from other team members on my own work, but they also bounce ideas off of me and allow me to be a part of some of the projects they have as well. I have been interning with Prejean Creative just over a year now, and could not be more thankful to have the opportunity to learn from such a great pool of talent and for the chance to feel as “part of the family”.

Renée Menard  |  Executive Director  |  Family Promise of Acadiana
I love my job because every day I get to see the generosity and compassion of the community that I live in. Each day I am amazed that people will donate their time, money and talents to help perfect strangers who have fallen on hard times.

Art Young  |  Content Development  |  Prejean Creative
Getting to work on blogs like this is why I love my job. This is made even sweeter when my friends and colleagues come up with cool content like that found above!

Happy Valentine’s Day from your friends at Prejean Creative!

What You Can Expect in 2014

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Have you noticed? The dawning of a New Year practically screams for pontifications. So, why do we feel the need to make predictions about the coming year? There are several reasons. One, we think our friends, relatives and/or colleagues want to know our opinions. This is, of course, questionable.

Another possible reason we predict is we believe we can force our diabolical plans on the unsuspecting masses simply by printing them on a widely read and highly popular blog such as this. Can we all agree that this is ridiculous?

The most likely reason we choose to make sweeping, ill-informed and, dare we say, silly predictions is because someone asked us to come up with something for his blog post. Of course, there is decidedly a ring of truth in this. In fact, it should be noted that each member of the Prejean Creative team was dragged, kicking and screaming, to the crystal ball table.

art_redSince I pleaded with my colleagues to do this, it’s only fair that I offer my own predictions for the coming year. Please don’t hold me to this. What do I know? I just write content. I don’t have to know anything!

For 2014, I think – NO, I believe – there will be much raging against the giant marketing machine. Big Data, NSA spying, the hacking of Google, Snapchat, Target and who knows who or what else have made normal people, who just want to use their credit card to buy grandma a new shawl, very suspicious of social networks, cookies (not grandma’s – those on the Internet), and behavioral-based marketing of all kinds.

I also predict that a cabal of teenaged computer nerds, working out of a secret location in Nebraska will prove that only 13 people actually read Twitter feeds. The rest of the posts, which are generated by robots, simply travel to the Twitter-sphere, never to be read by another human. Twitter’s stock will tumble.

brent_redMild-mannered but prolific prognosticator Brent Pelloquin weighs in on three critical areas: advertising, sports and the weather.

For 2014, I’m predicting an increase in the use of Augmented Reality (AR) as a supplement to traditional media and print collateral. As we continue to use mobile devices more and more for daily interaction, I believe advertisers will put AR to greater use to create more engaging content. This increased use of AR content, coupled with the development of more user-friendly mobile content, will result in improved ad interaction and retention of information at the point of contact.

In the world of sports, the Cajuns, Tigers and Saints will continue spoiling south Louisiana with their football dominance and the Cowboys of Dallas will experience yet another December meltdown. I’m also going out on a limb and predicting a summer with highs in the low- to mid-90s. Ugh.

lisa_redLisa Prejean thinks (hopes) we’re going to be a lot more careful in 2014 with our media consumption.

Ongoing privacy concerns will cause people to be more cautious in their digital habits. Digital marketers will need to make it worthwhile for consumers to share information. Individuals may experience social network fatigue, peeling back on the number of social networks they actively participate in, making it important for marketers to focus efforts on the key channels (digital and non-digital) that will reach their audiences. Mixing in some “old-school” or traditional communication methods can seem new and refreshing.

gary_redGary LoBue gazes deeply into his somewhat cloudy crystal ball and finds much to ponder.

In social network marketing, Snapchat will flounder. Millions flock to use it only to find out how ridiculously time consuming (or addictive) it will be to stay abreast of their snaps. They will then leave in droves to re-embrace Twitter. Shortly thereafter, an entirely new group of snappers will discover a completely new use for the service. Snapchat will then grow exponentially. Facebook, meh.

Technology will also change in 2014. Streaming touch-points (think Netflix) will find a way to fixate more eyeballs on more product messages in short, staccato bursts.

With regard to media, in spite of what some may believe, traditional print, especially high-end specialty printing, will undergo a significant growth spurt. Young adults (I’m looking at you, millennials), will become fascinated with printed collateral items that marketers richly craft specifically for them on a one-to-one basis.

As far as how creative will change…creative will remain creative.

As to what will drive advertising in the coming year, there’s one factor – the lure of the dollar. In 2014, nothing else will matter.

Buzzwords? You want some buzzwords for 2014?  Here’s your top 10 in no particular order: Fetching. Insulator. Flogger. Wayfarer. Circassian. Trickle-up. Debunker. Placated. Standard-bearer. Stoner.

kev_redKevin Prejean, while not known for his dystopian penchant, sees great upheaval in advertising, marketing and popular culture in 2014.

Social media powers will unite to form one mega-platform called TwittFacePinterLinked.

The Weather Channel will create spring weather events, starting with “Pollen Allergy Storm Allegra.”

Fox News and MSNBC will each report a news event in a professional and ethical manner.

Microsoft will create a Windows Operating System that almost works. Almost.

In the season finale of Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson will come out of the closet and announce his engagement to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The release of the 13th Friday the 13th movie hits theaters – Jason vs. Smaug.

And that, good friends, clients and media partners, is what to expect in 2014. Based on these perspicacious insights, you might want to examine and modify your investment portfolio, hug your children or go off the deep end.  For us, we’ve done all we can do. It’s now up to you to go out there and make it a year to remember!

What do you think will happen in 2014? Tell us (below) and we’ll share with everybody else.