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Marc Stryker


Here’s what the Penna Powers people were reading in 2014:

Yes Please by Amy Poehler – Read this as the companion piece to Tina Fey’s hilarious Bossypants. Yes, please, we want more of Amy Poehler.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Beautiful story about a blind French girl, set during Nazi-occupied France in World War II.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – Hilarious novel about a brilliant genetics professor with Aspergers who sets out to find himself a wife in the most unusual, awkward and comedic way possible.

The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero –  This is not the Twilight of plastic surgery adventures.  Nevertheless, we loved this clever and absorbing gothic ghost story/treasure hunt of a novel.

Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull – Ever wonder how Pixar consistently pumps out brilliantly original (well, besides Cars 2) animated films? We took away several great ideas in our continual quest to stay creative and fresh.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley – We can never get enough of Bradley’s 11-year old chemist detective Flavia de Luce. She makes Encyclopedia Brown look like Elmo.

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek – If you’ve been captivated with Simon Sinek’s inspiring Ted talk launching the “Start with Why” business philosophy (and book – read that one first), you’ll love this one.

The Troop by Nick Cutter – If you like your boy scout literature mixed in with some gnarly horror, this book’s for you.

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey – It’s better that you don’t know much about this novel before reading. But trust us, it will grab you. Mr. Carey is a prolific comic book writer, having written for both DC and Marvel.

Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte – This should be required reading for all of us and our clients. Read this if you feel like you don’t have enough time to do your job, or at least do it well. Schulte compares time to a “rabid lunatic” running naked and screaming as your life flies past you. Give time the rabies shot it deserves and download this one to your phone so you can read it in between all of those emails.

What books did you enjoy this year? Please let us know in the comments. And be sure to read our past picks from 2013, 2012 and 2011. Also check out what movies, television and music we liked in 2014.

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Back in October, The Guardian wondered aloud whether 2014 would mark the death of the platinum album.  “Going platinum” used to be a normal thing. Now the prospect of selling one million albums is a near impossible feat.  So did anyone do it this year? Technically, only one did if you don’t count the Frozen soundtrack, which came out in 2013. Who was it? None other than Taylor Swift, who’s not only racked up the sales but also the YouTube views (now routinely going over 200 million views per song). Here’s what we think should have gone platinum, if it was still 1994:

Weezer, Everything Will be Alright in the End – Speaking of 1994, look who’s back! After so many fans writing them off over the past decade, they’ve dropped an epic album that many critics are calling their best since the Blue album.


AC/DC, Rock or Bust – We have a few Angus Young wannabes in our midst and they are all singing the praises of this geezer band’s new album, and not in an ironic way.  Maybe they made a Robert Johnson-like deal with the devil, but these guys recently returned from hell and wanted to tell us about it. They sound really really good.


The Black Keys, Turn Blue – Sensing a pattern with our love of rock? In reality, there are very few real rock albums being made, but whatever The Black Keys turn out, you know they got the bonafides to do it with the authenticity that real rock requires. Turn Blue was an amazing record.


Spoon, They Want My Soul – Frontman Britt Daniel could have had a decent career as a Mick Jagger sound double, but we’re happy that he chose to dedicate his life to impeccable song craft. After a 4-year hiatus, Spoon is back with an album that will seriously grow on you.  I could hit repeat on singles “Inside Out” and “Do You” forever and die happy.


Michael Jackson, Xscape – The second posthumous Michael Jackson album, this one brings back his early 80’s sound, with singles like “Love Never Felt So Good”, which sounds like something Diana Ross would have knocked out of the park. But Justin Timberlake makes a great Diana Ross stand-in.


Hozier, Hozier – This Irish crooner took us to church so many times this year, we’re getting honorary sainthood status. His video has been seen over 50 million times. Now that’s nowhere near Taylor Swift levels, but for an Irish Joe Cocker (RIP), this is as good as it’s gonna get.


Ed Sheeran, X – The hardest working red-headed Englishman in show business today, Ed Sheeran capitlized on his Taylor Swfit and One Direction guest appearances and made serious head way into the river that runs through popular culture.  He’s a pretty great singer-songwriter too.


Manchester Orchestra, COPE – These guys have been recording and playing great indie rock for years, but 2014’s release of COPE has finally brought them the attention and respect they deserve.


Taylor Swift, 1989 – Ms. Swift single-handedly saved 2014 from becoming the year without a platinum album release.  She’s almost sold 4 million albums in only two months time which makes her music’s equivalent of the Super Bowl.  Her pop chops are undeniable and 1989 is a testament to her ability to make anything she touches turn to gold (or platinum).


Honorable Mentions: A Great Big World, Is There Anybody Out There?; Pixies, Indie Cindy; Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour; Meghan Trainor, Title; Coldplay, Ghost Stories; U2, Songs of Innocence; FKA Twigs, LP1; Train, Cadillac, Cadillac; Maroon 5, V; Damien Rice, My Favourite Faded Fantasy; Lindsey Stirling, Shatter Me; Pentatonix, Vol. III & That’s Christmas To Me; Circa Survive, Descensus; Royal Blood, Royal Blood; Miniature Tigers, Cruel Runnings; Jenny Lewis, The Voyager; St. Vincent, St. Vincent

What music moved you in 2014? Let us know in the comments! And be sure to check out our picks from years past: 2013, 2012 and 2011.  Also read our picks for this year’s moviesTV and books.

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These days, whether you’re an up-and-coming actor or a seasoned actress, your best opportunities for critical acclaim and popularity is with television, not movies.  While the TV landscape is extremely fragmented across not only so many broadcast, cable, and satellite networks (a DirecTV channel?) but also streaming services (witness Community being picked up by Yahoo!) , it’s still the medium that is capturing all of the buzz, flash and glamour and luring actors with interesting and varied roles that can grow and expand over time.  In short, television is where the cool kids are. Movies? They might as well be wearing mom jeans.

So here’s what the Penna Powers people were watching on “TV” in 2014:

Sherlock (PBS) – Technically, each Sherlock episode could be considered a movie.  In 2014, they unleashed only three episodes in January and they all were amazing.  To sample its brilliance, just watch Sherlock’s epic wedding speech/investigation in the middle episode The Sign of Three.


Modern Family (ABC) – In a fragmented TV world, Modern Family is the country’s most popular non-CBS sitcom and rightly so.  The Pritchett family antics may be reaching near-absurd levels, but the laughs are still there.


Parenthood (NBC) – While not necessarily for families, this is the best show on TV about families, not counting Sons of Anarchy.


Walking Dead (AMC) – This is the best TV show about zombies and cannibalism, not counting Madame Secretary.


Sons of Anarchy (FX) – For an example of how a cable network show has blown the doors off what an hour-long TV show looks like, here is exhibit A. This is Dallas meets motorcycles, only not really. Now that it’s over – time to catch up on Netlfix!


Orange is the New Black (Netflix) – Introducing a new diabolical character and plenty of nail-biting moments in Season 2, it was hard to resist the sad fad of binge-watching.  Maybe Netflix can wait at least a couple days to drop episodes this year, but we’re not betting on it.


Parks & Recreation (NBC) – We don’t ever want this show to end.  It’s brought us Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson, Chris “Andy” Pratt, Aubrey Plaza and we’re not even getting to the comic genius Amy Poehler yet. Watch this show before it gets renewed by the Bing TV stream.


How to Get Away with Murder (ABC) – The network that brought us Scandal and Revenge scored with another addictive hour of retro 80’s television updated with cell phones. This one’s almost a precursor to NPR’s popular Serial podcast, with Viola Davis doing the whole world weary/agent of amorality thing that James Lipton would be so proud of.


Honorable Mentions: Scandal, Dr. Who, Nashville, House of Cards, Flash, Arrow, The Mindy Project, New Girl, Vikings, Homeland, The Newsroom, Castle, Ray Donovan, Blacklist, The Middle, Sillicon Valley,  Game of Thrones, True Detective, The Affair, Black Mirror, Amazing Race (won by Utahns this year)

What did you watch in 2014? Let us know in the comments! Check out our 2014 movie, music and book selections, as well as TV selections from 2013, 2012 and 2011.

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2014 ended up being the little brother to 2015’s promising slate of potential blockbusters. We’re kind of happy to get this one over with so we can see the Avengers reassemble, watch Katniss take down the Capitol and witness JJ Abrams hopefully not take down Star Wars. And while it may have been a down year for box office receipts and a lackluster one for movies overall, there were some surprising gems among the many pieces of coal. These are the Penna Powers picks for top movies of 2014:

The Lego Movie – After seeing the Penna Powers Holiday card, would there be any doubt that this film would be the agency’s most beloved film of 2014? The character arc of ordinary everyman Emmet inspired us all to take on Lord Business’s anti-innovation obsession and be Master Builders for our clients’ brands. But what we liked most about this movie was the fact that we were surprised by how unconventionally fun it was. We’ll never see Batman in quite the same light. Everything about this movie was Awesome!


Guardians of the Galaxy – As if Chris Pratt wasn’t already having an incredible year with the success of Parks and Rec and his voice work on Emmet from The Lego Movie, he goes ahead and stars in the most successful movie of 2014 – another surprise blockbuster that stood out in a big way from a tired line of self-serious comic book movies. Even though the plot was anything but original, it was the antithesis of the boring bombast of last year’s Man of Steel. Turns out, what America needed wasn’t Superman, but a regular Joe who loves the simple pleasures of a well-made mix tape.


Interstellar – This is the 2001 for our time. Director Christopher Nolan did a mind meld to match the technical achievement of Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey with the heart and soul you might get from Stephen Spielberg’s best work. While it might be caught up in its own importance at times, it’s a movie made to be seen on the big screen, with big ideas, big sound and big performances from Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and a slew of strong supporting actors. You’ll cry, you’ll laugh, you’ll be simultaneously amazed and confused, you’ll be thinking about this film long after the credits roll.



Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – If Peter Jackson can make three super long movies out of a Tolkien novella, I guess we can stomach a Mockingjay two-parter. We think the film did a great job depicting Katniss’s awkward attempts to straddle the line between puppet propaganda mascot and actual warrior-hero. And it was both sad and gratifying to see the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman fully inhabit a role that was just a plot device in the book.


Gone Girl – Fans of the book may have bristled at some liberties taken in David Fincher’s adaptation, but the movie pretty much nailed the tone. Perfect casting, perfect score, perfect cinematography and one perfectly crazy plot help move this movie along, even with a two and a half hour running time. Don’t take a date to this one. Or your spouse.


The Machine – Every year we like to pick a movie that didn’t quite get the attention it deserves. This year, that movie is The Machine. If you watch the trailer, it might look like the robot version of that 90’s classic, Species, but it’s not. It’s much much better. And weirder.


Edge of Tomorrow – Speaking of sci-fi, here’s another one that was criminally overlooked and forgotten among all the summer blockbusters. Was it the boringly generic title?Some critics and the studio think so, as it has already been renamed, Live. Die. Repeat, causing even more confusion and ensuring even less people will see it. Tom Cruise is great. Emily Blunt is awesome and the sci-fi Groundhog Day premise is beautifully executed.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – Comic book movies this year at least did a few interesting things, like the way Captain America merged with the spy thriller genre or how this latest X-Men installment became a time travel movie so both casts could get involved. What seemed like a cash grab became an inspired choice.


Birdman – This may be an overdirected movie, but it’s always entertaining. It’s got Michael Keaton, Ed Norton and a host of other great supporting roles, often in tighty whities. Don’t make Birdman angry, go see this movie.


Honorable Mentions: SnowpiercerObvious Child, Big Hero 6, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Citizenfour, Divergent, St. Vincent, The Fault in Our Stars, Boyhood, Godzilla, The Hobbit 3, Maleficent

What movies did you like this year? Tell us in the comments! For picks of previous years, check out 2013, 2012 and 2011.  Also see our picks for the best TV, music and books of 2014.


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What was my favorite part of our Penna Powers Christmas Party? Well let’s see: The food was fantastic (big shout out to Trio), Mike Brian’s jokes were in rare form, and the office “2014 Recap/Night Before Christmas” video was one for the books. However, the highlight happened when Dave Smith grabbed the mic and began spouting off the most bizarre “holiday” trivia, promising the winning table a cold $1,000 cash prize. The pressure was on.

Now I can’t promise any cash prize (sorry), but I do promise these questions are quite fun. So take a moment away from work, home, the holiday “to do” list and try your hand at the “Penna Powers Christmas Trivia.” Ready, set, go!

1. Why is there a hole in the LEGO head of the mini-figs?
2. What are the flat LEGO pieces called?
3. Where did the Grinch live?
4. What are the original LEGO base brick colors?
5. How many LEGO pieces are produced each year?
6. Why did the Grinch hate Christmas?
7. Approximately how many bricks have been made since LEGO started?
8. When did LEGO get its start?
9. What was the main character’s name in The Nightmare before Christmas?
10. What country buys the most LEGO sets per person?
11. Which word is surprisingly never said in The Lego Movie?
12.  From which country does the poinsettia plant originate?
13. Who was the voice of Lord Business in The Lego Movie?
14. Who is the voice of Emmett (the main character in The Lego Movie)?
15. What is given on Day 10 in the song “The 12 Days of Christmas”?
16. What is the plural form of LEGO?
17. How many LEGO themed amusement parks are there worldwide?
18. Which actor plays Clark Griswold Jr. in the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?
19. Where was LEGO first conceived?
20. What was the first LEGO set with licensed characters from a movie?
21. What does Clark (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation) plan on buying with his Christmas bonus?

1. Just in case any kids got one of the heads stuck in their throat, they can continue to breathe
2. Plates
3. Just north of Whoville
4. Red, yellow, blue, green, black and white
5. Approximately 19 billion
6. His heart was two sizes too small
7. More than 400 billion Lego bricks have been produced
8. 1949
9. Jack Skellington
10. Germany
11. “Lego”
12. Mexico
13. Will Ferrell
14. Chris Pratt
15. Ten Lords-a-leaping
16. LEGO
17. 6
18. Chevy Chase
19. Denmark
20. Star Wars
21. A swimming pool

Three cheers to the winning table: Thor, Christin, Christina, Ginger, Julene, Charlotte and their guests. If you know any of these fabulous people, send them a congratulations text for knowing all sorts of random trivia.


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You’ve hired an agency or you’re looking for a job, and want to know what a digital media planner does. I’m going to outline what a digital media planner is like and list their core functions within an ad agency.

Personality. Digital media planners are usually more extroverted (as they work with a lot of media reps), detail-oriented and data geeks (if one is reading this article right now they’ve already skimmed the article for hard numbers). They are always learning and excited about technology. Digital media planners probably check these websites for fun after work.

Plan Media. Their primary role is to plan media on behalf of the agency’s clients. They collaborate heavily with the account team and other media planners to create a digital media plan. The media that is typically considered digital includes: digital video, banner ads, search, social media promotion, mobile banners/video, digital audio, etc. Think Hulu, and Facebook. If it links to a website it is likely under a digital media planner’s watch. Tools that are regularly used are:

  • Scarborough, MRI or other demographic data. This gives insights into what digital channels the target audience is on. Do they index well for online video? Are they heavy Instagram users? The data shows the most efficient media to hit a target audience.
  • ComScore data to see specific sites. If the goal is market penetration or a high reach to the target audience, a digital media planner will look at ComScore data to see what sites are most heavily used.
  • Social tools. Facebook and Twitter’s ad tools show digital planners their estimated reach to a desired target audience.

Media Partner Relations. Digital media planners spend a lot of time meeting with reps for specific sites, exchanges or other online services. They must be knowledgeable about what’s available to run, as it may impact a media plan. For example, upon learning that a site offers homepage reskins they may be able to include that on a media plan for a client. The typical digital media planner spends 20% of their time meeting with companies or reading about new offerings.

Placing Media Buys. The digital media planner/buyer must present their media plan, get approvals and then start negotiating with the specific media partners they have selected. They must be familiar with market rates so they aren’t duped into paying $20 CPMs for banner ads. A digital media planner is one of the most accountable people in the agency for their decisions as everything will be traceable. Therefore they must be able to forecast delivery, estimate ad serving costs, and then actually build out entire campaigns.

Hard Skills. Digital media planners are tasked with being the engineers behind the media plan, literally building a campaign from the bottom up. If they included paid search as part of a media plan, they need to build an AdWords campaign which includes selecting keywords, writing ads and optimizing. If the digital media planner is running banners or video they need to build out their ads on an ad server. As a side rant – digital media planners are often the last in a chain to get creative assets before a campaign goes live. They must therefore be deadline-driven and able to work efficiently.

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers. Did I mention that digital media planners work with a lot of numbers? They are responsible for optimizations, reporting and garnering insights from campaigns that run. People in this role spend a lot of time in Excel spreadsheets. They are part-time psychologists as well, analyzing why users would click on a green banner over a blue one. As a digital media planner myself I oftentimes check our client’s web analytics for fun just to see how users navigate the site or how they found it.

Now the secret is revealed for what digital media planners do all day. Of course, they have many more tasks depending on the agency or clients. But the core functions are all here. Need help from a digital media planner? Let’s talk.

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crowd800Right now, there’s a battle going on and you’re in it.

When you’re promoting your product, service or cause, you’re in a battle–a battle for attention. Every day, we are pummeled with a constant barrage of advertising messages. And if you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re guilty of firing off some of those advertising messages, too.

In this daily war for attention, do you want to go into battle with your own understanding and expertise, or do you want someone on your side who has expertise beyond your abilities? This is the value of a full-service agency.

Good agencies seek out the best talent because they have to. That’s what makes them competitive. Agencies hire, invest in and cultivate the best talent so that you get more value out of your dollar.

When you put together a campaign by yourself, of course you’ll get better over time, but you won’t ever catch up to the full arsenal of an agency because they hire the best talent that is specialized in a certain field. Talent with, “a very particular set of skills.” Then they put them together to create the strongest team out there.


Let me give you some comparisons that illustrate my point.

Research: Ethan Hunt
He doesn’t make a move until he has done his research and has all the facts. He does what it takes to get the information he needs to perform a mission. He uses that information to plan his every move.

A good agency does the same. It’s fun for some people to just jump to the tactics and end results, but a good agency will make sure to gather all of the necessary baseline data and research before making a move. This way, at various milestones throughout your campaign, you can see HOW your campaign has moved the needle, and WHAT improvements were made.

Strategy: Rambo
This guy is all about strategy and he only moves when it’s best. His detailed plans are made far in advance, well before it’s time to strike. He is comfortable waiting until the time is right. When everything is ready, THEN he makes his move.

When you’re looking for a good agency as a partner, make sure it is one that can develop detailed plans of attack. This includes identifying target audiences, setting goals and strategies, planning tactics that are designed to get results and seeking the most effective and efficient methods of accomplishing the goals identified in the plan.

Creative: James Bond
You don’t even have to say his first name. Just say, “Bond” and everyone knows who he is and what he’s all about. With him come instant credibility, impeccable looks – and results. Not to mention he has the most up-to-date gadgets and technology at his disposal in order to get the job done.

A good agency should have the same capabilities. Their Creative team should be able to produce whatever content you need – TV, radio, digital, print pieces, web design, graphics and other collateral that has a polished look; A look that portrays professionalism – not something that was designed by an administrative assistant or by your brother who knows how to design web pages. When the communication pieces of your campaign have a consistent, professional, high quality look that is easy to understand, visually appealing and gets your attention; it helps people connect on an emotional scale and changes behaviors. A good agency is trained in the latest technologies, methods and approaches that deliver results. That is what they do every day.

Media Buying: Dwayne Johnson
Just pick a character he plays (except in Tooth Fairy). Can you imagine going into a negotiation situation and seeing this guy at the table? Powerful. Intimidating. Influential. Need I say more?

Now that you have solid research, strategy and creative elements for your campaign, you don’t want to waste it. Sure, TV and radio stations will run some PSAs for free. But is your audience watching in the middle of the night, or at other obscure times when PSAs often run? Can you get the station to match you on a dollar-for-dollar basis? How do you know if you’re hitting the right target enough times to make sure that that repetition helps them remember your campaign?

A good agency will be able to handle the negotiations for you. Their job is to maximize your dollars. And since agencies buy media in bulk for a variety of clients, media outlets can often give them priority placement, match your dollars and do it for lower costs than if you tried to do it on your own. Media buying can be a confusing world when you consider the options of online media, outdoor, radio, TV and print options. Fortunately, a good agency is adept at putting together the right media mix so that your campaign reaches the public in the most efficient and effective ways.

Blog 6
Execution: Lara Croft
She always gets her target and lets nothing stand in her way. She’s flexible, fearless, confident, and has the skills to back it up. She’s ready for anything with all the firepower she needs at her disposal.

I don’t doubt that you’re good at one thing or another, but chances are, you aren’t a pro at all of them. A good agency collectively has all of the skills and expertise needed to finish the job. A good agency is one that can pull the trigger when the time is right and has the staff to get the job done.

If you have a job to do, this is the team you want on your side. But the problem is that you can’t afford to keep such a specialized team on your staff. That is why agencies seek out these people and hire the best ones. When each person is skilled in a specific discipline, together they make up a powerful team. That’s the kind of agency you want. You are buying their expertise. You are investing in something that you can’t catch up to on your own.

And let’s be honest, you have enough things on your plate. The hired guns at a good full-service agency are able to take the burden off your shoulders and do what they do best. When you bring a good full-service agency to the table, at the end of the day you will get:

  • Better results
  • More information
  • Stronger brand
  • Deeper impact for a longer time
  • Less stress

Sure, you can do it on your own and do a good job. I’m not saying that you can’t. I’m saying that’s the role of an agency–to take you to a level that you probably wouldn’t be able to reach on your own. If you compete with someone who does have a good agency on their side, they’ll beat you.

You’re in a battle for attention. Your competitor is noise. It’s an agency’s job to create a compelling, memorable, impactful campaign that cuts through that noise and reaches the right people. You could go it alone, but you’re more likely to win the war for attention when you have a solid team at your side.


Did I miss anyone? Who else do you think this list should include? (Chuck Norris is off limits.) Don’t be afraid to comment. I won’t send someone from my team to hunt you down…probably.  

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Ten800Today was Wendy Hansen’s 10-year anniversary celebration at Penna Powers with no shortage of her Diet Coke drink of choice. Wendy started at the agency in 2005 working with Daybreak and has since spread her consistently smart communications magic to City Creek, Kennecott and Davis County to name a few.


That aside, it’s been great working with her on a personal level. We’ve all appreciated her quick-witted humor, impressive diction and loyal nature when she’s around. Thanks again for ten great years.

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TV, print, online, PR, face-to-face communication efforts – these are all great ways to promote your product, service or cause. However, you will have so much more of an impact when you combine them all together into an integrated communication campaign.

Take the Zero Fatalities texting while driving message as an example. I saw a news story in March of 2009 about a young man in northern Utah who had been convicted of killing two men because he was texting while driving. The news story said that part of his sentencing was to prepare a video talking about the dangers of texting while driving. I asked our client at UDOT if they would consider creating the video under the Zero Fatalities program. That was the birth of a far-reaching integrated communication campaign.

Reggie Shaw’s choice to text while driving led to a tragedy that devastated the lives of so many people. However, the way he allowed us to tell his story has positively affected even more. We put together an integrated communication strategy that would touch as many teen and adult drivers in Utah. The results of that effort reached far more people than we ever anticipated.

On September 22, 2006,19-year-old Reggie Shaw veered into oncoming traffic while he was texting while driving. This caused a chain reaction, leading to the deaths of two men. Shortly after Reggie was sentenced in 2009, Penna Powers was allowed to work with him and the widows of the men he killed to educate the public on the dangers of texting while driving as part of the Utah Department of Transportation’s Zero Fatalities program.

At that point, very little information was available about texting while driving. It did not have the awareness and stigma attached to it as it does today. Our goal was to share this tragic tale with as many people as possible.

We started with a 15-minute video about the victims, the widows and the consequences of that crash. Within four months of launching the video on, it was downloaded more than 1.2 million times.


Public Relations
We launched the video with a press event where Reggie spoke to the media and the family members of the men he killed. While the video was created for a Utah audience, national media such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Today Show, NPR, Dr. Oz and the Oprah Winfrey Show referenced the video, interviewed Zero Fatalities representatives or profiled Shaw’s story.


Grassroots Outreach
We contacted every driver ed teacher in Utah, giving them a copy of the video. Dozens of high schools asked Zero Fatalities representatives and Reggie to speak at assemblies. One unique assembly at Skyline High School had every classroom watch the 15-minute video at the end of their first class. Each classroom had parents, student leaders and Zero Fatalities representatives openly discuss the dangers of texting while driving. Tearful students, parents and teachers often hugged Reggie afterward, thanking him for sharing such a difficult experience.


TV Advertising
We created a 30-second TV PSA featuring scenes from the 15-minute video. This tactic was meant to draw viewers in and lead them to, where they could see the video and learn the whole story. A comprehensive media buy facilitated reaching the largest audience possible across Utah.

Digital Advertising
Contracts with digital media partners allowed us to run pre-roll videos before rich media content like TV news segments and other videos. This was especially relevant when stations ran news segments about road construction, traffic or crashes.

Speaking Engagements
Reggie became a highly sought after speaker. His remorseful, genuine demeanor made audiences empathize with him, leaving them with a powerful, memorable account of what can happen when they text and drive. Reggie’s national appearances included speaking on the Oprah Winfrey Show and at the first national distracted driving summit held by the federal government.


Other Exposure
Reggie’s story has been so compelling that others are determined to share this tragic voice of warning. In 2013, acclaimed director Werner Herzog produced a documentary called, “From One Second to the Next,” as part of AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign. This 35-minute documentary has been viewed more than three million times.

In September this year, Matt Richtel, a Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter for The New York Times gives a thorough analysis of Reggie’s emotional story in a new book called, A Deadly Wandering. The book was named one of’s top 20 books of the year.


The 15-minute video became the centerpiece of this integrated communication plan. Had it been the only tool we used, we could have never generated the level of exposure and education it garnered. So many other tools allowed us to tell this tragic tale to as many people as possible. As a result, Reggie Shaw has become what The New York Times deemed one of the nation’s most powerful spokesmen on the dangers of texting while behind the wheel. Our hearts go out to those impacted by this tragedy, but we thank them for allowing us to share their story in such a public, saturating way.

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brain800It isn’t only in the public relations field that people try to predict public questions and how to respond to them. Most do this to prepare for a job interview, give a presentation to a potential client or delicately break some news to a loved one. This preparation shows others that you know what you’re talking about and reduces uneducated speculation and rumors.

The same idea applies to communication campaigns and stakeholder outreach efforts. Communication that answers questions before people have to ask is much easier, less time-consuming and less expensive than damage control later. So how do you predict what your audience will want to know and how to respond? Here are a few tips:

  • Know your audience – Knowing your audience means knowing what is important to them, what motivates them and what they are sensitive about. Learning this through qualitative and quantitative research is ideal if your timeline, client and budget will allow. If not, it’s always helpful to talk to people who have worked with the same audience in the past (opinion leaders or your client) and to consult market research databases from companies like Scarborough.
  • Brainstorm – After you have created your own list of questions and answers based on your research, you may want to get a group together that includes people close to the information and people who are not. Ask if you’ve missed anything and what the group thinks people will ask.
  • Be honest – Nothing builds suspicion and distrust more than the perception that people are hiding or withholding information from you.
  • Provide sources – Most audiences will want to know where your information came from. Be ready to provide that information.
  • Choose the right approach – Decide ahead of time the best communications channels, timing and spokesperson to answer questions. It may be best communicated on a website or at a media briefing. Would it be better to release the information during the week, after a workday or in the morning? Knowing your audience is integral to choosing the right approach.

Creating a comprehensive FAQ that can be used in any communication channel is one way to preempt speculation, what else would you add?

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