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Julene Thompson

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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Blog800If you are going to start a blog, the first thing you need to decide is which blogging website or tool to use. There are a ton to choose from, but not all blogging tools are created equally. Each site has its perks, but which is best? So, here are four of our top picks to help you find the blogging tool that is best for you.
WordPress is without a doubt the most popular blogging tool (or website tool in general). It has unlimited plugin options making it very easy to customize, but creating your blog can quickly become complicated when you are adding plugins on the back end. You can start from scratch or start with a template, it just depends on your programming know-how. WordPress also allows for SEO optimization, which is key for getting your posts in front of the right audience. Overall, it is a great blog tool, especially if you are hoping to spend some time customizing. If however, you are hoping for an easy plug and play site, this is probably not the best option.

The Blogger template is not the most aesthetically pleasing, but there are a lot of perks that come built in, requiring a very minimal amount of work. This tool connects with your Gmail account, so if you are one of those Gmail, Hangouts, Google+ kind of people, Blogger will tie in seamlessly with your existing Google Apps. Blogger also automatically integrates with Google AdSense, which could earn you a little money if your blog does well.

Tumblr is actually a microblogging platform. This means that it is designed for shorter-form content. Tumblr accounts are best suited for short posts, videos and images. It is very mobile friendly, you can edit and post easily from your smartphone. Once again, easy set up and ease of use is where Tumblr really shines.

Medium is a newer site and seems to be kind of trending right now. It is not customizable, which once again makes it easy to use, but less likely to stand out. Their template however is very simple, modern and very well done. One unique thing about medium is that there is a very strong sense of community. You can share drafts of your posts with others on the network and get feedback before posting. There is also an interesting commenting system in which readers can comment throughout your post, allowing readers to easily point out specific parts of the post and even help you out with typos. Medium also has a great reading list page that matches your likes with posts that you might enjoy. This not only helps to improve your reading experience, but puts your posts in front of those who might enjoy it.

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Other than each being four letters, they are both prized by many cultures and this week prized by us too at the 27th Annual Golden Spike Awards. It was all accompanied by the fanfare of lots of applause, cheers and paparazzi-esque photos throughout the evening. A record 130 entries were submitted this year for the annual best practice award competition sponsored by the Greater Salt Lake and Utah Valley Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) organizations.

We got to laud our own Mary Rice who was named the 2014 Young Professional Communicator of the Year and celebrate with our client partners on 24 award wins.

Mary joined us from the news desk three years ago and while we know she is terrific, the Golden Spike Award Committee gave her a resounding nod too. The award is for people who have worked in public relations for less than five years and demonstrate exceptional knowledge, skill and ability in their public relations career. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

For our client partners, we were honored to work with them on initiatives ranging from channeling Godzilla to help preventing driving fatalities, enlisting bloggers for child safety and increasing market share for Utah’s premier grocer to the opening of a mine access road in Bingham Canyon Mine.

photo 3

We brought home first place Golden Spike Awards for:

–       Food For Thought Summer Edition magazine (Harmons Grocery)

–       Safety Saturday lifestyle blogger event (Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital)

–       We Specialize in You marketing campaign (Ogden Clinic)

–       Merwy Cwismas and Happy Hollidays holiday card & app (Penna Powers)

–       Rio Tinto Kennecott Mine Access Road Opening Event (Rio Tinto Kennecott)

–       2012 Teen Memoriam illustration (Utah Department of Transportation Zero Fatalities)

–       Godzilla and Toothless theatre door wraps (Utah Department of Transportation Zero Fatalities)

–       Fish Utah photography (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

Communication efforts earning finalist awards this year:

–       Breadwinner TV spot (Harmons Grocery)

–       Breadwinner print ad (Harmons Grocery)

–       Harmons Grocery Store media relations (Harmons Grocery)

–       Smog Spotter radio (Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles). Smog Spotter also won a first place Pinnacle Awards for integrated communications and online banner ads from PRSA’s Las Vegas Valley Chapter

–       Smog Spotter Program (Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles)

–       We Specialize in You media relations (Ogden Clinic)

–       We Specialize in Saving You a Bundle on Bumps and Bruises outdoor (Ogden Clinic)

–       Chelsie Hill video (Utah Department of Transportation Zero Fatalities)

–       Parental Involvement Program (Utah Department of Transportation Zero Fatalities)

–       Twist TV spot (Utah Department of Transportation Zero Fatalities)

–       Twist campaign (Utah Department of Transportation Zero Fatalities)

–       Twist media relations (Utah Department of Transportation Zero Fatalities)

– interactive communications (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

–       Fish Utah campaign research (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

–       STD of the Sea video  (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

–       STD of the Sea print (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

photo 2

The Sierra Nevada PRSA chapter judged award entries. Different from most award programs, the Golden Spike awards criterion includes measurable demonstrations of increasing awareness, changing behavior and modifying perceptions.

Great work is not created in silos and the Golden Spike Awards are the result of teams coming together from every area of our agency – PR, advertising, media, digital and public involvement – to strategize the best approach for every campaign, program, and project.

Cheers and congratulations again to all our tremendous client partners and for letting us be a part of sharing and telling your story of all the good that you do.






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anni800This week at Penna Powers, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our very own Stephanie Miller. With the exception of the partners, she is the first employee to celebrate two decades with the agency.

During her time at Penna Powers, Stephanie has consistently proven her excellence and professionalism. She started as an intern at Penna Powers in 1994. Today, she leads the public relations team and is a member of the agency’s directors council. With her strategic thinking and media relations expertise, she has aided Penna Powers in being the first Utah agency to earn three Silver Anvil awards— the most prestigious award offered in the Public Relations industry.

With a humble and hard-working attitude, Stephanie is an asset here at Penna Powers. We were delighted to celebrate “20 Years of Class” with her, and plan on spending at least 20 more with her around.




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StarWars800Star Wars is part of a very special club. Few movies have captivated and amazed audiences around the world like the Star Wars movies have. Even fewer movies have spurred the creation of toys, games, and literature to the extent that Star Wars has. But what is Star Wars really? Stripped down to its most basic parts, Star Wars is essentially just six movies that chronicle a hero’s journey in a galaxy far, far away. So, you might be wondering, what does Star Wars have to do with marketing? Well, as it turns out, you can actually glean a good amount of Star Wars marketing know-how from the six epic adventures.

1. The Force will be with you, always.


Did you know that some Jedi can use the force to see into the future? Imagine if you could use that skill the next time you were planning out your marketing strategy, that would be amazing. The thing is though, even the most powerful Jedi can’t see into the future with much clarity. Yoda, one of the wisest Jedi and teachers ever, even lamented that the future was “difficult to see,” and “always in motion.” Even so, Jedi are consistently taught one thing in regards to the future:  Though you won’t know what’s going to happen next, trust the Force to guide you.

If we apply this to ourselves and marketing (no I’m not going to get religious!), we can think of the force as just having some intuition. While in the business world we are never going to know what will happen next, we can trust our intuition to guide us. Sure, we’re not going to be right all the time, but in today’s fast-paced society you can’t afford to second-guess yourself. So, like Obi Wan told Luke aboard the Death Star in Episode Four, I’d like to repeat to you: “The Force will be with you, always.” Just, you know, remember to trust it.

2. There’s always a solution. Even if the solution is a 2-meter wide exhaust port.

Once upon a time in Star Wars there was this huge moon battle station called the Death Star. The Death Star housed millions of battle ready soldiers, hundreds of thousands of laser guns, and, oh yeah, a giant gun that could destroy entire planets. Pretty scary stuff. A lot of people in the Star Wars universe were probably ready to throw in the towel instead of fight such a terrible behemoth. But, wouldn’t you know it, the Death Star had a weakness. It’s weakness was a 2-meter wide exhaust port that conveniently led directly to the main reactor, which, should it explode, would cause a chain reaction leading in the destruction of the entire gigantic, near-planet sized space station.

Now, in marketing we are sometimes so seemingly insurmountable that we probably feel like we’re up against a Death Star. The bad news is, we can’t solve our marketing problems by flying a space ship and shooting a proton torpedo (probably), but the good news is that every problem has a solution.

3. Even Jar-Jar had some good ideas.


Jar Jar Binks is likely the most hated character in the entire Star Wars universe. Regardless of how you feel about him, however, you have to realize that he did play an important role in uniting two groups of very different people and protecting Naboo from the droid army.

This is an important lesson to learn when it comes to marketing, and one that I wish I did a better job of remembering. You see, anyone can come up with a good marketing idea or solution. Even the most annoying person you’ve ever met, they can have good ideas too.

4. There’s always a bigger fish.


In Episode One, Qui Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi are traversing an underwater abyss on their way to save Queen Amidalla. On their way there, however, they encounter a larger that life fish that nearly swallows their tiny ship whole. Thankfully, however, they are saved by an EVEN bigger fish who eats the fish that was eating them. After the incident, Qui Gon leaves us with this simple anecdote: “There’s always a bigger fish.”

In marketing, this has a plethora of different meanings. First, it helps us marketers remember to be humble. We might be pretty great at our job, but there’s always someone who can do our job better. It’s a sad truth. Second, this quote helps us to remember to keep looking for better ideas. There’s always something out there bigger than what we’re currently doing, and like a fish, we can catch that idea with enough persistence.

5. No amount of mechanical arms and legs is more important than your family.


I think it’s pretty safe to say that Darth Vader is a bit of a workaholic. As far as I can tell he is working all the time and the demands of his job definitely seem to cause a lot of tension between him and his family. I mean, how many fathers do you know that have deliberately chopped off their own son’s hand? That’s some serious ground to take Vader to counseling. Thankfully however, at the end of the Star Wars epic we see Vader forego his work duties to spend a little quality time with his son. The results are immediate and very positive.

The lesson here is clear, don’t try and kill your kids, and be sure to take a little time away from work to spend on yourself. It will be good for both your and your family’s happiness. So don’t be a Vader, spend some time away from work.

And there you have it! Five lessons you can learn from Star Wars that relate (somewhat directly, somewhat indirectly) to marketing. Even if you already had mastered all of these simple points, I hope you enjoyed the reminder. Next time you watch some Star Wars, watch out. You just might become a better marketer because of it. May the Force be with you.

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Picture of evolution from candlestick to modern lightbulb

Since before the dawn of a career as a creative in advertising, people have been trying to figure out the best ways to sell products to their customers. The year 2014 is no different. Creative advertising has taken a lot of twists and turns over the past couple of decades, and sometimes it helps to reflect on where we have been to know where we will be in the future. Let’s take a look at the history of creativity in advertising.

People started associating images with skills like tailor, blacksmith, etc. as far back as the Middle Ages (which makes sense since most people didn’t know how to read).

Use of headlines became popular, and the public quickly felt overwhelmed with ads.

Stork's Restaurant Ad 1700s

Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused. -Samuel Johnson, english writer

Although some ads become more concise and truthful, most advertising we know from this time is for miracle cures that are totally false and make huge claims. But the public still believes advertising messages. Despite the popular trend of false claims, some advertisers, such as John E. Powers, held the opinion that true messages were most successful.

Dr. Terrel's Healing Ointment Ad 1800sEdison Vitalizer Ad 1800s

…Stick to the truth, and that means rectifying whatever’s wrong in the merchant’s business. If the truth isn’t tellable, fix it so it is. – John E. Powers, the first full-time copywriter

Laws were created to stop the false claims we saw in the last century. Customers became less and less trusting of the promises made in advertising. Advertisers turned to psychology and subliminal messaging to make consumers desire products.

Jello Ad 1900sautomobile ad 1900s

Tastes change, fashions change, and the advertiser has to change with them. An idea that was effective a generation ago would fall flat, stale, and unprofitable if presented to the public today. Not that the idea of today is always better than the older idea, but it is different – it hits the present taste. – Thomas J. Barratt, pioneer of brand marketing

Cue the creative revolution. Ads began to emphasize clever, humorous and truthful messaging by utilizing art and copy in a synergistic way.

Lemon VW ad 1960sAvis 1960s ad

Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art. – Bill Bernbach, first to combine copywriters and art directors into two-person teams

Advertisements continued to become more clever, simple and emotional over time. They became more about a message, rather than a product. Mediums grew exponentially, but we saw our customers become even more desensitized with the saturation of messages around them.

Apple 1980s Ad

apple 1990s Ad

Apple 2000s Ad

2000s–Present Day
So many new mediums have been introduced that marketers are scrambling to keep up. Consumers use more screens than ever before. They interact with their friends, relatives, and…. brands. Gone are the days when someone will believe a message in an ad and buy a product because of it. The lengthy history of manipulation and over-promising in advertising has made people skeptical and untrusting of the messages they see. It doesn’t help that they are bombarded with more advertising than ever before. The ads that cut through the clutter today are focused almost purely on emotion. They cater to customers’ beliefs.

Oreo Twitter Response to Superbowl Power OutageOreo Social Media Campaign

What does our walk through history teach us about creativity in advertising now?

Customers today accept a brand as an integral part of their life, not just a message they see or hear driving down the highway. How can a company expect to have this integrated relationship with its customers without having frequent meaningful interactions with them? Creativity in advertising has to be more personal, simple and genuine than ever before for brands to truly connect with their customers. However, most companies are still struggling to understand what needs to change about their marketing to accomplish this.

A company can’t simply broadcast a message and expect their brand to immediately become a part of its customers’ lives. Businesses have to gain trust with their audience, just like a good neighbor or friend. As the years go on people will only get busier. They will be more critical of what they do with their time and who they spend it with. Campaigns must now be something worthy of a few minutes of the customer’s busy life. The pressure for down-to-earth yet persuasive creative has never been greater. At least that’s my perspective, but what do you think the future of creative advertising will be?

So how exactly does your company become a good neighbor and friend with its customers? Join me in my next post for some brilliant business friend-making techniques.

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