Tackling the Hard Stuff: The Ferguson Edition

Donovan Birch, Integrated Media Assistant. Donovan is a Boston native and a major politico. He is passionate about using multimedia to empower communities, change narratives, and raise political awareness. He is new to the PJA team and assists with both media planning and managing media buys.

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Here at PJA we help our clients break through the noise and make meaningful connections with their target audiences. Our unconventional, yet powerful, work helps our clients tackle “the hard stuff” head on. Yet, what happens when members of the PJA team tackle “the hard stuff” outside of the agency? I for one choose to […]

Here at PJA we help our clients break through the noise and make meaningful connections with their target audiences. Our unconventional, yet powerful, work helps our clients tackle “the hard stuff” head on. Yet, what happens when members of the PJA team tackle “the hard stuff” outside of the agency? I for one choose to tackle some of the hardest issues we face as a nation.

 

For 12 days this past October, I was in Ferguson, MO participating in a community healing and empowerment project entitled Amplify Ferguson. My impetus for going was founded in my strong commitment to social justice and love for how beautifully messy democracy actually is. Additionally, as I watched and read about what was going on, it was clear that this small town no one knew about was being torn a part, and no one on my laptop or mobile screen, speaking with a false sense of thought leadership, was actually from this community. I had enough, I wanted to do more, and I needed to learn about what was truly happening.

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Upon my arrival, the dust was settling from all the media attention the town had been receiving. The community was in limbo as there was no word on the potential indictment of the officer who killed Mike Brown. As people waited for the inevitable, they had begun the process of trying to heal from the tragedy. Churches were trying to instill a sense of purpose and hope within everyone, non-profits were hosting resource fairs to connect residents with a host of services they need to survive, entrepreneurs were leading workshops on how to start businesses, and local politicos were leading voter information and registration drives. This was not the angry and seemingly vengeful community that was depicted to me by the media. What I experienced was a community jolted by their new reality and turning life’s lemons into lemonade.

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The most powerful aspect of my trip was hearing the stories of the residents. In an effort to help empower the community we asked residents to tell their stories about the events that occurred. We shared these stories via social media, unedited and without any editorial bias, in an effort to show what was really happening on the ground. I heard stories of love and dedication to the community, of hope for a better future, and of wanting justice. Again, a far cry from what I was being told before I had arrived.

By going to Ferguson I tackled “the hard stuff”. In the middle of one of the most tumultuous periods in our nation’s history, I got up off my couch and decided to do something. I didn’t continue to watch from afar and have the issue framed for me, nor did I allow my fellow citizens to feel abandoned once the news cycle moved onto something else and they had to pick up the pieces by themselves. If this is what tackling “the hard stuff” is outside of PJA, I will continue to take the challenge every chance I can.

More from this author:

    I freed my heels, and my mind (and work) followed

    Robert Davis, VP Digital Marketing. VP, Digital Marketing at PJA Advertising + Marketing in Cambridge and San Francisco. Marketer, gardener, student of culture and history.

    No, that’s not me – but with some help I hope to be burning it like this soon. (Photo credit: Dirk Groeger under Creative Commons.)
    My parents started me on skis at age four. Three years later we moved a couple miles down the road from a small family-oriented ski hill in the northern Catskill mountains, and as long as there was snow, I skied every day and pretty much all weekend, every weekend. Raced on the school team, built […]

    My parents started me on skis at age four. Three years later we moved a couple miles down the road from a small family-oriented ski hill in the northern Catskill mountains, and as long as there was snow, I skied every day and pretty much all weekend, every weekend. Raced on the school team, built and got pretty good.

    In my twenties and thirties, I spent a fair amount of time skiing in Utah and Colorado. Big stuff – double diamond trails, ungodly huge bumps, straight vertical drops off the tops of sheer rocky cliffs into waist-deep power. I got even better.  I’d say it would be fair to say I considered myself to be an expert skier.

    Then I got married, had kids, put on 15 pounds and threw out my aging ski gear. I’d go out once or twice on rental boards and found I could always hold an edge. I wasn’t slipping too badly. We got both our kids out on the snow – one boarder and one skier. Some of everything. As they got better, we hit bigger hills in New England, but neither one of them wanted to get off the greens and blues. There was no aspiration for black diamonds in our house, seemingly.

    I got bored.

    So with very little knowledge to back the decision up, a couple years ago I decided to take up telemark skiing and all of a sudden I had no idea what was doing. I was a beginner all over again – and I didn’t even really remember being a beginner the first time.  I was really struggling, so I got some help.

    I took a couple lessons from guys half my age. I bought a couple books and CDs. Found a couple free-heeling friends.  And I thought I had it figured out, but after the intervening summer I found I had regressed. So I repeated the process.

    It struck me the other day that as I, and my agency, embark on our own take on what just what advertising needs to be these days, deep down, I’m not an expert at this stuff anymore, either. Not just because the media and content channels have changed, metrics have gotten more complicated, and so on. That’s like switching from the old skinny skis to shaped skis. It’s pretty much new wine in old bottles for anyone who grew up deeply immersed in digital since the 90’s.

    The thing that has me feeling almost like a beginner again is the way buyers have changed. It isn’t just that the stuff is different; the mindset is different as well, and the emergence of the engaged buyer has me approaching a lot more challenges and opportunities with a beginner’s mind. I’m still grabbing the marker and helping facilitate the discussion, but I try and spend more time grabbing younger staff at the agency and saying “Let’s figure this out together.” When I’m coaching teams, it’s with more of a focus on how we can all “fail forward” together in this changing world.

    When it comes to marketing, it’s my opinion that expertise is often a thin veneer laid over orthodoxy – or even worse, hubris. Experts with turf to protect will have a hard time learning to understand and respond to a changing world.

    Lifelong beginners? If they’re open to getting some help and working things out together, they’ll do just fine. Me, I’m off to a weekend telemark camp to brush up on backcountry skills in a couple of weeks.

    Think snow, friends.

    No, that’s not me – but with some help I hope to be burning it like this soon. (Photo credit: Dirk Groeger under Creative Commons.)

    No, that’s not me – but with some help I hope to be burning it like this soon. (Photo credit: Dirk Groeger under Creative Commons.)

    4 Ways to Win in the Last 3 Feet

    Matt Naffah, Senior Digital Strategist. Matt is a Senior Digital Strategist who works with clients to drive digital marketing and technology-driven initiatives. He is also a father of two beautiful children, an OK photographer, and an occasional baker that still can't seem to master the red velvet cupcake.

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    Buyers are engaging more than ever before — seeking out content, tools and advice, wherever they are, at multiple moments in the decision journey. This puts increased pressure on marketers because every touch point, from the top of funnel down to purchase, is more valuable than ever. It is through these touch points that marketers […]

    Buyers are engaging more than ever before — seeking out content, tools and advice, wherever they are, at multiple moments in the decision journey. This puts increased pressure on marketers because every touch point, from the top of funnel down to purchase, is more valuable than ever. It is through these touch points that marketers must help engaged buyers navigate a complex network of actions, building confidence in their brands and products.

    One area that is often misunderstood (and overlooked) occurs near the end of the journey, just before purchase. It’s known as the Last 3 Feet, and it’s the final chance for a marketer to fulfill on promises made along the buying journey.

    Too few marketers put enough effort into the Last 3 Feet. The result? Buyers they invested in driving into retail walk out with their competitors’ product.

    Here are a few reasons why activating marketing programs during the Last 3 Feet is important:

    • Awareness, preference and purchase intent don’t guarantee a sale
    • Shoppers are increasingly entertaining alternatives as they’re making final purchase decisions in aisle, including adding new brands to their consideration set
    • As smartphones take on an essential role in the buying process, many customers enter the store with little information and do their research while they shop

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    When considering how to approach the Last 3 Feet for your brand, think about the following four strategies. Also, check out the PJA Marketing Play to learn more about each strategy and see examples of how they can be activated.

    1) DRIVE IN-STORE ACTION WITH HIGHLY TARGETED, HIGHLY PRECISE DATA-DRIVEN MEDIA

    By combining deep analysis of customer behavior with real-time data, brands are able to deliver interesting, relevant experiences based on a specific customer need(s). This gives the customer what they want, when they want it and importantly, where they want it. Also, it allows brands to begin tailoring mobile experiences not by device, but rather by the purpose they will be serving.

    2) REINFORCE THE BUYER’S CONFIDENCE USING CONTROLLED TOUCH POINTS

    It can be risky to rely on touch points that your brand can’t control. For example, sales associates whose expertise is limited to a few key brands. When customers are interested in more detailed information, these sales associate can quickly become a barrier to success.

    By developing brand-controlled touch points such as mobile microsites, ** programs, and mobile in-store chat, marketers can surround buyers in aisle and deliver the exact information required to move them closer to purchase. This, removes the buyer’s need to engage with a sales associate or other shoppers.

    3) ADDRESS LAST-MINUTE NEEDS AND BARRIERS

    When engaging with buyers during the Last 3 Feet, messaging should be focused on a single goal: addressing last-minute decision-making needs and barriers to purchase. Layering in additional, unwanted content could actually backfire by raising questions or even creating new barriers to purchase. Use your personas and buyer journeys to help you better understand the right content to serve during the Last 3 Feet. Also, optimize content frequently based on results.

    4) MAINTAIN CONSISTENCY AND HOLD UP YOUR END OF THE PROMISE

    The most important strategy is to be consistent. Consistency will reinforce trust with the buyer. Not delivering on promises made leading up to the Last 3 Feet, or presenting an action that feels deceiving (i.e. bait and switch) will quickly turn a buyer away from purchasing your brand. Maintain accuracy and consistency in the content and information you provide.

    To learn more about these strategies and to see them in action, check out the PJA Marketing Play. Or check out PJA’s other marketing plays here.

    Small Is Beautiful: Why Heady Topper Probably Won’t Be Coming To A Store Near You

    Mike O'Toole, President.In addition to running the day-to-day operations of PJA Advertising, Mike is the host of the Unconventionals Radio Show.

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    If you produced what many view as the best beer in the world, with a 100% rating by Beer Advocate, you’d probably expect to be living a life of fame. But that’s not the case for John and Jen Kimmich —founders of The Alchemist Brewery and the folks behind the world renowned Heady Topper. With the crazy […]

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    If you produced what many view as the best beer in the world, with a 100% rating by Beer Advocate, you’d probably expect to be living a life of fame. But that’s not the case for John and Jen Kimmich —founders of The Alchemist Brewery and the folks behind the world renowned Heady Topper. With the crazy demand for the highly rated double IPA, it’d be easy for the Kimmich’s to find a few investors and triple the size of their 9,000-barrel, Waterbury, VT facility. But instead, they chose the unconventional route — staying small. They’d rather be in control of every decision and not have to answer to a board of directors, even if that means not living large.

    In this episode, I visit the Kimmich’s at The Alchemist. We discuss why they “don’t want to be gigantic for the sake of being gigantic” and why getting big is not the only way to make an impact. For the Alchemist, success is about making great beer, contributing to a growing craft beer movement, and building a company to last in their Vermont community.

    You can also subscribe to The Unconventionals on iTunes and Stitcher. And be sure to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter as well.

    What’s your CWAQ™? Measuring the All-Important Co-Worker Annoyance Quotient

    Ben Resnikoff, Writer & Associate Creative Director. Ben doesn’t have a novel in the works. Or a screenplay. He likes short-format pieces such as ads, brochures and websites. Oh, and old cars. Don’t get him started on that.

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    Happy 2015. For those of you still searching for resolutions to abandon in six weeks, I offer this true story and associated quiz to inspire you.   The other day Mike O’Toole, PJA agency President, accused me of watering down the soap in the bathroom. You know, to help those last few drops that hang […]

    Happy 2015. For those of you still searching for resolutions to abandon in six weeks, I offer this true story and associated quiz to inspire you.

     

    The other day Mike O’Toole, PJA agency President, accused me of watering down the soap in the bathroom. You know, to help those last few drops that hang out below the suction tube live out their latherfest destiny. I guess I understand him pointing the accusation my way. Someone was doing it, and it kind of fits with my agency-wide push to reduce waste and increase recycling. Apparently a group of co-workers came to this conclusion over dinner on a recent business trip. While I’m flattered that I (and by extension, recycling) came up in casual conversation, it simply wasn’t me. In fact, that watery excuse for suds annoys me, too.

     

    But the allegation did get me thinking about what it takes to peacefully coexist with 60-ish people in a relatively confined space. We all have our quirks. Some loveably idiosyncratic, others ulcer-inspiringly frustrating. Want to know how you’re doing? Take the quiz, add up your score and get a reading on your CWAQ. If I can get the tech guys on board with it, look for an app in iTunes and the Google Play store sometime in 2015 so you can instantly calculate how annoying the person sitting next to you is and share it with your social networks in a passive-aggressive attempt to get them to amend their ways. Please note, however, this will impact your own CWAQ and possibly push you into the next category. But hey, the social beast needs to be fed, right?

     

    So here it is. A helpful quiz to help you determine whether you need to rethink some habits. You’re welcome, PJA. Especially you, Mike.

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