What’s in a Name?

January 5, 2010

For the past 30 years, HMA has had the opportunity and great pleasure to help name, brand and create strategic communications messages for companies and people worldwide. As such, we are highly sensitive to brand campaigns – good, bad and ugly – making a marketing push at any given time.

And, sometimes, even the most interesting, well-planned campaign can be derailed by something small…like a name.

It’s been around for awhile, but during College Bowl Week the past few days, there have been an extraordinary amount of commercials for a service called…wait for it…KGB. The commercials themselves have succinctly described that the service offers folks answers to any question they may ever have from “Who threw the game-winning touchdown in the 1990 Super Bowl?” to “What color is melon?”

Just one problem – the name of the company is KGB!!! I know people have short attention spans and memories, but anyone who has seen a James Bond movie or taken middle school history has to remember the KGB and it’s sometimes less than above-board dealings, right?

And, in a world where SEO and social media matter, no matter how much this company pays, it will always come up on Google or Yahoo searches near the Wikipedia entry of what the KGB really is. Go ahead, try it.

What other companies or brands out there do you think are potentially shooting themselves in the foot with something as simple as the wrong name? Or, do you like this name and think it works?


With the traditional and online news media still chomping at the bit for every ounce of Tiger Woods gossip they can squeeze out of every nook and cranny, the sports media is starting to talk about another possible reputation crisis in the making – Notre Dame, and its decision to hire/announce Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly as the new Irish head coach…right before the Cincinnati football banquet where he would be lauded as a hero…where he had to tell his team – undefeated this year after starting the season unranked – he wouldn’t coach them in their big Sugar Bowl debut later this month.

Any public relations person worth his/her salt should be following the communication strategy of Kelly and Notre Dame these next few days – it has it all!

  • Wide-eyed (okay, wide-shouldered) college kids from Cincinnati feeling abandoned and betrayed – very publicly;
  • Accusations of Notre Dame throwing around money yet again to try to hide the fact they are no longer a force in the BCS; and
  • Doubts the hiring will even matter – or that Notre Dame ever will again.

As a life-long Notre Dame fan and native of South Bend, I am rooting for the Irish through this time, but I certainly see that the Notre Dame communications department has their hands full. What do you think is the best move for Notre Dame in these next few days?

So is everyone an expert?

December 2, 2009

It seems lately that not a day goes by that I’m not reading some article on social media. Retail/rental magazines, national women’s magazines and local community magazines, business blogs… and all the writers claim to be some sort of social media expert.  Why?  According to their credentials, they’ve dabbled in it a bit – set up a Facebook page or a Twitter account – and have started posting updates.

Great – I’m excited to see people have positive experiences with social media.  After all, it is one of the best tools business owners, large and small, can use to communicate directly with their audiences.  But just because you have a Facebook page doesn’t mean you are an expert.

Are we experts here at HMA?  If you look up the word expert on Wikipedia, you’ll see phrases such as: 

  • someone widely recognized as a reliable source
  • person with extensive knowledge or ability
  • has a prolonged or intense experience through practice and education in a particular field

Social media is a form of communication and requires strategic thought and careful planning.  It requires a time commitment and a willingness to invest in its success.  Are we experts?  We certainly are a reliable source when it comes to communications strategies and program implementation.  With nearly 30 years in business, we certainly have prolonged experience in communications.  We have degrees in journalism and public relations, so have the education component covered.

Are we the right expert for you?  Maybe, maybe not.

But, if you are going to dive into the social media waters, please spend some time talking with a real expert – someone who is actively engaged in communications on a regular and ongoing basis, one that can back up the words with proven expertise in implementing such programs.  Social media can be a great benefit to your business, if done correctly and with proper planning.

So, when can we talk?

November 24, 2009

The Master Practitioners group of the Phoenix PRSA Chapter welcomed Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett as its guest speaker, recently.

Bennett, who served eight years in the state senate, his last four as its president, provided a practical explanation about Arizona’s current budget crisis.   

Among his comments that resulted in heads nodding in agreement was:  “How you respond early in a crisis is key.” 

The Grand Canyon State is just one of 41 states with deficits, however, Arizona has one of the largest shortfall percentages.   Arizona’s budget faces a $3 billion shortfall, compared to California, which has a $26 billion deficit looming.

Here are some of the facts:  Overall, Arizona spends $33 billion per year.  The highest allocations are for K-12 education, $11 billion, and for health and welfare, such as AHCCCS, $10 billion.The Arizona general fund is expected to receive $7.6 billion in revenue this year, with expected expenditures of $10.7 billion.  Essentially, that’s where the $3 billion gap is.

You can check out a version of his presentation by clicking here. It’s pretty basic and highly informative.

abbieBethWe are huge fans of Glee – we love the singing, the dancing.  It’s definitely “cheesy bad goodness” and we have to watch it every week.

However, there have been a couple storylines lately that have us a bit concerned.  A few weeks ago, Shu’s wife decided to get a job at the high school to keep an eye on her husband and his budding romance with the guidance counselor. Her job was the school nurse and having no nursing training, started handing out over-the-counter cold medicine to help the kids stay awake during exams.  Well, we work with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and right now, kids are using OTC and prescription medications to get high at an alarming rate.

In the show, no consequences.  In real life, potential addiction.

Glee 1This week’s show highlighted Artie, the student with a disability.  We have been extremely impressed with how they have incorporated Artie’s use of a wheelchair in the storyline.  He is an active participant in the glee club and his friends are quite supportive.  However, last night’s show focused on him and the students rallying to raise money so they could get the “short bus” to take them to competition.  Really, a “short bus?”

They raised money by having a “handicapable” bake sale.  We work with Arizona Bridge to Independent Living, an advocacy organization for people with disabilities.  ABIL’s philosophy of independent living is always focused on people-first language and words like “handicapped” and “short bus” are no longer acceptable.  To see examples of people-first language, click here.

Glee 2Even more disturbing to us was the character who admitted faking her stutter in order to get out of doing a homework assignment in elementary school.  Scottsdale recently hosted the National Stuttering Association’s annual conference and having had the pleasure of working with the NSA and attending the conference, it struck us as more than a little odd that the Glee writers incorporated that into the plot.  Although Artie had the right reaction – he was upset that she’d made up something he thought they’d had in common (a disability) – it seems to us she could have just been a character with a stutter.

Are we among the majority here?  Did anyone else find these plots offensive?  Do you, like us, think the writers should have done a little more research before writing the words “handicapped,” “wheelchair-bound,” and “able-bodied” into the script?  Or do you think they wrote the story like it might happen in real life?

Are we just sensitive because we’ve worked so closely with these organizations and identify with their messages, roadblocks and goals?  Or do you agree with us?

PaulaThe pitch was successful. Take the Olympics to a South American country for the first time in history was the message used to make Rio’s argument. A good point indeed, considering Brazil’s role in this global economy.

The country is the largest in South America, the 10th economy in the world and, according to the World Bank, will rise to the 5th within the next seven years. But will the 2016 Olympics be good for Rio or Brazil? We are yet to find out. So far, so good!

Besides the entire infrastructure that is needed to host such an event, Brazil also needs to come together with the most appropriate communication and PR strategy, internally and externally. 

The country already has a phenomenally high number of the population using social media tools. For instance, Portuguese, the language spoken in Brazil, is the second most used language on Twitter.

But to be in the spotlight requires serious preparation. Media training, Q&A, branding, you name it, needs to be carefully and strategically thought out. Brazil now has an opportunity to strengthen its position, to publicize the country, the culture and its people. Their audience all around the world is highly sophisticated and it will be watching like a hawk.

Foreign investments, tourism growth and all the benefits that might derive from hosting the Olympic Games will only be possible if Rio and Brazil deliver the right key messages. Combine communications strategies, actions and tactics to show the world that the country is not only about Carnival and scantily clothed women on the beaches of Rio!

I hope for the positive outcomes. I am Brazilian. And after 120 years of the first modern Games, my country was awarded the 2016 Olympics Games, becoming the first one to host an Olympic Game in South America.

Paula Hall is an account director with HMA Public Relations and originally from Brasilia, Brazil.

alisonBeing in the communications industry, any kind of marketing, advertising or public relations messaging that is unclear annoys me to no end. When I see something I don’t like or don’t understand, I obsess over it.

And with The University of Arizona’s confusing new billboard a block from my office, I now obsess at least three times a day (on the way to work, driving to lunch and on the way home from work).

The branding ad, less than 10 miles from rival ASU, simply says, “We invented smarter eyeglasses.”


UA BillboardWho is “we?”

When did this happen?

Why isn’t there a photo?

Why haven’t I ever heard of this before?

After seeing this billboard for the 100th time, I finally Googled my booty off during my lunch hour trying to figure out what it meant.

Now, some of you may argue that was the ad’s purpose – to entice me to learn more. But isn’t that counterproductive? And wasteful? And annoying?

Comment below – and I am looking forward to hearing from Wildcat alumni on this one!

And PS – it was folks at U of A AND the Georgia Institute of Technology who developed the glasses, not just U of A.

This is my favorite time of year. On top of it being my birthday week, it is also the week for many television shows’ season premieres. As always, I am hooked on more shows than I can count, but this year I have been even more hooked by the interesting taglines and lingo thrown around to attract viewers.

Being in the communications field, I understand how impactful just a few words can be. So, here is a short list of my favorite – and least favorite – network and television show taglines and promotional lingo:

The DishStyle Network

This ladies-only network now simply describes itself as “Before Meets After.” As a long-time fan of Joan Rivers on the Red Carpet and any makeover show, this tagline tells me everything I need to know about the network and reminds me of all the shows I love to watch on it after the hubby goes to bed. Tip – watch the Dish on the Style Network hosted by former child star Danielle Fischel.

Grade: Gold Star!

NEW Jay Leno Show

Admittedly, I can’t stand this guy. I found his show constantly stealing from other programming and always pandering to the lowest common denominator. However, I have to give props to his decade-plus of dominance in the late night talk show war. But, when I heard Leno attempting to sound edgy yet cute by promoting the show as “100 percent more comedy, 98 percent fewer murders,” I threw up in my mouth a little. Lame joke. Lame show.

Grade: Frowny face!


Since the show is pure Sci-Fi and always compared to the X Files, it is only fitting it gets a SUPER cool tagline in the vein of the X Files classic “The Truth is Out There.” And it did by turning the common phrase “Endless Possibilities” on its Spock-loving ear and going with “New Cases. Endless Impossibilities.” Bring on the aliens, ghosts and time travel because I am hooked!

Grade: Gold star!

How I Met Your Mother

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHEROne of the only sitcoms with some MAJOR buzz behind it (after four years on air!), the season premiere teaser line of “ROBAR” to promote the pairing of fan favorites Robin and Barney is cringe-worthy. However, the implication that these two beloved characters are actually sticking with each other makes me want to do a happy dance

Grade: Frowny face half-covered by a giant gold star!

So, how would you rate the promotional concepts of your favorite shows – and even some new shows set to air? Comment below.

A swiftly-sparked debate

September 16, 2009

alisonWow – I didn’t even know the MTV Video Music Awards were still relevant, let alone hot enough to spark a national debate on the social media revolution!  As everyone has seen by now, Kanye West made a national fool of himself during Sunday’s live telecast of the awards by stealing the podium from first-time VMA winner – and 19-YEAR-OLD-GIRL – Taylor Swift to let her know she didn’t really deserve her moon man.

And as everyone has also seen, a reporter from ABC tweeted an off-the-record President Obama calling West a “jackass” for his actions, sparking a national debate on Twitter, social media policy, ethics and where we go from here.

moon manMy take?  The first thing I learned in my PR 101 class and again in introductory media trainings was that EVERYTHING is on the record.  And guess what?  Obama does too.  He knew what he said would get out, and he knows our country’s obsession with pop culture.  He cleverly made that “everyman” comment “off-the-record” knowing full well what he was doing.

And so did the reporter – but were her actions ethical?  By actions, I mean both the tweet AND her “agreement” to go off the record at all.

alisonAt last night’s #journchatphx, there was a buzz in the room about how to get clients and the community at large to accept – and engage – in social media. As a panelist, I chimed in that it will happen, but in an old-school way and mentioned that the king of “traditional” entertainment, branding, pitching – Michael Jordan – may be the answer. I then mentioned a recent Mashable article touting how Gatorade was going to use Jordan’s upcoming induction to the Professional Basketball Hall of Fame to make a statement in the social realm.

Sadly, I didn’t have the article handy at that moment – so here it isjordan_gatorade

As you see, Gatorade – who owes their entire brand identity to Jordan – is launching a Jordan nostalgia/greatest hits Facebook App that is already getting major international buzz.

So, fellow #journchat Tweeps – what do you think? Will using the greatest traditional pitchman of all time help the world embrace social media? Will it give us even more ammunition in our on-going conversations about social media to our bosses, clients and colleagues?