VA Takes on the PR + Social Media Summit

October 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

By: Casey Schaak

On Wednesday, October 10, a few of our VA team members spent the day at Marquette University taking a deeper dive into social media practices, policies and trends. The fourth annual PR + Social Media Summit was quiet the success, and the hashtag “#prsms” was even trending nationally on Twitter.

Here are some of the key takeaways from our #prsms experience:

Creativity is key. Content is king.

U.S. Olympian Nick Symmonds kicked off the summit with his own unique social media experience. He auctioned off his left shoulder on Ebay with the intention of displaying the winning company’s Twitter handle on the space during the 2012 Olympics. Hanson Dodge Creative, of Milwaukee, won the auction with a bid of $11,100. 

Nick’s experience showcased unconventional brand building. While the Olympic Committee required him to cover the temporary tattoo during his races, the buzz created around the auction led to free publicity for both Nick and Hanson Dodge. The auction and the tattoo increased awareness and Twitter followers for Nick and Hanson Dodge, and even shed light onto some controversial Olympic rules prohibiting Olympians from recognizing their individual sponsors before, during and after the games.

Balancing Work and Personal Life on Social Media

The Social Media Policy Panel, comprised of Erik Ugland, Diederich College of Communications, Mary Henige, General Motors Company, John Kalter, Godfrey & Kahn, William Caraher, College of Business Administration, and Eric Rumbaugh, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, focused on how companies handle employee social media interactions.

Each employer has its own social media culture. For GM, its policies require employees to be transparent and identify their role within the company when posting or commenting on the internet. They also must say that their opinions are their own, not those of GM, and employees are encouraged to link to approved GM content found on the GM website when necessary. A key legal take-away when it comes to a company’s social media liability is “put it in writing.” Employees are going to be on social media, so it’s important companies have guidelines.

Stand Up for Your Brand

Molly McKenna, McDonalds, presented “Sharing Your Brand Story: Breaking Through Today’s Cluttered World.” Her presentation focused on five social media truths:

  • Truth 1: People have perceptions about your brand.
  • Truth 2: Act of listening and responding can change your business.
  • Truth 3: You never know where the fire will come from.
  • Truth 4: Response can be more important than the situation.
  • Truth 5: We’re operating in a society of continuous partial attention.

McDonalds has learned to deal with negativity towards its stereotypically unhealthy and fried meal options by embracing its brand. Through social media, it creates an emotional brand connection along with authentic and transparent conversations with followers. In response to negativity regarding large soft drink sizes, McDonalds took the stance that the consumer makes his or her own choices. The company has developed a variety of menu options, and the consumer can choose which items and sizes he or she wants.

The Human Touch

Mary Henige, director of social media and digital marketing for GM, showed how GM is engaging with consumers and fans/followers by creating a personal side to the company. Instead of showing buildings and copy about the company, GM has created a video blog on its website that features different employees, showing their work life and personal life. The blog also highlights local owners and dealers. It takes the GM brand and gives it a human touch.

Additionally, the GM Facebook page features “Fan Friday.” Each Friday the page changes its banner photo to display a photo submitted by a fan. By adding a personal connection to its website and social media pages, GM paints a compelling story and engages with its fans on an emotional level.

What is Social Media and Why Should I Care About It?

Brian Moran, small business consultant, gave a compelling presentation on the importance of not just being on social media, but taking the time to do it right. Social media is a great tool for lead generation, customer service, market research, competitive analysis and PR, but if it’s not done right, it’s a waste of time and money.

Here are Brian’s 10 suggestions for social media users:


  • Tweet, retweet, reply
  • Be consistent
  • Avoid politics, religion and tweeting after midnight


  • Make connections
  • Give and get recommendations
  • Join groups
  • Ask questions; give answers


  • Use Google alerts
  • Engage with industry communities
  • Get employees involved, but make sure they know the rules

Social Media for PR

The News and Social Media Panel, with Kati Berg, Diederich College of Communications, Sharif Durhams, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Kathryn Janicek, NBC Chicago morning show, Andy Tarnoff,, and Herbert Lowe, Diedrich College of Communications, gave an inside look at the media’s perception and utilization of social media.

For traditional media reporters and anchors, social media is a conversation. It’s a way to connect with the community and extend and develop their on-air/on-paper personalities. Stories that are covered in print and broadcast can be expanded through social media and the public can engage with the news and join the conversation.

When it comes to relationships with PR, social media is a way to build relationships and set yourself apart amongst the many email pitches the media receives. Just as the social platform adds personality to reporters and anchors, it adds personality to PR pros as well. It is a unique way to find a common ground and connect – reporter/anchor to PR representative.

Winning the Social Media Race

Augie Ray, of Prudential, gave some great insight into the value of social media. By his definition, “social media is a medium where value is exchanged and relationships are created mutually.”

The winner in the social media race is not just the brand with the most fans, but the brand with the most fans having the most meaningful engagement.

As you can tell, every speaker and panel during the PR + Social Media Summit provided a wealth of insightful information. It was a great experience and we’re looking forward to attending the event again next year!


Creating an Effective PowerPoint Presentation

October 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

By: Casey Schaak

PowerPoint has become a staple in the presentation world. PowerPoints are easy to create, update and transport. Not to mention they can be found on almost every computer. But with the regularity of use of these computer-based slides, it’s easy to fall into bad habits and thus, create a less-than-ideal presentation.

Don’t fall into a PowerPoint slump – make the best of this extremely useful presentation tool by following these important content and design tips to keep your presentation clear and effective.


The most important part of a PowerPoint presentation is content. Follow the steps below to make sure you are presenting the right content in a concise way:

  1. Before deciding on the design of the PowerPoint, first define your objective and the key points you want to get across. Also, keep your audience in mind and remember that your presentation must be geared to them – their familiarity with the topic and what is of interest to them.
  2. Create an outline to ensure the messages are consistent and the structure of the presentation is solid.
  3. Limit the content. Follow the rule of six: six words per line and six lines per slide.
    −  Go through your information and narrow down the points so only the
    most important information is on the slides.
    −  Avoid using complete sentences on slides. Cut paragraphs down to
    sentences, sentences into phrases and phrases   into key words.
    −  You can fill in any details during your presentation, but every word you
    say should not also be on the slides.
  4. Keep wording clear and simple, use active visual language and cut any unnecessary words.


Slides are meant to support the speaker, but aren’t supposed to be the main focus of the presentation. When designing a presentation, avoid clutter and establish a professional and consistent layout. Follow the design tips below to create an effective look and feel for your PowerPoint presentation:

Basic Design

  • Create a clear and consistent theme and color scheme throughout the presentation by using a template within PowerPoint, creating your own or using a company template provided for this purpose.
  • Use high-contrast fonts and backgrounds to make text stand out.
  • Keep the background consistent. Complicated backgrounds make it difficult to read the text.
  • Avoid flashy, distracting animation or sound effects. The focus should be on the presenter, not animation on the screen.
    −  If text moves, keep it simple and consistent throughout the
    −  Avoid using movement transitions between slides, or keep it consistent.
  • Always practice your presentation on a large screen, one similar to what you will be presenting on, to make sure all fonts, graphs and images are clear.


  • Use a font that is big enough for the audience to easily read.
    −  Font should be 24-32 point size, with titles 36-44 point size.
  • At most, use only two fonts per slide. One for the title and one for the other text.
    −  Sans serif fonts (Arial or Helvetica) are generally easier to read than
    serif fonts (Times New Roman).
  • Don’t use too many different colors in the text – two or three at most.
  • Avoid all upper-case letters. Upper and lowercase letters are easier to read.
  • Use left or right text alignment – centered text is difficult to read.
  • Use bullets to present information clearly.

Graphics and Charts

  • Graphics should balance the slide, be easily understood and complement the text without overwhelming.
    −   Avoid using more than two graphics per slide.
  • Visuals, such as graphs, diagrams, photos and media clips, can be used to engage the audience in place of text. In this case, use only enough text to label the graphic.
  • Use the same style graphics throughout (cartoon, photographs, etc.).
  • Use clip art sparingly and if possible, avoid using PowerPoint clip art, as this is commonly used and the audience has most likely seen these images before.
  • Charts are a great tool to visually present information.
    −   Pie charts should be used to show percentages.
    −  Vertical bar charts should be used to show changes in quantity over
    −  Horizontal bar charts should be used to compare quantities.
    −  Line charts should be used to demonstrate trends.

Once you’ve established the content, designed the slides and finalized your PowerPoint, make sure to proof read your slides for potential errors and practice giving your presentation.

By following these tips, you are now ready to give an effective PowerPoint presentation – good luck!

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