Friday, February 25, 2011

NFL Lockout Could Sack Cities

By Kristen Seabolt

With the looming possibility of a NFL lockout, fans all over the country are left in limbo, waiting and wondering, “What the heck will I do on Sundays come September?”

Well, fans are not the only ones crossing their fingers as the deadline quickly approaches. Mega-million dollar stadiums, team employees, retail and apparel stores, restaurants, bars, hotels, charities, media outlets, advertising agencies, and overall tourism in cities all will be significantly as affected as average fans will be forced to actually be productive on Sunday afternoons.

In an article in the Baltimore Business Journal last week, writer Steve Dance reported on the negative impact the lockout could have on the economic state of cities across the country. According to Dance, a recent 2010 Forbes list of the most valuable NFL teams ranked the Baltimore Ravens 8th overall, worth almost $1.1 billion. Each year, the Ravens bring in $255 million in revenue. With a lockout, that number becomes close to a big fat $0. Furthermore, the NFLPA estimates that each city would, on average, lose about $160 million, or $20 million per game not played should the lockout become a reality. Even for the most stable cities, this is not pocket change.

Overall, a lockout could cause a classic domino effect for the city. With no games, M&T Bank will lose money, stadium employees will lose their jobs, Camden Yards will lose funding for repairs, bars and restaurants will lose patrons, retail and apparel stores will lose sales, hotels will lose guests, charities will lose funding and athlete appearances, and Baltimore will be even more hopeful that the Orioles have an amazing year.

Lastly, what will the media do without football? If there are no games, will anyone be tuned in to their local sports talk radio or TV stations? According to CBS Radio, a one point drop in ratings equals about $1 million lost in radio advertising revenue. Although I am sure the media will find plenty to talk about as they always do, a lack of programming could be a significant problem for outlets or sports writers who are solely dedicated to reporting on the NFL or pre/post game coverage.

Thankfully, although Roger Goodell said a few weeks ago that little progress had been made, recent reports claim that both sides are inching toward a compromise. And hopefully come September, stadiums will be full, bars will be packed, and fans such as myself and cities alike can breathe easy. But they better work it out soon because the clock on the 2011 NFL season is ticking.

Kristen Seabolt is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR. Contact her at

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Google Steps up During Times of Disaster

By Courtney Carey

Yesterday, a devastating earthquake hit the historic town of Christchurch in New Zealand. As of this morning, officials stated that 75 people were killed and 300 are reported missing. Among all of the tragedy, there is some positive news. At least 120 survivors were pulled from the wreckage and many people are stepping up to help. One household name that is making a huge impact is Google.

Google helps individuals sort through billions of bits of information for its users every day. Now, the company is expanding and using their immense database for an incredible cause. Google launched a Person Finder web page that will attempt to reunite missing friends and families. The Person Finder site was created along with the U.S. Department of State after a devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in January, 2010. Google’s person Finder sites were also used in response to earthquakes in Chile and China.

The website allows users to search for a missing person by entering an individual’s name into a user-created database. If a match is not found, the user can leave information and a message about the person. Users can also leave information about themselves in case others are trying to locate them. As of late last night, more than 6,500 records were created on the site.

Google is also working on crisis response pages that would include lists of helpful resources, emergency contact numbers and real-time updates from popular social media sites, such as Twitter and YouTube.

Google is setting an incredible example of how modern technology can be used to truly impact the world and make a real difference in peoples’ lives. Thanks to Google, people have a chance to be reconnected with their family and friends after going through an unimaginable disaster. I really admire what they are doing and I hope that the People Finder web page continues to successfully reconnect loved ones.

Courtney Carey is Manager of Social Media at Maroon PR. Contact her at

Monday, February 21, 2011

Everyone Has a Story to Tell

By Chartese Burnett

We are bombarded everyday with news accounts of tragedy, violence in Egypt, the war in Afghanistan, child abuse, homicides, the contentious political landscape, budget cuts that threaten to eliminate vital programs that benefit society, and on and on and on. Everywhere you turn, there are sad stories with which we are deluged on TV, on the radio, on the Internet; and of course, these days, via all the social media outlets.

However, just as there are stories of destruction and death, there are also stories of hope that abound. For those of us play a part in these stories, let’s start telling those. Let’s begin to utilize all of these effective outlets – TV, radio, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wordpress, etc. to share with the world the stories of survival, triumph and miracles.

Let’s inundate the public with those stories. Let’s share with the media and their captive audiences the good news: that victims are surviving, that patients are overcoming disease, that endangered species and the environment are being protected, that underserved children are being embraced and educated, that we are making strides and reaching new heights in America and in the world and attacking the many ills that affect society, health and the environment.

As my friend Joe Schreiber shared with my Sports Media Today class at the University of Maryland: “Storytelling is key in the world of publicity and journalism.” Schreiber helped launch and produce NBC’s George Michael’s Sports Machine, which aired for 23 years, making it the longest running locally produced, nationally syndicated sports show in television history. The show earned 11 Emmy awards. He is an accomplished producer, journalist and now working with many organizations to help them with their messages through various multimedia platforms.

In the world of public relations and journalism, those professionals who are most successful in spreading their message (getting their news covered and/or getting their work published) are most often those who are the best storytellers.

It is no different in the world of philanthropy. Organizations whose mission is to connect with constituents -- who include board members, donors, and the research community, among others -- MUST tell their story. They must recognize the value of the communications, media and public relations function. Many nonprofits have yet to embrace the importance of telling their story through the many tremendous opportunities to do so; including a comprehensive and extensive communications plan, along with passionate and experienced personnel to execute it.

Creating awareness for events, initiatives, programs, newsworthy research funded, significant findings from studies – should be at the core of the outreach, pr and media efforts for any nonprofit entity. A strategic approach to communicating the organization’s mission, with the ultimate goal to fund and further the mission, i.e. a call to action, is the key to garnering the support of existing donors, potential major gift givers, and alliances with corporate partners and sponsors.

Especially in challenging economic times, it is even more important to position yourself positively – when there are numerous organizations, entities, and individuals vying for the same pot of money in the world of giving.

As a PR professional, one of the rules of thumb is that you have to be able to answer the “so what?” question when pitching a story or news item to the media. You have to be able to explain why a particular media outlet’s readers, viewers and/or listeners should care. What’s in it for them? Why is it important – to them or to their community or to the world at large?

Talented, skilled and compassionate communications professionals know how to craft that message, engage the audience and to answer that question.

Just like any other business entity, nonprofits must have key messages that serve as the definition of WHO they are, WHAT they have done and WHAT their brand represents.

Positive and strategic PR for a nonprofit should not only motivate and retain existing audiences, but should also serve to expand opportunities for new audiences to engage in a meaningful way.

At Maroon, we are very privileged to work with or serve as the public relations teams of several nonprofit clients, and we are blessed to be able to share THEIR stories of funding research to cure diseases, supporting patients and families living with life-threatening illnesses, protecting the environment and endangered species, cultivating a generation which values volunteerism, and educating and empowering our underserved youth through the gift and joy of reading.

However, these stories belong to ALL of us. It is not only THEIR story… it is YOUR story… it is OUR story. For isn’t the onus on each and everyone one of us not be silent, but to speak up for those who are not able to do so for themselves and to make a difference?

We will continue to work hard at telling stories in a meaningful and impactful way – stories about heroes, miracles, and about people who are changing the world.

Chartese Burnett is Director of Non-Profit PR at Maroon PR. Contact her at

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Life is Good

By Chris Daley

I’m curious to know how many people clicked-through to this blog simply because of the title. It’s simple, catchy and makes you feel pretty good right?

Being in the public relations profession, I’m a fan of brands. The other night I stumbled across a TV show on CNBC called How I Made My Millions. The story I began watching was about the guys who started Life is Good.

I’m quite sure everyone who is reading this has heard of this brand, and I doubt anyone has anything bad to say about them. That’s a powerful brand. It has a simple message, happy logo, quality product and great story. I personally do not own a Life is Good product, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t buy one of their products as a gift for someone, or maybe a hat for myself down the road. There’s something about buying one of their products that makes people feel special.

If you are like me and didn’t know the story behind Life is Good, here’s a brief history. Two nice guys from a humble background sent out on a mission to sell t-shirts. With some creativity, and a naive never say “can’t” attitude their idea, and a little luck, led them to making millions. Sound familiar?

What I also never knew about Life is Good is the detailed story and how much their brand impacted people in need. Not only is their brand strong, but they’re utilizing their platform to help thousands of children.

The defining moment in the company's fundraising initiatives occurred following the tragedy of September 11, 2001. The public's overwhelming response to a specially-designed American flag t-shirt enabled the company to make a $207,000 donation to the United Way on behalf of families whose loved ones were victims of the terrorist attacks. That experience enabled Life is Good to see more clearly the opportunity to have a sustained, positive impact through charitable giving.

The Life is Good Festival last year was attended by 30,000 people and raised over $500,000 for the Life is Good Kids Foundation and its mission of helping kids overcome life-threatening challenges including violence, illness and extreme poverty. Since being founded, the foundation has raised over $4 million to help kids facing life-threatening challenges.

The Life is Good brand is a great story and the way they tell it gives them credibility, brand power and consumer loyalty. Add that to the work they do to help children who need it is a model that I feel all established brands should follow. To learn more about the Life is Good story, visit

Chris Daley is a Senior Account Executive at Maroon PR. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @ChrisDaley43.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Nevermore" on the Horizon

By Mitchell Schmale

It looks as if the Edgar Allan Poe House in Baltimore is in danger of being Nevermore.

The current museum and former house where the famous author lived in Baltimore in the 1830’s is being threatened with closure due to lack of funding. Baltimore City officials have asked the museum to become self-sufficient and implement a plan to operate without using public funds by July 2012.

The museum operates on an annual budget of $85,000 and now must quickly create a compelling plan to help find the necessary funding from donors, corporate partners and others to stay alive in a very tough economy.

Baltimore takes great pride in its connection to one of history’s most legendary authors. The mystique of Edgar Allan Poe runs deep in Baltimore, where Poe died in 1849 and is also buried. The Poe theme is even reflected in the city’s modern day culture, including the name of Baltimore’s NFL team and mascot.

It’s understandable that Baltimore City officials are limited in how much financial aid they can provide in the current economy while facing their own budget shortfalls. It is situation that calls for tough and sometimes unpopular decisions.

Hopefully, this little piece of Baltimore’s history can be saved for future generations to enjoy and the museum can create a campaign to create a long-term survival plan. It would be nice if at least one Edgar Allan Poe story had a happy ending.

Mitchell Schmale is Vice President of Maroon PR. Contact him at

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Appreciating the Warmth of a Cold Nose

By Tim Richardson

It’s impossible for me to be objective when it comes to the subject of animal cruelty. I love animals... in particular my black lab, Rocko, and cat, Meeko. When my wife and I lost our dog Murphy one year ago this week, it was a devastating experience. Some people said I was overreacting because it was “just a dog.” My aggravation at those people turned into feelings of sadness for them as they obviously never experienced the joy of having an animal be such a major piece of their lives. Regrettably, that belief about animals not having significant value seems too commonplace in today’s society.

Whether you have pets or not, animal cruelty is a serious issue that deserves the proper attention. This hot-button topic resurfaced in Baltimore this week when a mistrial was called in a ground-breaking case of abuse against a dog. Travers and Tremayne Johnson were on trial for dousing a young pit bull with gasoline and setting her on fire in broad daylight in West Baltimore. Later named Phoenix by the caregivers who tended to her injuries, the pit bull succumbed to her horrific wounds just five days following the attack. Just three days ago, 11 of the 12 jurors were prepared to return a guilty verdict in this case, while one juror was not convinced by the evidence – hence, the mistrial.

The decision to retrial the case now rests in the hands of Baltimore State's Attorney's Office. This tragedy takes on a new level if our judicial system does not demonstrate the fervor to see this through and deliver a message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated. Phoenix's brutal death brought about widespread outrage in 2009 that needs to be summoned in light of this recent development.

In response to this case in 2009, the Mayor’s Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force was established in July of that year and charged with helping the City of Baltimore prevent and prosecute animal cruelty, including dog fighting. Unfortunately, that level of attention was not in place for such cases of animal abuse prior to the tragedy involving Phoenix. Court testimony during the Johnson brothers’ trial detailed how authorities did not have any real procedures in place to handle crimes against animals and police were unclear on how to go about their investigation. Led by Caroline Griffin, the task force however has made great strides in educating the public about the severity of animal cruelty and police agencies have trained officers to handle such incidents.

Additionally, animal welfare organizations, such as the Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS) should be commended for the work they do on behalf of these defenseless animals. BARCS is a nonprofit that cares for more than 12,000 animals per year, including the majority of animal neglect and abuse cases in the City.

Thankfully, it appears that we are moving in the right direction in some aspects. But it’s the responsibility of parents, law enforcement, animal welfare groups and citizens in general to make a declaration that cruelty against animals will not be tolerated. That first step begins with retrying Travers and Tremayne Johnson and holding them accountable for their actions.

Tim Richardson is Executive Vice President of Maroon PR. Contact him at

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fans Denied Seats to Big Game Now Receive Free Tickets for Next Year

By Andrea Kunicky

Imagine spending hundreds or ever thousands of dollars on Super Bowl tickets to watch your favorite team play plus add in all of the travel expenses just to be turned away from your seats?! That's what happened to more than 1,200 ticket holders at Cowboys Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday. 850 people were relocated to other seats and about 400 others were denied seats altogether because sections of temporary bleachers were declared unsafe and unusable.

The 400 affected ticket holders were brought inside the stadium and allowed to watch the game on monitors in a field-level club area or from standing-room locations at each corner of the stadium and were promised refunds by the NFL worth three times the face value of their tickets, which were mostly around $800 or $900 a piece.
Another item added to the list… the NFL will also provide free tickets to the 2012 Super Bowl to those affected fans.

And…why did this all happen? The NFL and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones were trying to break the Super Bowl attendance mark of 103,985, set at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA in 1980, by putting in temporary stands above the end zones, along the sidelines and selling standing-room only tickets on stairwells. The work was not fully completed and some of the seats remained vacant because of safety concerns.

“We apologize to those fans that were impacted by this,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a press briefing. “We will certainly do a thorough review and get to the bottom of why it all occurred, but we take full responsibility for that.”

I am a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan and if I had the chance to get a ticket to the most important game of the year knowing this could be a once in a lifetime experience, to then arrive and be denied my seat… I can certainly understand why many fans could be in an uproar. The NFL did a smart thing by addressing the situation in a prompt and efficient way and giving away some high priced items in return, but that will never take away the experience these fans could have had, especially watching their favorite team in the big game. You can’t refund an experience like that.

I’m sure the NFL will address this situation thoroughly and will take all the precautions to not make this mistake in a future event.

Andrea Kunicky is an Account Executive at Maroon PR. Contact her at

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pete DeLuca suggested you like UFC

By Pete DeLuca

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is once again pushing the boundaries of social media. In a press conference earlier this week, the company announced plans to stream a live, high definition broadcast of UFC 126 to fans who press the “like” box on their official Facebook page. The sold out event takes place at 8:25 PM on February 5 from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas – and it is free to all Facebook fans.

Since their inception in 1993, UFC has become one of the fastest growing sports. Their fan base stretches worldwide – with programming shown in over 130 different countries. The majority of their fans are young and passionate, which makes UFC President Dana White’s plan to embrace social media a perfect fit.

“Fans all over the world have been telling me that they want to see this fight. You got it,” said White in a recent article in The Telegraph. “We are going to be broadcasting live on Facebook, giving UFC fans all over the world access to a great fight between Kid Yamamoto and Demetrious Johnson. Plus, we’re continuing to show that we are the best at using social media to attract new fans.”

This is not the first time the UFC used their social media platforms to their advantage. White, who personally has over 1.3 million followers on Twitter, is known to tweet locations in major cities giving away free tickets and merchandise. The sport’s biggest names, such as Forrest Griffin and Rampage Jackson, interact with fans on Twitter, and the online application “Fight Nation” has thousands of downloads.

Many companies are using Facebook and Twitter as a way to provide news and updates to the public. The UFC uses their social media pages as a way to grow their product by enhancing the overall fan experience. I admire Dana White’s marketing plan and commitment to social media – he has earned his 4.6 million fans.

Pete DeLuca is Manager of Creative Services at Maroon PR. Contact him at

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The REAL Super Bowl Match-Up : The Big Game vs. New Commercials

By Katy Fincham

The Super Bowl is an unofficial holiday for most American households. Over 68% of adults are expected to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Green Bay Packers this weekend, but according to recent polls, many viewers are just as excited to see the new commercials.

Now in their sixth year, the Hanon McKendry survey consistently finds that over half of the adult Super Bowl viewers in the U.S. are looking forward to the commercials more than the game - with the number of people excited to see these ads up from 54% in 2009 to 57% this year.

Social media is also a huge component with Super Bowl advertisers this year, giving businesses an opportunity to market before, during, and after the big game.

According to an article in the Denver Post, recently Bud Light challenged consumers to guess the story lines of their three Super Bowl commercials from photos posted to their Facebook page. If the story lines are nailed, the company will launch a fourth, Internet-only ad on Sunday. The fan page had nearly 1 million fans as of Friday afternoon.

Personally, the Steelers presence in the Super Bowl makes me ill, so this year I find myself more excited about watching the new commercials and taking advantage of the social media specials and contests!

What are you most excited about – The Big Game or the New Commercials?

Katy Fincham is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR. Contact her at