Monday, July 25, 2011

Information Overload

By John Maroon

Let me start out by saying that I love social media and the 24 hour news cycle... it is a great part of what I do for a living and provides so many opportunities to tell your story, but...

Sometimes it is downright exhausting and information overload kicks in. This has been the case recently in the world of sports. One of the game’s greats, Derek Jeter, was marching towards his 3,000th career hit, an exclusive club with only 28 members in all of baseball history.

As he approached the elusive mark, Jeter injured his calf running out a groundball. What seemed like three minutes after he left the game, people were offering their opinions on the extent of the injury, how long he would be out, the impact to the Yankees and more. Obviously there is no need to know any of this... the Yankees and Jeter didn’t know anything at this point, but in the world we live in everyone had to get out in front of this story and offer an opinion... no matter how ludicrous it was. Turns out he had a strained calf, missed a little time, came back and went 5-for-5 and his 3,000th career hit was a home run. Looking back, all of that wild speculation seems a little silly now.

This is nobody’s fault... there is time that needs to be filled and there are hundreds of sports talk radio shows, the 800-pound gorilla that is ESPN and of course Twitter and Facebook among others. This is the trend now and we all have to get used to it. In many ways, it is wonderful for the PR industry as there are so many places and ways in which to tell your client’s story. It is a terrific resource for all of us and a great way to get our news.

The downsides are the need to fill all of this time, and that leads to rampant speculation and blather, as well as the rush to beat everyone else to the story and that often times leads to errors.

I was thinking back to 1993 recently when I was working for the Cleveland Indians and, tragically, two of our players, Steve Olin and Tim Crew, died in a boating accident during spring training and another, Bobby Ojeda, pulled through after a real fight.

It happened at dusk when their boat ran into an unmarked dock. It was the only off day of spring training and after the accident happened, I was driving back to Winterhaven with my wife and we were flagged down in our car by a couple of players who said that they think something happened with a player. They weren’t sure what it was but they were heading to the team hotel. We didn’t have cell phones and we drove to the hotel where many players were outside. I was rushed by our second baseman, a young guy named Carlos Baerga, who said there was an accident and Olie (Steve Olin’s nickname) was dead.

Frantically, I rushed to a pay phone (you can see one in a phone museum or something) and I called our General Manager, John Hart, who said I needed to get to his condo immediately. Once there, we found out what happened, set up HQ there and then calls started to trickle in. We set up a press conference for the next morning at the complex. As the players arrived (a few still hadn’t heard),they met with Manager Mike Hargrove and there was an emotional team meeting followed by a press conference.

This was 18 years ago... not that long! Can you imagine if this happened today? People would have tweeted it from the shores of the lake... there would have been a rush on the hospital... sports talk radio would be off the charts... inaccurate statements about the players conditions, the way in which the accident happened, etc., would be made... players would have heard via Twitter, Facebook, ESPN Breaking News and CNN scrolls... there would have been no chance to get with the families of the victims, prepare an appropriate press announcement or anything like that. We would have to fly by the seat of our pants and do the best we could.

There is no “better” or “easier” way when it comes to something like this... just different. And for PR pros the challenges to control a message becomes nearly impossible, and as proactively as we all try to be, you better be prepared to react as well.

John Maroon
is President of Maroon PR. Contact him at

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What’s In a Name?

By Mitchell Schmale

What’s in a name? Sometimes it’s more than you think, including hidden meanings, historical connections, analogies to mythological creatures and links to universal truths.

Other times, a name can be just that… only a name. Perhaps it’s just a title meant to signify nothing symbolic and allowed to develop its own special meaning or brand in the years ahead.

It’s always interesting learning how new businesses and company founders choose a name. It’s a tough decision and if all goes well, hopefully one that the company founder and future employees will live with for a long time. Some companies choose the more traditional route that may not need a lot of explanation to the general public or customers… names like Ford Motor Company, Coca-Cola and General Electric. However, a younger generation of companies that have also become household names took a more creative route to becoming part of the lexicon of corporate names that we now all recognize… names like Google, Yahoo, Apple and GoDaddy.

Ever wonder where some of these names came from? Or which of these companies was almost named Back Rub? Check out what’s in a name for the origins of some of the most unusual company names in the business.

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

Monday, July 18, 2011

Is Google Ruining Your Memory?

By Kristen Seabolt

Albert Einstein once said, “Never memorize something that you can look up.” Well, according to a study released last week by Betsy Sparrow, an assistant professor of Psychology at Columbia University, people have truly taken that advice to heart.

In the recent study, Dr. Sparrow and other scientists performed memory experiments on participants to examine the effects of the internet on a human’s memory. In one of the experiments, they wanted to see if people were more or less likely to remember information that could easily be retrieved from a computer. In the study, participants were asked to type 40 pieces of trivia into a computer. Scientists told half of the group that the bits of trivia would be saved on the computer, and the other half that the information would be erased. Long story short, the subjects were significantly more likely to remember information if they thought they would not be able to find it later. Likewise, those who thought they could find the information later made no effort to memorize the trivia statements.

Another experiment examined whether having access to a computer affects what a person remembers. In this study, participants were asked to remember both a trivia statement AND which of five folders the statement was saved in on the computer. The unexpected conclusion: participants were more likely to remember the folder the statement was saved in than the statement itself.

So, is the internet making us dumber? Or is it simply changing how our minds store information? How many times in your day-to-day life do you use spell-check, an online calculator,, Wikipedia or Google? Instead of taking a second to think about an answer, we automatically type. For example, my home screen when I get on the internet is Google.

The scientists in the study think that humans are relying on “transactive memory,” (we rely on other people and reference materials around us to store information for us rather than storing it ourselves). It is a scary thought, but could also just be that our minds are adapting to the new types of technology around us, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I would like to think that we are intelligent beings and that if technology ever failed us that our minds would store information the old fashioned way.

See if Google has rewired the way your brain thinks by taking this Washington Post quiz.

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

If You Vote … They Will Come

By Pete DeLuca

Yesterday, while dozens of baseball’s elite prepared for the 82nd annual Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game in Phoenix, a team of former All-Stars and Hall of Famers joined at FanFest to unveil an unbelievable new promotion; the Pepsi MAX Field of Dreams Team contest.

Imagine this – next spring, you and 10 of your closest friends assemble a team to play a baseball game on your home field. The visiting teams’ lineup; Carlton Fisk, Frank Thomas, Rod Carew, Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Ken Griffey Jr., Ricky Henderson, Randy Johnson, and Greg Maddux.

This has got to be too good to be true, right? It is all a part of Pepsi MAX’s latest creative promotion. From now through August 31, people are encouraged to visit and “build” their opponent’s roster by voting for their favorite players at each position (you can vote up to 25 times per day). Each vote submitted counts an as entry. From there, four regional finalists are selected and will begin campaigning for a chance to take on this assembled team of legends. The winner and All-Star team will be announced during the 2011 MLB postseason.

"Pepsi MAX is all about creating unique, one-of-a-kind opportunities for MLB fans to help amplify their baseball experience," said Mark Rooks, senior director for Pepsi sports marketing. "With this promotion, we are looking to engage MLB fans by allowing them to tell us who they think some of the greatest living legends of the game are, and to top it all off, we are giving them the chance of a lifetime to play against some of their all-time heroes."

The MLB and Pepsi MAX are also ramping up their online presence; providing interactive statistics, high-definition videos, and background stories of the legends involved. Fans can also enlist the help of active Major Leaguers, opinion polls, and Twitter and Facebook debates to aid their selections.

This is another brilliant promotion from the creative minds at MLB and Pepsi Max. My hat is off to the two companies for continuing to find innovative ways to increase awareness, grow their social media platforms, and reward fans.

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

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Decision – A Year Later

By Chris Daley

A year ago I wrote a blog that many of you have probably forgotten by now, or didn’t even read, called, King of Public Relations. The blog was written the day LeBron James held the sports world hostage and decided to stage a publicity stunt based around what team he was going to play for after his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers expired.

I took a look back at my blog because even I had forgotten what I wrote about that day. I was curious to see how much my perspective on LeBron James has changed in a year.

Last year on July 8 when I Googled “LeBron James,” the main headline that popped up was from which said, “LeBron James – Public Relations Genius.” Today, I Googled “LeBron James” and the main headline that popped up was by which says, “Poll results show big decline in LeBron James' marketability.” What a difference a year makes!

I can say this - my overall opinion about LeBron James has not changed at all. He is one of the best athletes on the planet, a dominating player in the NBA and great for the game. Although I’ve never met the guy, he seems like a genuinely nice person on and off the court.

LeBron took a lot of heat this year as a player and a person all stemming from the television program he staged known as The Decision. It’s easy to say now, but the only way his announcement could have ended well is if he had decided to stay in Cleveland. That didn’t happen and now he is left with scrutiny both as a player and person.

From an athletics standpoint, I find it funny when the media is so quick to call a professional athlete a disappointment. Most members of the media don’t have the athletic credentials to know what it even takes to make it to a professional level or even the college level. But, they are very quick to cast an opinion if a person or team doesn’t live up to their hype. I guess that’s the media’s job in some capacity, but I don’t like the sensationalism.

I would not call LeBron a failure or disappointment at all. The guy is amazing and a destined Hall of Famer. His team - albeit the team with arguably the most talent - didn’t win a championship this season. That said it is my non-expert opinion that they will be in the NBA Finals again and will win a championship at some point. Not an easy thing to do at the professional level.

From a public relations stand point, I think it’s safe to say now that LeBron James is not the King of Public Relations. I’m sure he’s learned a lesson in how not to make an announcement. James was also taking hits by the way he reacted to losing in the NBA Finals. Well, maybe it wasn’t the best way to react to a championship loss. I don’t think that’s grounds to blast the guy. I imagine it sucks pretty bad to lose on a large stage like that and some emotions are uncontrollable. In the overall grand scheme of things, these are very minor faults and the 26 year-old star is still learning whether people like to hear that or not.

Now I hear the media talking about what LeBron James needs to do to repair his image which is where my supposed public relations expertise should come in handy. I think it’s simple. Here is my three step advice for LeBron:

First, get over the fact that Cleveland hates you. No matter what you do now, people with nothing better to do will be burning your jersey. Chances are they are taking out frustrations based on other aspects of their lives that have nothing to do with being a sports fan.

Secondly, talk about it. Target the right media outlets and tell your story. It’s as simple as saying you are learning from these experiences, that you are going to continue to work hard to win an NBA Championship, and you realize that with being such a high-profile athlete there are consequences with every decision you make. The NBA lock-out is a great excuse to get some well positioned media interviews done. People and media want to see your human side, and this will give the public a sense that you are some what in touch with reality.

Third, use this experience as fuel to work harder this off-season and win the Championship next season. In sports, winning cures everything. Just take a look at Michael Vick.

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

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Erasing Boundaries One Free Throw at a Time

By Kate Korson

The city of Compton, California is synonymous with gangs, guns and crime. Various boundaries define the city by race, ethnicity and socio-economic class. In an attempt to encourage community spirit and unity, screen writer Court Crandall created a basketball free throw competition at Compton High School with a $40,000 college scholarship as the prize. The only requirement for entry was a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Free Throw update from Court Crandall on Vimeo.

Crandall wanted to teach the students that hard work and practice can make the seemingly impossible happen. Little did he know that the community and nation would learn a greater lesson.

Students from a variety of groups were chosen to participate in the competition. Male, female, black, white, latino; there was not a boundary that Crandall did not cross. It was not a surprise that local star basketball player Allan Guei won the competition. With a full-ride athletic scholarship to Cal-State Northridge, Guei could have easily opted to used the prize money for graduate school. Instead he did the seemingly impossible and split the money between the other seven finalists.

Many of us would have taken the money and never looked back. At the end of my high school lacrosse career, I received a community scholarship and a small scholarship from American University to play at the collegiate level. It never once crossed my mind to split my community scholarship between other players on my team or with girls who were not already receiving scholarship money.

Guei taught us more than just the idea of charity. It was the ultimate act of sportsmanship, respect and community spirit. Guei took pride in his classmates and their efforts in the competition. Yes, he was selfless in giving away his prize but he was blind to the racial and ethnic boundaries. In a place like Compton, this little act makes a big statement.

Court Crandall filmed a documentary following the competition from its beginning stages, to be released next year. He has also created a scholarship fund for students in Compton. Visit Free Throw’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Kate Korson is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR. Contact her at

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Google Takes on the Heavy Hitters of Social Media

By Eve Hemsley

The New York Times recently published an article about Google’s latest attempt in its fight to keep afloat in the social media world. After failed programs, such as Google Buzz and Google Wave, the Google+ project is the company’s solution. In hopes of rivaling Facebook and mastering social networking, Google+ is designed similarly to Facebook’s platform – sharing status updates, links, and photos - with key changes in privacy and sharing.

Google+ is meant for sharing with groups. Users will start by selecting people they know from their Gmail contacts and then dragging and dropping those names into designated groups or circles such as “book club” or “soccer team.” They can then choose to share information with select groups or all of their friends.

Unlike Facebook, Google+ users do not have to agree to be friends with one another. They can receive updates from others without sharing their own information. Other features differentiating the two includes Google+’s group video chats and text messaging, a section called Sparks where users can see/post articles and videos from across the web, and their mobile application which automatically uploads pictures and videos to a private album, making them available to post immediately.

After learning from the mistakes of their previous attempts, Google+ creators realized how much people care about the information they share; they tried to eliminate the social awkwardness of things like friend requests of oversharing. “In real life, we have walls and windows and I can speak to you knowing who’s in the room, but in the online world, you get to a ‘Share’ box and you share with the whole world,” said Bradley Horowitz, a Vice President for Product Management at Google. “We have a different model.”

Google’s interest in garnering a spot in the social media world goes beyond creating a program to benefit the users. Sites like Facebook are generally off-limits to most search engines, so when people post Google loses valuable information that they could use to shape their Web search. Google is currently the most popular entry point to the web, a status which they are in danger of losing if users continue the trend of seeking answers to their questions via Facebook and Twitter.

Google has often been criticized for falling behind the times and not comprehending the importance of social media sites until others, like Facebook and Twitter, had already jumped ahead. Whether or not Google+ will cause Facebook users to stray, or even catch the attention of those still weary of Facebook, is debatable but Google is trying its best to make up for lost time.

Eve Hemsley is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR. Contact her at