Monday, October 31, 2011

Devil Town

Halloween is not just another day in my house; it’s a spoocktacle.

For starters my younger sister was born on Halloween with an eerily costume-like head of spiky black hair on a dreary Edgar Allen Poe-esque day (Happy Birthday Cath!). Additionally, and more pronounced, I live in the “Halloween House” (see picture). So I found it rather fitting that I randomly be assigned a blog entry on Halloween.

One year I coached at a basketball camp and one of my campers happened to live down the block from me. I told him, “I bet you can’t guess which house is mine?” And when he found out I lived in the quote, “Halloween House” he told me my house was awesome. But it wasn’t my camper’s response which really resonated—after all what elementary school kid doesn’t love a decked out house which gives out goody bags full of candy—it was his mom’s. She came to pick him up the next day and shot right over to me. I will never forget her exclaiming, “I love your mom! Her decorations just make me so happy. I want to send her flowers every year.”

When I was in high school living in the most recognizable house on the block embarrassed me. I certainly didn’t love it, and didn’t really embrace it either. But as time has passed, and probably because I’ve removed myself from it by moving 700 miles to the East Coast, I’ve come to appreciate the house and all its over-the-top glory.

As I’m reminded by strangers yearly, the decorations are like a smile in their own way, small in the grand scheme, but contagious spreading happiness to the hundreds of cars and neighbors who pass by and stop to wander around. People now drive from different cities around the North Shore of Chicago to see my house each year. My mom, inadvertently, created her own pre-social media viral campaign attracting 600+ families to our house each year.

So tonight, while I pass out candy to the few trick-or-treaters in my apartment complex, my parents will be back in Chicago passing out 600 goody bags to kids, 280 water bottles to parents and generally entertaining an entire neighborhood and beyond.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Jennifer Schiller is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR.  Contact her at

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bridging Distance: Virtual Bridal Showers

By Sarah Gubara

This time last week, I was in California for a gorgeous wedding. The bride and groom had a beautiful, traditional wedding, which incorporated the bride’s Jewish tradition. It was everything you would expect from a great wedding.

Yet, there was one very unexpected guest during their wedding process. The internet.

The bride-to-be has a wonderful group of family and friends. The only problem is--they live in different parts of the country.

Refusing to forgo the tradition of the bridal shower, the bride’s Sister-In-Law surprised her with a VIRTUAL Bridal Shower. In a couple of simple steps, she was able to keep the tradition alive:
  • She used to create the event page.
  • She had the bride’s loved one’s send her the gifts, which she mailed to her brother to hide until then.
  • She created a slide show which had a picture of everyone’s gifts, recipes, and a message to the bride.
  • Finally, she sent an E-vite to everyone with the time and login information.
Everyone tuned in with their digital cams and was able to watch live as the bride opened each present, and cried with joy. They also included pictures of the recipes they sent the bride for her future home, as they all chatted about which one tasted better. Needless to say, the event was a huge success and the bride was so moved by how everyone made the time to “attend” her virtual show.

As a Manager of Social & Digital Media, I spend a good portion of my day on the internet and I’ve seen a lot of creative social media tactics. Yet, I was still shocked to hear about this new way of keeping traditions alive. It’s incredible how social media can help people transcend physical barriers and allows so many opportunities for families to stay connected. Nowadays, “the family that Skypes together, stays together.”

Sarah Gubara is Manager of Social & Digital Media at Maroon PR.  Contact her at

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It’s Ok…You’re Allowed to Love Where You Work!

By Katy Fincham

During our annual company retreat in January, we as a company unanimously agreed that one of our top priorities in 2011 is to have fun! What’s that you say? You’re not allowed to have fun at work? I beg to differ!

As a member of the Maroon PR Happy Committee, it is our job to find creative ways to keep company morale up, remind our co-workers that life does exist outside of the office and that it is OK to have fun…in fact, it’s a MUST!

Yesterday, we closed the office an hour early and channeled our inner child, spending the evening playing Monster mini-golf, followed by a delicious meal at On the Border. Other Happy Committee activities have included a trip to the movies, numerous corn hole happy hour and pot luck lunches!

As cheesy as it sounds, the team that plays together stays together. If you ever find yourself or your company in a rut, don’t be afraid to get up, get out and have fun. Step away from your computer, turn off your Blackberry and turn on a good attitude!

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gabe Maroon - Entrepreneur

By John Maroon

I wanted to take a minute this afternoon as I wind down my day at work to pay tribute to my dad, Gabe Maroon. Dad was a true entrepreneur. He had to stop going to school after the 6th grade when his dad passed. Up in North Jersey he quickly started selling cars on the gas station that his father left behind to support his mom, sister and three brothers.

That quickly morphed into a car dealership that he gave to his younger brothers and they turned around and made it one of the most successful dealerships on the east coast that is still going strong today.

He then went on to start a number of businesses (too many to mention and almost all were very successful). One of the most notable ones is a legendary New Jersey eatery called The Hot Grill. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Hot Grill opening its doors. It looks pretty much the same today as it did when he owned it and I can still taste those “hot dogs all the way”. A few years after opening The Hot Grill dad sold it to the guys who still own it today. I remember when they sought me, my brother and sister out at dad’s funeral in 2001 and told us how much they respected and appreciated him and what he did for them. It meant the world to us.

When I opened Maroon PR in 2006 I was scared and my brother insured me that we all had dad’s “entrepreneurial gene” and it would be fine… he was right. And today my brother, my sister and I all have successful businesses.

Thanks mom and dad for all that you did for us. We miss you both everyday but we know that you loved us and cared for us deeply…and you gave us the ability and the nerve, to go out on our own and be successful.

John Maroon is President of Maroon PR.  Contact him at

Sun Shines Brightly Today in the Black Hole

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

Monday, October 17, 2011

Reebok: EasyTone, Schmeasy Tone

By Kate Korson

As a public relations and marketing undergraduate, we study examples of advertisers making faulty claims. I came across this story about the Reebok EasyTone sneakers and thought it would an interesting case to study.

It all started in 2009, when Sketchers first released the “Shape Ups” sneakers, which promised to tone leg muscles. Since then, other athletic brands such as Reebok and New Balance, have been competing to create a similar product. Reebok went above and beyond, producing clothing that promised effortless toning of the arms, back and legs.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently investigated Reebok’s advertising claims, which indeed turned out to be false. The ads in question say EasyTone shoes result in 28 percent increased tone and strength in the buttock, and an 11 percent increase in the strength of calf and hamstring muscles. Rather than engaging in a drawn-out legal battle, Reebok agreed to settle by refunding $25 million to customers.

Reebok refuses to admit to the FTC’s allegations, claiming they have received “overwhelmingly enthusiastic feedback” from EasyTone customers and sales numbers support their statement. Customers have always been skeptical of EasyTone and other toning shoe brands, but it did not prevent them from making the purchase. In any other industry, an event to this caliber would discontinue a product and diminish the credibility of the brand. Research analysts do not believe these FTC allegations will ruin the product line because of its nature as a beauty-enhancing product, and the sense of hope that goes along with the purchase.

Despite the questionable legitimacy of advertising promises, customers purchase EasyTone shoes envisioning a healthy lifestyle with the ultimate multitask: working out while you go through your daily schedule. Even if the product is not proven, it gives customers a boost of confidence and the resistance feels like your legs are being toned. So unfortunately those goofy-looking toning shoes are not going away anytime soon—toning or not.

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Measuring Your Social Media Influence

By Eve Hemsley

For those of us working in the PR world, measuring the reach and impact of the messages we send out is a big part of the job. Finding values for traditional media outlets can be a challenge, but when you add social media marketing into the mix, measuring our effectiveness becomes even harder. But it’s not just public relations firms that have to deal with such a quandary, every company from Ford to Joe’s Backyard BBQ is on Facebook these days trying to promote their services and spread the word about their products. Companies are creating entire departments dedicated to the strategic upkeep of their social media networks, and, when managed correctly, can use social media as an effective tool to increase their company’ visibility and influence. But how does anyone really know that they are making an impact and achieving their desired results? What percentage of posts, pics and tweets are actually reaching your audience in a productive way?

While an exact science for figuring out these questions has yet to be discovered, a few sites have popped up that are a good first step in measuring how effective your social media accounts are. Social Media Examiner put together a list of the top five tools that offer easy ways to keep track of your influence. Among the more well-known is Klout, a resource that uses data from your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Foursquare accounts to evaluate user’s behavior and analyze content to measure a user’s influence. Klout’s influence score is based on a user’s ability to drive action through tweets, mentions, etc. Similar to Klout is TwentyFeet. TwentyFeet analyzes much of the same information while also giving a quick overview of your activity and influence over a period of time as well as in-depth information about your followers.

My Web Career gathers information from your various social networking accounts as well as web search results to determine the size of your network, your overall social media presence, and the strength of your connections. It also provides insight into exploring your connections and taking advantage of your network.

Number four and five on the list are focused on a user’s Twitter account. Crowdbooster, which I find extremely interesting and potentially quite useful, determines when your posts will receive the most interaction and have the most influence. It can recommend the best times for you to tweet and shows stats for your account like your number of replies, retweets, likes, comments and the number of people that have been reached.

Last but not least is TweetStats. TweetStats provides a general overview of how you use Twitter and can even compare your account to others. Generally focused on your Twitter activity, TweetStats creates graphs, timelines and ‘clouds’ detailing which days you are most active, whom you interact with the most, which interfaces you use most regularly, friend and follower growth and finally what user names and hashtags you use on a regular basis.

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

Thursday, October 6, 2011

All Apples Are Amazing

By John Maroon

Yesterday the visionary leader of Apple, Steve Jobs, lost his battle with cancer. The business wars that Jobs endured are legendary and in the end he persevered and his company completely changed the way that we live as a society…what a legacy. iPod, iPhone, iPad…incredible.

It got me to thinking about apples overall. What’s the old saying? “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” and it has become our country’s most popular fruit with countless health benefits (I’m eating one now!).

Then there is Apple Records, the legendary recording label of The Beatles. They only changed the way the world understood and appreciated music. Their first album came out in 1963 and their last in 1970. During that time they turned out 12 albums and dozens of legendary hits.

I guess my point is that today we should take a minute to celebrate The Apple as a whole…the visionary company, the legendary music label and, well, the terrific fruit.

John Maroon is President of Maroon PR.  Contact him at

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Armadillos Are Coming!

By Mitchell Schmale

Climate change is being credited with some interesting and unusual side effects across parts of the United States. Armadillos are on the march and heading north into areas never expected by biologists. Scientists attribute the climate-related migration to a warming atmosphere across much of the country.

Armadillos have been synonymous with images of Texas and parts of the South for many years, often as road kill on the side of desert highways. But, the unusual looking mammals are packing up their armored shells and heading north to try their luck in some new territory and crossing some different highways. They have already made it as far as parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and Missouri – one tiny step at a time. Scientists say that if the northern migration continues, armadillos may end up making it as far north as Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and parts of New Jersey.

I wish them luck on the journey. The more the merrier. I think it would be cool to have armadillos hanging out as the newest addition to area wildlife on the east coast, despite stories of them digging up backyards and gardens looking for food. So, the next time you are sitting in traffic on your commute to work in Washington, D.C. and an armadillo crosses your path… you aren’t seeing things. The armadillos have arrived.

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

Monday, October 3, 2011

: ) Happy Birthday Smiley Face ; )

By Kristen Seabolt

A colon, a hyphen and a bracket...who would have thought : - ) could start an emotive phenomenon?

Twenty-nine years ago in 1982, Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, first proposed these three characters as a way to convey emotion using text. His logic behind it was simple – Typing lacks body language and tone of voice, so if someone types a sarcastic remark or joke, people fail to understand its meaning.

However, even though Fahlman is credited with proposing the first emoticon, it is no secret that using symbols to convey emotion were used long before the 80's. In 1862, more than 100 years earlier, a speech by President Abraham Lincoln appeared in The New York Times, and within the transcript was the symbol ; ) (coincidental typo or not?). Furthermore, the bright yellow smiley face we have grown to love came about in 1963, when a freelance artist Harvey Ball designed it for a button to boost company morale.

Since then, much like computers, emoticons have grown to become more than a simple : - ) and : - ( . Hundreds of characters and codes have been created to express emotions and objects, ranging from love, shock and greed, to pigs, cows and monkeys. Back in 2007, Yahoo! Messenger released a survey which showed that 82 percent of users at the time used emoticons on a daily basis, and 61 percent said they felt they best expressed themselves in instant messaging using these symbols.

However, in our fast-paced and ever-growing digital age, are elaborate and detailed emoticons losing steam and popularity? Today, the iPhone text message does not automatically support emoticon graphics, and Gmail’s Gchat default emoticon settings are text-based with simple animation. Are the days of ô¿ô behind us (yes, I remember that code from my days of AOL IM)?

But, if you are one of those who can’t get enough smiles and smiley faces, this Friday is World Smile Day, which is celebrated every year on the first Friday of October. Be sure to show off your smiley pride in your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Gchat and blog worlds : )

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