“‘I am Iron Man”. You think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.” – Nick Fury, Iron Man
The above quote by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in the first Iron Man film was very prophetic. In fact, it actually set into motion a series of monumental successes for Marvel Studios. When Iron Man pulled in $98.6 million on its opening weekend, it not only guaranteed a second Iron Man movie, it put the wheels into motion for the greater Marvel movie Universe. Box office hits since Iron Man? “The Incredible Hulk,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Thor,” “Iron Man 2,” and 2012′s “The Avengers” has marketers excited and movie goers giddy for the follow-ups.
The first Iron Man’s worldwide success, rocketed not only Marvel’s brand back into the stratosphere, it put Robert Downey, Jr. back in the limelight, too. Marvel (and director Jon Favreau) took a very big risk with Downey, who was coming off a pretty rocky few years. Now, when you think Robert Downey, Jr., you think Tony Stark. Downey and Marvel aren’t too unhappy with that fact.. and that’s not bad thing for a brand.
- Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.- Marvel decided to take one of their more popular “Phase One” characters, Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), and create a show around he and his team. The buzz heading into the pilot episode was outstanding. In it’s first week, S.H.I.E.L.D. delivered 11.9 million viewers . That made it TV’s highest-rated drama debut in nearly four years. Ratings have been up and down, but that hasn’t deterred the folks at Marvel, who really understand their core audience.
- The Disney acquisition- While not necessarily something Marvel did right as a brand, it has only helped to enhance its image worldwide. Disney has been able to target males that they weren’t able to before. Now, Iron Man will become the first Marvel character to have a themed ride at Disneyland in Hong Kong.
- Tom Hiddleston- While his name might not have rung a bell a few years ago to many, his portrayal of the mischievous Loki in the first Thor film, and subsequently the Avengers, had fanboys and girls repeating his lines and swooning. There were even some that felt Loki stole the show in the Avengers. Then, there was his epic appearance (in character) at 2013′s San Diego Comic Con. It’s a perfect example of enhancing your brand through a great supporting cast.
- Digital- During 2012′s SXSW, Marvel #1 offered over 700 comics for free. It worked so well that it crashed the site. This year, Marvel was back and made sure they upped their game with big additions to Marvel Unlimited. The features appealed to longtime fans, as well as Marvel newbies, something that helps to continue to spread Marvel’s brand.
In the last five months, Marvel has seen Thor: The Dark World rake in over $206 million at the box office and now Captain America: The Winter Soldier is setting records. As of April 21, it has been number one for three straight weeks, adding over $200 million (and counting) to Marvel Studios’ coffers.
Marvel’s brand is as shiny as Captain America’s shield. That’s something Stan Lee would say “Excelsior” to!
A few weeks ago, I was absolutely thrilled to visit the campus of Illinois State University and it’s nationally recognized PRSSA chapter. The visit was part of “March Brandness,” an extension of my CEO of You talks I’ve held via Skype and at various conferences.
This talk wasn’t something that was thrown together by ISU PRSSA, it was months in planning. It started back in December of 2013, when Hailey Lanier reached out, followed by Marrison Worthington, the chapter’s president and vice president, respectfully. After Skyping in to a chapter meeting (and getting jealous about the Jimmy John’s they were eating), I was able to see why they have been recognized as an award-winning group. When it was finally time for my visit, I was treated to, frankly, some of the more professional students and future pros I’ve ever met.
Here are three things I, ultimately, learned from my visit and being a Redbird for a day.
Proper Planning- From the moment I gave the thumbs up to visiting the campus, ISU PRSSA shared ideas on promoting the talk via email, Skype, and phone conversations. Planning is a key component of any successful event. If you haven’t planned for every possible contingency, something will go wrong. In this case, chapter leadership thought of everything. From transportation to campus visits, ISU PRSSA even gave me an itinerary of what the day would look like from the minute I landed to the day I left.
The Value of Mentors- One my first stops on campus was Fell Hall (the mecca of ISU’s Communications program). It was there I was introduced to, among others, Dr. Pete Smudde and Tom Lamonica. After talking to both gentlemen, I realized why the students held them in such high regard. They have taken a vested interest in the education and development of these students. They have helped to shape the future careers of many of the chapter members. Both also stressed the importance of the March Brandness event. Every student needs a mentor to give them support, honesty, and advice when necessary.
Show Off Your Surroundings- When I landed, I was greeted by Marrison and Hailey at the airport. Both ladies gave me the lowdown on Normal, Ill., including what businesses were based there, as well as a great understanding of the ISU campus. I was given a great tour by both ladies and then was joined by Ali Seys, who discussed the unique food truck, Two Blokes and a Bus. From there I was treated to lunch at the Pub II’s, with its outstanding cheese balls (and members of the e-board) and Sugar Mama Bakery’s delicious cupcakes. I felt as if I had been to campus and surrounding Normal before, thanks to how well the group educated me and helped me understand this great area. It also proved to me that working and living in a town or city is more than just saying, “I live in XX.” You should know as much as possible about your surroundings. It could come in very handy.
Ultimately, this trip also proved to me how outstanding PRSSA is. I’ve spoken to many chapters and students over the years; I have never, ever been disappointed in the passion, drive, and dedication each of these student show. Case in point, on April 9, it was announced that Illinois State’s PRSSA chapter was awarded a Pacersetter for the month of March 2014 from PRSSA National because of how well March Brandness went. I could not be more proud to have been part of such a great event with great people.
Big thanks also go to Ryan Smart, Melissa Fortes, Abby Brennan, Shelby Ray, and the many other great members that made this trip so memorable!
Learn more about Illinois State’s PRSSA Chapter by checking out their website.
[Jas' note: I'm happy to welcome Samantha Dickson to the blog with a timely guest post.]
A quick glance at the headlines of any newspaper will tell a company that they should always expect the unexpected. Yet still, companies fail to realize the importance of preparation. I’m referring specifically to crisis management.
As PR professionals, we recognize our role within a company. We also see the value of our position when we are prepared for a crisis before it even strikes. So what happens when this forward thinking isn’t present? Negative brand reputation, drops in stock price, and loss of investor trust, just to name a few.
With such negative impacts on a company, it’s hard to imagine that some CEOs will still assume “Oh, that will never happen.” Sadly, it can, it will and when it does, you better be prepared. This is where the public relations role, and corporate communication position is of extreme value within a company.
Outline company threats.
In order to be prepared, a company needs to begin to analyze potential areas where a threat could arise. It is extremely important to understand your industry and what could be a problem for your company or client.
Taking the threats that you’ve outlined above, the next stage would be to strategically plan how to deal with the crisis. This might include identifying your stakeholders, potential solutions, and how to work on brand recovery once the peak of the crisis is over.
Develop pre-crisis communication material.
It is imperative to have audience messages and material ready to be disseminated. If you can identify a large threat that will impact your company or client, develop some material that can be tweaked should the crisis occur. It is better to have something prepared than nothing at all. This might be the shell of a press release, a prepared tweet if it’s social media related, or a letter from the CEO. If you have this material in advance, you’re able to act more quickly in the moment of the crisis.
The brands that are able to recover from a crisis are the ones that have a plan in place. The key takeaway is to do your research. If a crisis does occur, take the time to do a post-analysis on implementation and effectiveness. It is important to see what worked, what didn’t and ways to improve in the future.
Samantha Dickson recently graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, ON with a B.A. in Political Science. She is currently a graduate student at New York University in Public Relations and Corporate Communication. In her spare time, Samantha writes for her blog One Heel Ahead, provides freelance communication services and loves to travel.
[Jas' note: I first met Corinthea Harris via Twitter and noticed she was at Rowan University. We then chatted at last October's PRSSA National Conference in Philadelphia, Pa. It turned out we had something in common (aside from being from South Jersey): A great mentor.]
After a whirlwind year – having three internships, trying my hand at being an RA, resigning from the RA position to take a career opportunity, realizing I graduate in May and so much more – and when I say what I’ve accomplished out loud, I sometimes ask myself how someone so tiny could handle such a large work load? How did I possibly handle everything on my plate at one time?
The answer: my grand-slam mentor.
Enter Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA. Litwin acted as a teacher and mentor, won various public relations (PR) counselor and broadcast journalist awards, owned and operated Hello, Sports Fans!, umpired numerous baseball games and – most importantly – acted as a life coach to me and many other students and professionals.
I say grand-slam mentor and life coach because Litwin constantly went above and beyond. To prove it, I developed the following list of ways he helped me and others:
1. Available 24-7, like a true PR pro. No matter the task, Litwin had an ever-revolving door and inbox. He made time for his students in his office and answered emails even when he really didn’t have two seconds to spare.
2. Listened. Until Litwin, I hadn’t met a person who actually actively listened. He didn’t drop the conversation after you said what you had to say. Instead, he asked questions to figure out the next appropriate step. (And he had this ability to make you feel as though you were a top priority.)
3. Researched. Once he figured out what you wanted or needed, he would take you through a force-field analysis to ensure you made the best possible decision.
5. Stayed on top, if not ahead, of the industry. Speaking of research, Litwin kept up with the latest trends and best practices in the ever-changing strategic communication industry.
6. Taught real-world lessons. Litwin’s career accomplishments helped him teach real-world lessons in the class room and in advisement sessions. And he shared any new industry information he learned instantly. (Also, he wrote a book that acts as a go-to resource for many strategic communication professionals.)
7. Advanced students’ careers. Litwin cared more about others than he did about himself. He constantly put others first and did whatever he had to do. With this mentality, you could put money on the fact that he had plenty of connections to various public relations professionals – which he selflessly shared with students to advance their careers.
Seven may not seem like enough reasons to proclaim someone’s record-breaking personality, but I can’t simply put into words the countless things Litwin did for me and other students – leaving a lasting impression.
And since Litwin advocated for baseball and sports, I figured my “grand-slam mentor” metaphor remained appropriate.
He definitely helped me navigate the bases of my college career, pre-professional career and sometimes my personal life. He truly umpired my life and helped me build my personal brand, so that I would have the confidence in myself to one day hit a home run on my own.
I will never have enough at-bat opportunities (words) to possibly hit enough home runs (thank yous) to repay him for everything he taught me. I can only hope other people have a chance to score a mentor like Litwin.
Corinthea Harris is senior at Rowan University. She will graduate in May with bachelor’s degrees in public relations and advertising. Currently, she is the Global Communications Intern at Campbell Soup Company.