• Sign up for Talking Points

    Need to stay on the bleeding edge of the PR and digital marketing industries? Sign up for Arik’s weekly e-newsletter

    Sign Up Now
  • Hire Arik to Speak

    Looking for a dynamic PR or marketing speaker for your upcoming event? Learn more about Arik’s speaking experience

    Get Started
  • Work With Me

    Got a digital marketing or PR project you need help with? Find out how Arik can help.

    Get Started

The future of content looks like THIS (and it’s pretty crazy)

ICYMI: Renowned YouTuber, Casey Neistat blew everyone’s minds earlier this week when he released the following video:

It already has 3.9 million views as of 6:50 p.m. on Wed., Dec. 21.

It’s the result of a partnership between Neistat and Samsung.

And, I believe it represents the future of content.

Because this is what it’s going to take to get attention and cut through the massive clutter in 2017 and beyond.

A mega-drone donned in holiday lights towing a human being around town on a snowboard and then lifting him high into the air (and if you think it’s a fake, just watch Neistat debunk those theories here).

This one example illustrates perfectly that the future of content is:

  • WAY outside the box you’re thinking in now. Again, a guy being towed by a mega-drone and hoisted into the air. That’s some next-level crazy content.
  • Interactive and mixed media. You did notice the link to the 360 behind-the-scenes footage at the tail end, right?
  • Created by only the committed. If you watch the second video above, Neistat has two interesting statements: 1) He pitched this idea more than a year ago to Samsung, and 2) The Samsung folks worked on building this mega-drone for more than a year! Now THAT’S commitment. And, that’s the level of commitment it’s going to take to win the content game in the years ahead.

The future of content is creating content that’s far outside what you’re thinking about now. Now, that’s going to take time and talent. But, brands may trade talent and time for volume (you’re already starting to see this with brands like Target–go see how many times they posted on Facebook in 2016). Creating one monster, break-through piece of content like this instead of producing 24 smaller pieces might be worth it (read: IS worth it).

The other important and interesting facet to this content case study–Samsung used Neistat as much for his ability to produce amazing content as it did for his reach.

Many brands approach influencers and think only about the REACH they’ll get from the influencer.

“We want her to talk about our brand on your Instagram channel–she has 5.6 million followers!”

“Could you work our product into your next YouTube video. I see your videos routinely get 1.5 million views.”

Reach is the big draw when it comes to influencers–and for good reason. But, CONTENT can be (and should be) equally as important. In this case, Samsung took advantage of both. But, without the CONTENT, Neistat’s reach doesn’t mean much, does it?

I think Samsung is on the front edge of a larger trend around brands using influencers more for content generation than for reach. Content brands will also use on their own social channels.

Back to content for a moment. I know this is a pretty extreme example. I know most brands aren’t going to create videos with huge drones dragging Santa Claus around town. But, the larger point remains fairly simple: Get hugely creative with your social content, or remain irrelevant.

I really do think it’s as simple as that.

Thanks for installing the Bottom of every post plugin by Corey Salzano. Contact me if you need custom WordPress plugins or website design.

Fruit baskets or Nut Assortments: What’s the best approach for PR client holiday gifts?

Every year about this time (actually, much earlier than this, but for effect we’ll go with “about this time”), I run into the same conundrum: What do I get clients/colleagues for a holiday gift?

It’s a common challenge for vendors like me.

As I see it, we have a three options:

1–No gift at all. Certainly, holiday gifts aren’t a REQUIRED part of the vendor/client contract. But, it’s obviously always appreciated and a key opportunity to connect with your client or colleague. And, it’s the KIND thing to do (you know, Christmas spirit and all 🙂

2–Play it safe. High-end fruit basket. Nut assortment. Holiday sweets. We’ve all been a party to these kinds of gifts. A simple, and wonderful holiday gesture.

3–Make it personal. Whether you’re catering to the client or colleague’s personal tastes, or giving something of personal relevance to you, this one comes from the heart.

My philosophy on holiday gifts has evolved over the years. As a new consultant, I kinda blanked for a few years. I really didn’t know if they were expected or appreciated, so I just didn’t get anything. Not the best decision. It didn’t cost me business. I’m not sure it negatively impacted my relationships with people. But, it certainly didn’t help. And, it certainly wasn’t in the spirit of the holidays, and didn’t show how much I truly appreciate the people I work with every day.

Fast forward to 2012. A mindset switch. And, it was a piece of advice I received from a colleague that changed my thinking. The advice: “Grow your relationships with clients and colleagues by giving them a peek into the things you truly care about in life.”

In other words: Give them opportunities to experience the things that are important to you.

For example, I’ve embraced this mantra in a couple different ways over the years:

  • Inviting colleagues and clients to play a round of golf with me. I’ve been playing golf since I was 10 (probably younger). I played high school golf. College golf (for a bit). I worked at golf courses for most of my teens and young adulthood. It’s a big part of my life. So, I wanted to connect with people on the golf course and share my love of golf with them.
  • Inviting colleagues and clients to meet up at restaurants I love. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge fan of Bryant Lake Bowl. Our family are regulars. So, whenever I get the chance, BLB is my go-to spot for lunches and coffee meet-ups. It’s unique. It’s fun. And, it’s darn good food.

And, starting a few years ago, I applied that philosophy to my holiday gifts, too.

I wanted to give clients a gift that meant something to me–personally.

So, I started with coffee.

What could be more personal than coffee? 🙂

The last two years, I’ve given high-end coffee to my clients. But, not just ANY coffee–Arik’s #Hashtag Special Blend!

It was a big hit.

This year, I took it up a notch. Another big part of my life (for the last 10+ years at least) has been the North Shore. It has been a vacation staple of ours for years. Some years, we visit up to 3-4 times per year. We could not love the North Shore more.

So, when we stumbled on this unique, charming and FREAKING DELICIOUS candy store aptly named “North Shore Candy” last year, it suddenly became clear.

Candy from the North Shore for the holidays.

That’s exactly what I shared with clients this year.

And, now I’ve already got my eye on a great idea for next year, too.

Thanks for installing the Bottom of every post plugin by Corey Salzano. Contact me if you need custom WordPress plugins or website design.

PR Rock Stars: United Health Group’s Madeline Strachota

We Gen X’ers like to stereotype Millennials. We label them as lazy. We say they’re entitled. We call them title-grabbers. But, the fact of the matter is this: There are plenty of Millennials that don’t fit into that mold at all. In fact, there are a lot of Millennials like Madeline Strachota. No, let me start that again–there probably aren’t too many like Madeline Strachota. She’s definitely unique. And, a perfect example of a Millennial who’s breaking the mold when it comes to stereotypes. What am I talking about? I’ll let you hear it from her.


You took a (relatively) new role at United Health Group 10 months ago–what are you doing at UHG and how is going so far?

I love it here! I feel like I drank the “koolaid.” I work with such hardworking, talented people every day, and it is very rewarding to do so. On top of that, it’s really exciting to work at a place where leadership sees digital and social media as a huge opportunity.

What do I do? Arik, that is a good question. My elevator pitch is always changing, and that’s because no two days are the same here. I work alongside an exceptional team of people managing social media listening; so for the most part, I shy away from the earned piece of social and focus on everything else from strategy, advertising, tool management, governance, content optimization and more. Since I sit at corporate, I wear two hats, managing corporate social media accounts, while also working with my counterparts across the company to ensure we are collaborating and sharing expertise.


We met a couple years ago through MIMA when you were volunteering on the marketing committee. Why did you (and continue to) volunteer your time with MIMA?


When I joined MIMA, I had a great boss who encouraged me to volunteer. Plus, I definitely have the personality type where I can’t just sit on the sidelines; I am always looking to do more. So, when I joined MIMA, I thought, “well, why not go all in and volunteer.” And, I am sure glad that I did. I have found so much value in the events I’ve attended and relationships I have formed. Since I am passionate about MIMA, it’s fun to volunteer and to share it with others.


In the 4-5 years you’ve been in the workplace, you’ve worked for two huge health care/medical brands in town (UHG and Medtronic) and one smaller one (American Academy of Neurology). What is it about health care that has piqued your interest? Do you see yourself staying in health care long-term?

Two things: the purpose and the challenge. All three of the organizations I have worked for have strong mission statements to improve health care for all. I think it is SO cool that I can be in the social media field and be contributing to a mission like that. To me, it gives me purpose and inspiration every day that I do my job.

Second, the challenge. Using social media in a highly regulated environment can be challenging. There are many considerations and sometimes limitations I have encountered that I would not have at a CPG or retail company. I like this a lot. It requires a high level of discretion and creative thinking to realize the value of social media over the risk in a highly regulated environment.


You’re one of those people that I would call “a student of digital marketing/social media marketing”. Constantly learning, soaking things up all around you. But, I would also say younger people like you are rare–I see more young people pretending to know it all instead of being a student of the profession. Why do you think that is?

I’d say, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” For millennials, social media is ingrained in our everyday life. When you know all of the latest SnapChat hacks or have become a brand ambassador via Facebook Live, it’s easy to get a little cocky in your social savviness. Staying on top of trends is important, and I applaud that, but it is important to remember that the social media world changes in real time. There are new ways to use this medium (pun intended!) every. single. day.  And, there is so much that goes on behind the scenes with brands that many consumers might not even realize–take, for instance, analytics (traffic data, listening data, measurement…). If you think you have handle on everything, just start digging in to what you can do with social media data. Keep digging. Keep going. And let me know when you’ve learned everything.


You were a Skimmbassador before that was a cool thing. What drew you, initially, to the Skimm and how have you applied what you learned with the Skimm to your day job?

I actually helped the founders in the research phase of launching the Skimbassador program! During my Senior Spring, I read about theSkimm in Vanity Fair. At that point, theSkimm wasn’t even a year old. Somehow I tracked down one of the founder’s email addresses (probably through borderline creepy stalking online), and I reached out. I explained that I was graduating soon, loved their concept and wanted to be a part of it. Somehow, I made the intern cut along with one other person, and had one awesome (and very intense!) summer of doing anything and everything to support the founders, including writing for the newsletter. I learned a lot; perhaps most importantly that I loved contributing to theSkimm’s social media presence. Before the internship, I had some experience with social from my college days of managing our school newspaper, but on day one of my internship, the founders asked if I was good a tweeting? I was very mediocre, definitely not good… but what are you going to say on day one of your internship?! So, I had to become good at writing social content really fast! It’s no secret that social media has been a huge contributor to theSkimm’s success and rapid growth, and I saw up close how social media can positively impact a business.


What’s the most interesting component of social media marketing right now? What’s driving your interest?

This isn’t a revolutionary idea, but I think it’s really important to drive decision-making with measurement and analytics. Compared to traditional marketing and advertising vehicles, digital differentiates by the amount of data available for planning, testing, and measuring activity. It’s important to figure out what data is relevant to your decisions and to operationalize the process of data-driven social media decision-making. I find the challenge of aligning social KPIs to business KPIs particularly interesting. Data speaks for itself and I am always interested in how other brands measure their business impact of social media.


You’re also a member of SocialMedia.org as part of your work at UHG. I know you can’t disclose specifics, but what’s the one issue that all these big brands are struggling with that we may not hear as much about in the news/blogs?

SocialMedia.org? What’s that? 😉 (Editor’s Note: Touche. I had to try though!)


In your free time, you run a boxing class in Edina (I’m officially a little scared of you, just so you know). You’re also a big skier. Talk a bit about the role balance plays in your life. How do you find balance with a job that often requires you to be “on” 24/7/365?


That’s something I am still figuring out. Last year, there was a point when I was working five different jobs, volunteering, and training for a marathon. While it can be exhilarating to maintain a schedule like that, I also realized that there is, in fact, a limit to what I can do, and do well. Everyone has a different limit, and that’s OK. I’ve started to better prioritize where I spend my time and learn to say “not now.” It’s REALLY hard, but I’ve noticed that with a little more balance in my commitments, I am able to give more of myself to my priorities and slow down to enjoy everything a little more. You’re right that social media is “always on” (which might not be the best career for everyone) but I’ve found that with a career you love and balance in other commitments, there is no work-life tug of war, it’s just life!

Thanks for installing the Bottom of every post plugin by Corey Salzano. Contact me if you need custom WordPress plugins or website design.

When was the last time you conducted a social content audit?

If you work in the world of social media marketing, your days are most likely filled with:

  • Creating content
  • Meetings
  • Managing communities
  • More meetings
  • Developing dashboards
  • Even more meetings
  • And more meetings

Fact it–you’re busy. Head down, hair on fire, 24/7, 365. That’s just the way social media marketers work (in my experience, at least).


You’re so busy you rarely have more than 10 minutes to sit back and evaluate how your content has been performing and what you can do to optimize the results.

In fact, while we’re hear: When was the last time you conducted a social content audit? Have you ever? (and this is a good time of year to consider this)

If you stop to think about it, wouldn’t it make sense to conduct some kind of audit once or twice a year? I mean, we’re not talking about THAT much work.

Why would you complete a social content audit? A few reasons:

  • Chance to reflect on quarterly/bi-annual/annual stats
  • Chance to really dive deep and look at what content worked–and what didn’t
  • Chance to see what your competitors are up to (I’d definitely look at this)
  • And, a chance to see where you have gaps and where you have opportunities (SWOT analysis, anyone?)

Yep, a simple content audit twice a year could really keep you on the right path toward your annual goals.

What’s in a social content audit?

  • Stats/Numbers. I’d include impressions, engagement numbers and web data.
  • Specific examples/anecdotes. Key comments from customers, employees and other stakeholders over the last six months, and what they mean for you. These are often the most important part of the entire audit.
  • Competitive analysis. I take that back, THIS is often the most important part of the audit (even though it has nothing to do with YOUR content). In my experience, this is something companies rarely, if ever, look at. So, when I’ve done this for brands, they always value it.
  • Best practices. Never hurts to reiterate these–even if you’ve heard them before (plus, new best practices pop up all the time with all the new tools/functionalities added)
  • Analysis and suggestions. Meat and potatoes of the audit. Given the stats, the examples, your competitors and best practices, what do you see and what do you recommend to management? The key (obviously) to the whole audit–your ANALYSIS.

Next, consider hiring someone outside your organization to conduct the audit (insert flaming self-promotion giggle here). Yeah, I know this is self-serving coming from me, but if I were a social media manager at a big company, I would hire someone from the outside. Why? Outside perspective and credibility, for one. We all know internal partners (and bosses) can start to tune us out over time. An external vendor can provide the exact same analysis/advice you do–but since he/she is an outside vendor, his/her advice may be “heard” a little more clearly (sad, but true–I’ve seen it many times). Plus, the external vendor may find nuggets you simply wouldn’t find because you’re too close to the work day-in and day-out. Finally, time. You most likely don’t have it. Biggest reason to outsource this work.

So, what are you waiting for?

photo credit: European Parliament #PICsocial conference via photopin (license)

Thanks for installing the Bottom of every post plugin by Corey Salzano. Contact me if you need custom WordPress plugins or website design.

How Anytime Fitness uses 100 percent user-generated content to feed its Instagram account

Despite what you see from the Dunkin Donuts, Oreos and Starbucks of the world, starting and maintaining a corporate Instagram account isn’t always easy.

The biggest reason? The constant drumbeat of visual content. Not everyone has the “machinery” needed to sustain the visual output that Instagram demands.

Other companies face different challenges–like Anytime Fitness.

“As a franchise system, it’s difficult to capture what’s going on in our 3,000-plus clubs across the country,” says Kristen Pechacek, senior manager of digital marketing at Anytime Fitness. “We can’t capture the culture of the clubs from our cubes in Woodbury.”


Enter user-generated content–specifically, “member-generated content.”

Earlier this year, AF tested the approach of using more user-generated content for its Instagram channel by organizing a member takeover. That went so well, they decided to go ALL user-generated content in July.

So far, the decision has been a great one.

AF has seen a 218 percent increase in engagement on Instagram, a 309 percent increase in total likes and a 126 percent increase in comments.


Pretty impressive numbers.

How did they do it?

Pretty simple, really.

After some initial internal promotion to members (and the fact that the #anytimefitness hash tag was already being used liberally by members), AF started posting three images to Instagram each day (and two on weekends) using member-generated content.

After members realized AF was using so many great shots in their Instagram feed, those numbers grew even more.

What was their recipe for success? From my perspective, the following contributed to their success:

  • Industry/activity set up to succeed on Instagram. If you’ve used Instagram for even five minutes, you know that workout selfies and shots from the gym are one of the big content sources for the social network. After all, last I checked there were 63 MILLION pics using the #workout hash tag.


  • Instead of trying to build a house–AF just rented one. AF didn’t try to start a new hash tag–they just took advantage of one that more than 500,000 people/members were already using. Smart. No need to recreate the wheel when the wheel is the size of the Empire State Building.
  • Curating is an art form. With 500,000 pics to choose from, curating suddenly becomes a big challenge for AF. But, according to Maddie Spott, social media specialist with Anytime Fitness (and the woman behind the account), it’s “part science, part art form.” Just look at their feed. There’s a nice mix of storefront shots, members shots and what I would call “unique” shots (Anytime Fitness Super Hero water-skiing would certainly qualify!).

Nice work AF social media team!


 Note: Anytime Fitness is not an ACH Communications client. I just thought this was an interesting approach and was interested in learning more.

Thanks for installing the Bottom of every post plugin by Corey Salzano. Contact me if you need custom WordPress plugins or website design.