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The (not so) hidden way brands are getting started on Snapchat

Snapchat. It’s THE platform right now that brands *want* to figure out, but just can’t.

I mean, 100 million active daily users draws a lot of attention, right?

So, why can’t brands figure out Snapchat?

For the same reason they couldn’t figure out Twitter initially–it’s not *designed* for brands (at least, most of Snapchat’s not designed for brands).

Brands are clumsy.

Brands are boring (most of the time–sorry folks :).

And brands (typically) aren’t all that fun and/or funny.

And finally, brands are, well, brands. They’re not humans. They’re not your friends.

These are the reasons most younger folks use Snapchat.

Yet, there are a few brands that are seeing success on Snapchat. And, the million dollar question is this: How are they doing it?

Two words:

Influencer outreach.

Sure, some brands are just flat-out picking up Snapchat faster than others (Taco Bell comes to mind). But, a number of others are turning to influencers to get their start on the closed social network.

Let’s take a look at a few recent examples:

Sour Patch Kids & Paul Logan

What, you’ve never heard of Vine star Paul Logan? Well, apparently, SPK’s target audience has because the confectioner used him to drive 120,000 new Snapchat followers, 6.8M Snapchat impressions, and more than 1,900 Twitter mentions. Not too bad for a first-time Snapchat brand. Here’s a glimpse at the Snapchat Stories series Logan helped SPK create.

Calvin Klein

CK took a slightly different approach to boosting its engagement on Snapchat. It partnered with a series of pseudo-celebrities around the globe to create content (#Selfies in a “Self Exploration Lab”) and share via various social media platforms (including Snapchat). The results: 15% engagement rate on Snapchat and 16.5M impressions on Twitter.

CK Snap


Like CK, McD’s relied on its celebrity influencers to curry favor on Snapchat. And, they went big by enlisting the help of LeBron James, who created a short “video story” to promote the release of McD’s new Bacon Clubhouse burger. No results found for this campaign.

McDs Snap


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The four cardinal sins public speakers continue to break

The last few months, I’ve attended a number of local events here in Minneapolis. Good events put on by great people. And, in all cases, the speakers were solid.

Except for one thing.

They all continue to break a number of public speaking cardinal sins.


Which is surprising, really. I mean, these cardinal sins, they’re kinda common sense. I would think any speaker who’s done any amount of public speaking would know enough not to break these rules.

But there they were, breaking rules left and right.

Let’s look at five of the key cardinal sins I see being broken fairly regularly:

Cardinal Sin #1: Thou shall not spend too much time on your “About Me” slide

A minute or less. That’s my ground rule. In fact, when I speak to groups, I fly through this so quickly, I usually under-sell myself. People don’t care about WHO you are–they care about what you have to say. Get to the “what” and minimize the who.

Cardinal Sin #2: Thou shall not include any slide that uses 8-point font or smaller

My rule: If your audience has to squint to read it, then don’t include it in the damn deck. I’ve seen multiple speakers lately that will show a slide with TONS of copy on it–mostly about 8-point font or smaller–and then say “I know this slide is hard to read, but….”. Nope–there is no “but.” There is no explanation. There is no rationalization. There should only be the sound of you clicking delete on that slide.

Cardinal Sin #3: Thou shall always focus on takeaways for the audience.

I’m constantly amazed at decks that don’t have key takeaways clearly outlined for the audience. A while back, I presented a deck that talked about how to keep up with social media. I was so focused on audience takeaways that I actually SPELLED THEM OUT for the audience. And guess what? A bunch of people were furiously scribbling down notes. Heck, a few of them even took photos of the slides. That’s how you know you’ve outlined takeaways effectively. ALWAYS highlight what you want your audience to learn from you–and SPELL IT OUT.

Cardinal Sin #4: Thou shall always research your audience before the presentation.

As a speaker, I realize it’s easy to get caught up in the ego of the whole thing. People are coming to hear you speak. People are interested in what you have to say. It appeals to our core being–the need to feel important and wanted. But, that doesn’t excuse speakers from the fact that they should always research the audience they’re presenting to. Get a feel for who’s in the crowd. What is THEIR background? What do you think they want to learn? Why are they coming to see you present? Just a teeny bit of research can go a long ways here. It can inform your content. Influence the style of your presentation. And, it can also help you anticipate questions before you get blind-sided on stage.

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Let’s get serious–and honest–about influencer marketing

I recently read a post by popular blogger, podcaster and professor, Mark Schaefer, on influencer marketing. The post was titled “8 Practical Applications for Influence Marketing.”

While I largely agreed with a lot of what Mark had to say in the post (especially #1 and #2 in the list), he made two claims that stopped me in my tracks.

And, they were two claims that are absolutely key to the whole “influencer marketing” discussion.

Cash Money

And, they were two claims that continue to make it very, very difficult for agencies and consultants to have realistic discussions about what influencer marketing is and how it can help your brand.

The claims?

1–Influencer marketing can be a cost-effective means of promotion.

2–Influencer marketing can be, and is, authentic.

Let’s tackle those two claims head on–because, for the most part, I believe they’re both false and misleading.

First, let’s talk about how “cost effective” influencer marketing is. In the post, Mark refers to a partner he interviewed for his book who claims influencer marketing can be “cost effective.” The metric of choice? Cost per thousand.

“Most media campaigns are measured in terms of the cost per thousand impressions,” he said. “When the brand is being mentioned in a tweet, in a Facebook post, in a blog post, video, or comment, there’s great value to that. We are going out to people who have a huge following and a high degree of influence.

Yes, CPM is still a big metric in the marketing world–no question. But, to say there is “great value” there? I think that’s a bit of a stretch. Now, I’m not the COO of a popular social media marketing agency, but I have worked with a lot of big brands on social media strategy and measurement over the years. And CPM has been a metric we’ve tracked in some cases–but I would hardly say it’s a “key metric.” In fact, it’s typically one of the metrics we put the LEAST weight on because it’s so fluffy.

So, to say influencer marketing is “cost effective” based on CPM rates? I’m not buying that. In fact, if anything, I’d say influencer outreach is actually pretty costly. I’ve found it to be the OPPOSITE of what Mark claimed in his post. And, by the way, if I’m a brand that’s considering influencer marketing, I need much more than CPM stats. What about engagement metrics? What about leads? What about site traffic? Those are numbers I’d be more interested in if we’re even going to broach the topic of “cost savings.”

The second claim: Influencer marketing is authentic. In the post, Mark lays out a first-hand case where Dell invited him to “Dell World” to see and learn more about the global computing giant. He mentions that he had a slightly negative view of Dell before the event. And that, by the time the event was finished, Mark had become an advocate and now mentions the company in his speeches, presentations and blog posts (NOTE: Dell sponsors a series of posts on Mark’s blog, which he kinda forgot to mention in his post).

What Mark didn’t really mention here is the paid nature of this relationship. Now, I’m speculating, but I’m going to go ahead and guess that Dell probably paid Mark’s way to Texas to the event. Dell probably put him up in a hotel. Dell probably paid for his food (in fact, they DID pay for his food, as he disclaims in the article).

Do you think this had any impact on Mark changing his mind?

Maybe–maybe not. Over the years, I’ve found Mark to be pretty insightful. Pretty smart. Pretty ethical. So, when he says he “flipped” from a skeptic to an advocate, I have to give Mark the benefit of the doubt.

But Dell also started a paid relationship with Mark the moment they sent him to Dell World (or, if they didn’t pay his way, they started a paid relationship when they started sponsoring content on his blog). And that may have had an impact on his perception and decisions–whether you believe Mark or not (we’ll never know, to be honest).

And that’s what influencer marketing is all about right now.

Pay for play.

Pure and simple.

No one wants to talk about that though.

No one wants to talk about the ASTRONOMICAL and flat-out RIDICULOUS rates influencers are charging brands for an Instagram pic or a Snapchat story.

No one wants to talk about how lifestyle bloggers have bilked corporations of hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of dollars over the last number of years.

No one wants to talk about how this is merely an advertising play now.

You pay an influencer a bunch of cash, and they’ll do whatever you tell them to do.

It’s as simple as that.

That’s where we’re at with influencer marketing (outside of a handful of examples I’ve seen that prove otherwise).

So, people, let’s be honest. Let’s not talk about “cost savings” when it comes to influencer marketing. Let’s not talk about “authentic advocacy.”

Let’s just call it what it is: A paid advertising relationship.

Tell me I’m wrong.

photo credit: Money, Money, Money via photopin (license)

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Do we really have a social media skills gap?

Hey–it’s not me asking this question. It’s a topic that’s coming up with clients and friends I’ve talked with in town for a little while now.

Is there a social media skills gap among younger folks here in Minneapolis?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Fenced In, Part 3

The bigger issue is this: Why are we even having this discussion?

I thought young people were supposed to be all over social media? They grew up with smartphones. They were born with Facebook profiles. They’re on Snapchat! They have mad social media skillz.

How can it be possible that we have a skills gap with young social media talent in this market?

I’ll tell you how. A few critical factors may be at play:

1: The secondary education system isn’t helping.

How many classes do you think PR and marketing majors have in digital or social media marketing right now? Maybe one? Two at most? Meanwhile, almost every job I see now in PR/marketing has an extensive list of digital and social responsibilities. Those two things aren’t lining up. It’s not close, in fact. Our colleges and universities simply aren’t doing a good enough job in preparing these kids for their jobs when it comes to digital and social media marketing. Now, I know academics will tell you job training isn’t part of the college experience (especially for a liberal arts degree). And, to that, I would say, if I’m forking over $150,000-200,000 for a four-year degree, you better damn well prepare me just a little for a job where I can make some semblance of money. Because I’m going to be paying off those loans for a long, long time.

2: No viable training options.

Go ahead. Look around. Do YOU see any viable social media marketing training opportunities for young people? PRSA doesn’t offer anything here. Locally, orgs like MIMA, AMA and AdFed don’t either (although I still believe MIMA has a big potential role here, if it wants it). So, where is agency or corporate marketing leadership supposed to turn for training on social media marketing? To be honest, I’m not sure. I have no easy answers. But, I’m getting the question more and more from clients, partners and friends.

3: Senior leaders (largely) aren’t helping.

Another problem: Senior PR (and, in many cases, marketing leaders) aren’t in a position to help coach up younger folks either. Why? Because they themselves need coaching up. Certainly, there are exceptions. People like Jen Swanson at Children’s Hospitals & Clinics, Kevin Hunt at General Mills, and Holly Spaeth at Polaris come to mind. But, to a larger extent, the senior-level people managing these junior-level folks don’t have the chops to train them up. The fact is: They may need the training just as much as the junior folks do.

So–what do you think? Is there a skills gap? Are junior to mid-level agency folks up-to-speed with social media skills?

Sure, people are FILLING these roles. But, are they the RIGHT people? Do they have the right skills? Are they staying up-to-speed with the changes in the industry?

I’m not so sure. Not based on what I’m hearing.

Now, again, not saying this is a blanket statement. Surely, there are a number of talented people with big social media chops here in Minneapolis. People like Katie Miller at OLSON, Danny Olson at Weber Shandwick, and Morgan Hay-Chapman at space150,  just to name a few. I’ve been working with Ryan Roddy and Sarah Frield at Broadhead, who are both very smart.

I’d be interested to hear what you think (even if you live outside Minneapolis–sure this might be an issue in other large markets, too).

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PR Rock Stars: Sleep Number’s Kaitlyn Cox

I can’t recall how or when, exactly, I met Kaitlyn Cox for the first time. But, I’m sure glad I did meet her. Kaitlyn is one of the most kind and sweet people you’ll ever meet in our profession. And, she’s a heckuva a rock star. Just ask her teammates at Sleep Number (client). I got a chance to catch up with Kaitlyn recently–let’s hear what she has to say about her career, running and how college prepared her for the “real world.”

KC 3

Your current role at Sleep Number has you focusing almost squarely on content creation. Tell us a little about your road to this unique position, and what you enjoy most about your content role.

My journey was, and continues to be, a lot of self-discovery, a little bit of trial and error and influence from many awesome people (who mentor me whether they realize it or not). I started out post-college with an internship at MOA focused heavily on media relations with sprinklings of social media work here and there. At OLSON I was split 50/50 between media relations and social, eventually focusing fully on social. Life Time Fitness started and evolved the same way as OLSON, and now I’m at Sleep Number in a full social content role. I’ve learned many things including: media relations is not for me and I love ideating and creating with ridiculously smart people.

I describe my current role as “getting to do all the fun stuff in social”. J My favorite parts (sorry, I can’t pick just one!) are the awesome people I get to create with, the creative push my role gives me and the opportunities I have to continue learning every day.

Working in social for a big company isn’t exactly what most people think it is–that’s me opining there 🙂 Can you tell us one thing about your social content role that might surprise people?

KC 2

This is a tough one for me but I think what might be most surprising for some is how creative my role is. Because I don’t do any community management, I get to focus solely on strategy and creative ideation, as well as the actual execution of our ideas. I have the best creative team and we work super closely together which is so fun for me.


You cut your teeth in the industry at OLSON. I always tell students one of the best way to learn our industry out of the gate is to join up at an agency where you’ll be exposed to a wide variety of roles, jobs and clients. Would you agree with that? Did joining an agency early in your career prepare you for the corporate roles you’ve had recently?

OLSON was foundational for me in so many ways, and I wouldn’t trade that time in my life for anything, so yes, I would agree. OLSON had faith in me, taught me more than I could have anticipated and pushed me in ways I wanted, but also in ways I didn’t know I needed until later on. Starting out at a place like OLSON not only gave me the opportunity to work with incredibly smart people, it also shaped a lot of the ways I think, ideate, create and work. I left OLSON with a variety of experiences, industry knowledge and relationships that have continued to serve me well to this day. It wasn’t always easy but it was definitely always worth it.


Absolutely love this quote you feature on your LinkedIn page: “You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” -Dr. Seuss Can you talk a bit about what that quote means to you and how you’ve lived it during your professional life?

So much of life is about being present where you’re at and I think, as a whole, we’re not very good at that anymore. For me that quote serves as a reminder of how I want to be: ready for what’s in front of me and never too distracted to miss the important things happening now. I also think it speaks to fear. If we close ourselves off because we’re afraid, we might miss the greatest opportunities. Professionally that might mean a new job opportunity, even when you weren’t expecting it. Personally it might mean an uncharted adventure. Whatever it is, I want to be brave enough to at least notice the things in front of me and then brave enough to explore them to see if they’re my next big adventure.


You stay busy away from work, too. Namely, you co-founded a running group called WeRunMpls where young runners get together, take quick runs around Minneapolis, grab a beer, and hang out. What drove you to start WeRun? And, is there a budding entrepeneur in there waiting to get out?

KC 1

Hey, thanks for the plug! Shameless addition: come run with us every other Thursday! We’d love to have you – beginner to elite (we’ve had both, and everything in between).

A huge part of what drove me to start WeRunMPLS is the idea of connecting people around a shared interest. I’m a big believer in the power of community and shared experiences, and I really enjoy running so it was an easy combination. I also wanted to create a space that wasn’t defined by age or gender or skill level, but by common interests and encouragement. We’re still in our infancy (2 years this April!), but I’m already seeing those things happen and I couldn’t be happier. The entrepreneur part? We shall see… J


You graduated from Northwestern College in 2010–not THAT Northwestern, but the college here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. That’s not a huge school. It’s not a well-known school across the country. Yet, here you are with experience working for some of the biggest brands in the Twin Cities (Sleep Number, MOA, Life Time Fitness) just six years into your career. Do you feel like your time at Northwestern prepared you for the “real world”–and how do you think a smaller school prepared you for work life in a way a bigger school couldn’t?

Kait Cox 3

Getting anywhere in life is about making the most of your circumstances and not letting limitations define you. Northwestern is a small school which could seem limiting, but a majority of the professors there worked in the fields they instruct, bringing relevant real-life examples to their classrooms as well as being able to connect their students with awesome professionals. My classes were small, giving me great exposure to my professors and in turn connecting me to people who hired me for internships and mentored me before I even left school (I held 6 internships before I graduated). Again, it’s about building community for me and those connections I made in college still exist. I’ve seen that same experience for so many people I graduated with and it’s fun to walk alongside them as professionals now.

My favorite example of what I got from a school like Northwestern is a few months after I graduated I didn’t have a fulltime job in my field and was frustrated. One day I tweeted at Lisa Grimm (who I’d never met; editor’s note: Another PR Rock Star!) wanting to know if she would meet up with me to share career advice (something I never would have done without my professors’ encouragement to ask for the things I wanted). Two weeks later I started my internship at MOA and now have a dear friend in Lisa.


Finally, you may be one of the most likable people I know. EVERYONE I know that knows you loves you. How do you do that? 🙂 More importantly, that likability translates well to the business world. People want to work with people like they like. People trust people they like. It helps immensely. I’ve seen it first-hand many, many times. Have you noticed that likability factor helping you in the workplace? And if yes, how has it specifically helped you at Sleep Number?

Kait Cox 4

Wow, Arik! Such an overwhelmingly nice compliment – thank you!

I look at work relationships the same way I look at my outside-of-work relationships: people are all humans at the end of the day and I like getting to know people. At work, the people I work closest with are now my dear friends, and some are even like family. You spend so much time with your coworkers – why not find out what’s interesting, beautiful, unique about them and let that help shape your work? As close relationships are built, we are able to easily identify our strengths and weaknesses and help each other out – equaling better, more efficient work. For me viewing work relationships this way not only makes me look forward to each day, but also makes my work more productive, my ideas better (because they’re collective ideas, not just mine) and my challenges less challenging.

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