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Maybe I *should* start branding my business as an #unfinishedsneeze

First, I want to say I typically use this blog as a way to write what I think will be interesting for you, the reader. To educate. To inspire. Usually, that’s the lens with which I write. But today, I just have to rant. I don’t do it that often. Please bear with me.

A little set-up.

A few weeks back, the folks at Cision asked me to lead a webinar this fall (thanks to a nice introduction from Geoff Livingston). After settling on a topic (content strategy/creation), we agreed on a date and Cision recently began promoting it through all their different channels.


Last week, I see the following email pop up in my inbox from a gentleman who I’m guessing may not be my biggest fan–this email was in response to a promo that he saw in one of the daily HARO emails.


“I’m sure that, at the most, Mr. Hanson is a genius. At the very least, I’m sure that I’ll see something I already know a bit differently. Only a fool would pass up an opportunity to listen.

However–and you knew this was coming because the other shoe always drops–it would behoove both Vocus and Mr. Hanson to prioritize demonstrable best practices in the walk, in order to justify the credibility of the talk.

With all due respect and no invoice attached, Mr. Hanson, branding a communications company somewhere between an unfinished sneeze and a Heimlich maneuver hardly instills confidence, especially with all of the branding and domain name tutorials freely available and the fact that documented best practices for positioning and naming a company/brand/service/product have been around since the late 1960s.

Go ahead and dismiss this as crackpot invective and I will send these solutions to the Recycle Bin and take advantage of the 13 November opportunity to listen.”


At first, I was upset, I’ll admit. But that didn’t last too long. Over the years, I’ve learned to develop a thick skin to these types of barbs. Especially as a blogger and speaker–it kinda comes with the territory when you put yourself out there like this.

So, I’m not upset. No big lingering feelings. But, I did want to take this opportunity to defend myself and talk about the branding issue this gentleman mentions above. Because, I’ll be honest, it’s not the first time it’s come up (and it’s one many solos like me face).

It was a purposeful decision I made five years ago when I started my consultancy. The decision was simply this: To promote “Arik Hanson” and not “ACH Communications.”

Why? Because I’m really just selling myself. Anyone that’s going to hire me for marketing/PR services, is going to hire Arik Hanson, not “ACH Communications.”

So, “ACH Communications” is merely a legal entity in a way.

My philosophy: When clients “buy” from a solo consultant like me (and, Mr. Crabby Pants above, that’s what I am, a SOLO consultant–not a “communications agency”), they’re buying ME–not an agency. If they wanted an agency, they’d hire an agency. Typically, they’re looking for a solo consultant. And if they ARE looking for an agency, I’ve learned (the hard way) to vet those and let ‘em go.

So, please tell me why I would use my “agency name” and not fully promote myself, Arik Hanson, at all times?

Especially when everything I do online is under my own name?

Keep in mind, this approach also makes it easier for me to forge and cultivate relationships online via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and my blog. Relationships which have led directly to business over the years. Multiple times.

Think about “forging a relationship” with “ACH Communications.” Don’t you want to get to know “ACH Communications?” Wouldn’t you want to work with “ACH Communications?” Heck, if I were to do that, I’d probably expect people to describe that agency as a hiemlich maneuver, too!

So, I decided to brand and promote myself. Just me. No agency name. No organizational structure behind me. Just me. And, I don’t see that changing anytime soon (I have no aspirations of starting my own agency).

And you know what? That purposeful strategy has worked pretty darn well for me over the last five years. I’ve had a chance to work for and with some wonderful people. Speak to amazing groups and clients. And I’ve been lucky enough to do it all on my terms. I do feel pretty lucky.

But, apparently, according to this “fan”, I’m doing it all wrong. I should think about re-branding my “communications agency.”

And, I should re-evaluate my credibility in the industry.

So, let’s recap that credibility for a moment, shall we?

If you do just a little digging on me online, you’ll find:

* I’ve been in the marketing/communications world now for 20-plus years. I’ve worked on the corporate side, the agency side, the non-profit side, the media side, and now, the solo side. I’ve seen it all. Literally.

* I’m a PR/marketing solo consultant. That’s it. Not an author. Not a circuit speaker (I speak infrequently). Not a “social media guru” (see bullet #1). Not a wannabe anything, really. I’m a husband. A dad. And a consultant. In that order. Period.

* I’ve worked with some of the biggest clients in the U.S. Walgreens, General Mills, Sleep Number, Walmart, Mall Of America. I’d put my client list up against almost any small to mid-sized agency in Minneapolis. And believe me, those big clients are the first thing other agencies mention, so don’t tell me that doesn’t matter when it comes to credibility.

* I’ve won a few industry awards in my day (MN Classics, IABC Bronze Quill Awards). It’s been a while, I’ll admit, but I don’t have the need to submit for awards these days as a solo, so my opportunities are fewer and farther between.

* I’ve sat on numerous boards, including stints on the PRSA (Minnesota) board, the Winona St. Alumni Board (currently) and the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association Board (currently).

* I’ve spoken at numerous industry events including those organized by multiple PRSA chapters (Minnesota, Seattle, Fort Worth), MIMA, BlogWorld, Social Media Breakfast, and a number of other organizations.

* I’ve been an industry blogger for six-plus years, posting 2-3 times a week EVERY week drawing 15,000-plus visitors per month (on average). I know what you’re going to say: “I wouldn’t put a ton of stock in this one.” Fair enough. But it does show my commitment and writing ability. And, I mean, if we’re talking about my credibility as it relates to CONTENT, what better source than a blog the guy’s been writing for six-plus years two to three times a week, right?

So, I don’t know, would you find this person credible?

Yeah, me neither.

Sounds like more of an #unfinishedsneeze to me… :)

PS: I’m totally over this. Now.

photo credit: kodomut via photopin cc

Instead of lame holiday social posts, why couldn’t brands try this?

When you think of holiday posts from brands on networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, isn’t this what we’ve come to expect?

Tempur FB

I mean, really? Stock photography AND a product sell job?

On the other hand, when I looked at my Facebook and Instagram feeds last Friday, they were FULL of creative, interesting and downright funny Halloween get-ups and wishes.

Why can’t brands pull off that same level of human-ness and creativity during the holidays?

Short answer: They can.

And, I’m going to give you/them a free idea.

It’s based on my costume idea this year: The Instagram frame!


Now, keep in mind, my wife and I aren’t the craftiest people. In fact, we’re not crafty at all. But, when it comes to Halloween, we like to have a little fun. And this year, since our kids had store-bought costumes, we decided to do the homemade thing ourselves.

So, naturally, I came up with this Instagram idea (full disclosure: this definitely wasn’t an original thought :).


It would have been REALLY fun to take to a party, but we spent a low-key night in our neighborhood with our kids and a couple friends (a few people asked me why I was dressed up as an iPhone :).

But, I got to thinking–wouldn’t this be a great idea for some aspiring brand?


Couldn’t they create their own Instagram frame, complete with their own details (note the “Hale-Page” location at the top of my frame)?

Couldn’t one of the marketing folks take this frame around the company on Halloween and grab “selfies” with employees and post those to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter wishing customers a happy Halloween?

Wouldn’t that “meta” moment be MUCH better than the stuff brands are posting now?

Free idea for 2015! Of course, by then, Instagram and the selfie may very well be passe.

But still, give it some thought brands. And, you can send me that check whenever you’d like :)

Talking Points Podcast: Talking wearable tech and the future of content with Weber Shandwick’s Greg Swan

This week, my esteemed co-host, Kevin Hunt, was down at the SocialMedia.Org Brands-Only Summit in wonderful Walt Disney World in Florida. So, this episode features our first with a fill-in co-host–Weber Shandwick’s Greg Swan.

We sat down and talked about wearable technology and its impact on the future of content creation (really fun discussion, when you think about the possibilities down the road), Snapchat ads and Ello as a viable option for marketers.

I also asked Greg a few questions about his (relatively) new gig at Weber Shandwick, shelving his long-time music blog, and his experience with Jason DeRusha and WCCO-TV earlier this week (see here for Greg’s recap).

Hope you’ll give this episode a listen.

SHOW NOTES – October 30, 2014

“4 Things To Know For Greg Swan”


“How Will Wearable Tech and Augmented Reality Change Content Creation?”


“The Most Enjoyable Google Glass Review You’ll Watch”


“Project steps into virtual reality storytelling”


“I Explored ‘Interstellar’ Using Oculus Rift. What I Found Was the Future of Storytelling”


“Dr Pepper Releases the First Branded GIF Messages”


“Ello No Flash In The Pan, New Metrics Suggest”


“This Is What Snapchat’s First Ad Looks Like”


Should you feel ashamed for reading the hard copy newspaper?

Every so often, I’ll see it in one of my social feeds: That comment or remark from a friend, colleague or industry person taking jabs at the hard copy newspaper and those that read it.

It’s not surprising. We’ve all read the headlines, after all.

Newsprint is dead.


Twitter and Facebook are the new newsfeeds.

Other news sites are siphoning traffic from traditional media sites.

Heck, some are even getting their news from Instagram (see how NowThis News is “breaking” news now).

But, I can’t help it. I still love my hard copy newspaper.

And I shouldn’t feel ashamed to read it.

In fact, I would like to flip the popular thinking: Instead of asking “why would I read the daily newspaper? ask yourself: Why AREN’T I reading my daily newspaper?

If you WERE to read your daily newspaper, you would:

Actually touch and feel it–you know, like in your hands

It’s the same reason I won’t switch to an e-reader. I love holding the paper in my hand and reading it. Call me a romantic, but that’s one of the biggest pieces for me.

Learn from people who know what the hell they’re talking about

Those that poo-poo print newspapers claim they can get their news elsewhere on the web. But, where exactly are they getting that news? And, more importantly, who is creating it? One of the things I appreciate most about my local paper is that they hire and employe professional journalists. People with ethics. People who are trained in journalism. People who (hopefully) care about the community they live in. You’re not getting that from Buzzfeed, Upworthy or any other site where you’re getting your daily news. Especially not that third point.

Learn about LOCAL news–you know, that place where you live?

Sure, I can read about Ebola or ISIS on CNN.com or any number of other media outlets that may cover that news better than the Star Tribune. But, one of the only places I can get local news coverage is my local newspaper. And, that has value to me. Because I live in Minneapolis. I want to know what’s going on here. With our park. With our politics. With our schools. The Star Tribune covers all that ground–and I don’t see a lot of options locally that can deliver that information in one place.

Enjoy Sunday mornings like never before

One of my favorite things to do on Sunday mornings is to read the paper on our porch with my wife over a cup of coffee. And, I’m hardly alone on this one. Again, romanticism plays in a bit, as I grew up watching my parents to the very same thing. But, it is truly one of my favorite things. The Sunday paper is chock-full of goodness. And, it’s really just a great way for my wife and I to relax, while expanding our horizons. Now, you can definitely do this with an iPad. No question. But let’s face it–it just ain’t the same.

Accidently expand your horizons

One of the best things about reading the paper is it’s NOT hyper-personalized to you. Therefore, you will discover a few things that aren’t hyper-targeted at your specific interests and niches. For me, that means exploring the travel section each Sunday. Or, it might mean sifting through the book reviews. Or, reading an interesting editorial on a topic I don’t usually read about. Whatever the case, that notion of falling into content accidentally and discovery is one of the things I love most about the paper.

Now, I know the print newspaper has its downsides. Oh yes, I hear about those ALL the time. So, OK, let’s take a look at those perceived downsides. Let’s see just how bad they really are.

So, if we believe the naysayers, if I read the print newspaper I will:

Miss out on “breaking news”

By the time the hard copy Star Tribune hits my stoop each morning at 5 a.m., much of that news is “old” for many thanks to Twitter and Facebook. But, consider I sit down to read the paper at about 7 am each day. How much has happened between yesterday afternoon and 7 a.m. this morning? At least, news that I absolutely have to have? Keep in mind, for the majority of those hours, I’m sleeping. Do I really need to consume news the moment it happens? For my job, at times, yes. But, by and large, no. And, I would argue most people don’t need to consume news at this torrid pace either.

Single-handedly kill the Amazon rainforest

OK, so you got me here. I do have a stack of old newspapers in my living room. I have another stack near my bed. But you know what? We recycle. So, I really don’t feel that badly about this one. Note: I also recycle plastic, glass and other paper, so take that newspaper naysayers! :)

Trust the media less and less

We’ve all read this headline–especially when it applies to millennials. But, my question is “Why?” Why do people distrust the media? I mean, I get it when we’re talking about CNN and Fox News to an extent. But, you really distrust your local newspaper? Here in Minneapolis, the Star Tribune has been labeled a left-sided media outlet, which may or may not be fair. But, political affiliations aside, they also report on the news. Each and every day. And, they’re trained journalists. So, that means they’re paid to do a job professionally. And I believe they do that well, each and every day. Do they have political biases that seeps in from time to time? Yep. But, they are human beings. That’s going to happen no matter what. Get over it. Again, for me, this goes back to value. The Strib provides a value to me. They may be biased at times, which may impact their credibility just a bit. But, by and large, I trust them to do the job they are tasked with–to deliver the news and inform the community around them. Why wouldn’t I trust them? What agenda are they really trying to sell me?

Yearn for interactive content

Here’s another millennial slam on print newspapers–no “interactive” content. OK, you got me again. You’re not going to see a YouTube video pop up in your local paper. I mean, not until 2020 when that technology is invented :) But you know what? Not EVERYTHING has to be interactive. Not EVERYTHING has to be personalized. Not EVERYTHING has to be on Instagram for God’s sake (and I love Instagram!). What’s wrong with sitting down each day, and you know, reading some text on a printed page that helps you become smarter and a better neighbor? What is wrong with that? No really, I’m asking you!

I’m really not a salesperson for the Star Tribune. They are not paying me for this post. I just continue to wonder why people continue to slam hard copy newspapers so much. Because I have yet to hear a legit argument for why you shouldn’t read it each and every day.

Can you help me find one? Let me know when you do–I’ll be reading my newspaper on the porch…