3 Groups That Deserve Good PR This Memorial Day

As a consumer and tech PR agency we routinely analyze the calendar to consider the best ways to tell stories that are relevant and compelling, and with Memorial Day around the corner, we find tons of examples. As the date approaches, expect to see and hear stories about remembrances, ceremonies and individual stories of bravery and sacrifice. As a way to honor the holiday, we call out three organizations that deserve some good PR for the work they do year round on behalf of veterans and, in doing so, honor the memories of those who gave their lives while serving our country.

Open Bionics. We’ve seen our share of tech PR clients and think their story is worth noting. One reality of modern warfare is that more people are returning home as amputees. In previous times, options were few, but the convergence of two kinds of innovations — 3D printing and open source development — have the potential to change this entirely. Recently, one Afghanistan veteran became the first wounded soldier to wear a 3D printed bionic hand. An engineer friend began developing the hand using an open source 3D printable robotic hand design, adding his modifications. Open Bionics is the company spawned from the open source effort to design 3D printed prosthetics, and is devoted to making brilliant, affordable products for amputees.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association (IAVA). Founded in 2004 by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans out of concern for how veterans were being portrayed and treated, the IAVA is devoted to generating positive PR as well as informing government and  the general public about the true circumstances returning veterans face. The organization has done important advocacy on critical issues such as mental health, lapses in VA care, and inadequate care for female veterans. We had the honor of working with the IAVA on behalf of a client whose employee ranks are filled with veterans; not only are they doing important work, but are a pleasure to work with, too.

The Bob Woodruff Foundation.  Memorial Day is about remembering soldiers who did not come home, but for those who do, returning home can be a traumatic, difficult transition. Depression, substance abuse, violence, even suicide are common risks for many who have experienced combat duty. The Bob Woodruff Foundation finds and funds organizations and programs that help veterans not only survive the challenges of re-entry, but thrive in their lives back home. The foundation was born after Bob Woodruff, who in 2006 was ABC’s new anchor, was struck by a roadside bomb while covering the conflict in Iraq. His recovery from a traumatic brain injury that nearly killed him prompted him and his wife to start the foundation, so to us, the Woodruffs epitomize the principle of doing well by doing good.

PR And Social Media Move Movies

Memorial Day is the unofficial kick-off of the summer movie season, marked more and more by social media-infused promotions. The goal is to drive interest among the typically young, male movie fans with a fusion of traditional and digital PR and marketing, increasing the hype and the ticket sales.

Beginning in 1999 with the “found-footage” film ‘The Blair Witch Project’, the practice is now a must-have movie promotion strategy.

Hunting for (box office) treasure. Think of Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) as online scavenger hunts to build hype and provide background for new projects. They act as modern-day grassroots PR campaigns. “Cloverfield” hopped on the bandwagon in mid-2007 with MySpace character pages and “in-world product” sites. The mysterious trailer and secrecy-saturated campaign spurred curiosity, and coverage.

“The Dark Knight” raised the bar with worldwide scavenger hunts led by the Joker, including cakes embedded with cell phones and a mock District Attorney campaign. The results were no joke; the campaign generated TV coverage as it connected more than ten million players in 75 countries.

More recently, “Tron: Legacy” rallied moviegoers with a “crashed” press conference and tokens to the film’s arcade. Even the upcoming “Man of Steel” joined the party, creating an in-world online project that mirrored the hunt for extraterrestrial life through satellite signals.  All the campaigns were covered by popular film blogs.

(Smile for the) cameras. Another form of social media promotion is interactive or 3D theater standees, the attention-grabbing larger-than-life posters like this one for “Transformers”.  Standees encourage theater-goers to take photos and share them on their favorite social networks while tagging the film’s accounts to build buzz. Despite the visual appeal of a photo with Gandalf or a “Despicable Me 2” Whack-a-Minion display, they rarely result in traditional media coverage, but the social sharing can be a blockbuster in itself.

The “Social Network” path to profits. More and more movies generate buzz with exclusive hashtags, Instagram reveals, and Facebook “likes”.  The horror fad film “Paranormal Activity” built a fan base through screening demands on Eventful, an event-sharing and requesting site, with resulting buzz in non-film outlets like Advertising Age.

The savviest film marketing uses in-world social media reveals, custom apps, and hashtags that unlock special poster content. Part of the success behind the megahit “The Hunger Games” was clever use of social sharing and exclusive content, generating recognition on such “mainstream” sites as CNET. For the “Hunger Games” sequel, “Catching Fire,” the studio has already created an updated “Capitol” fashion site, Instagram page, exclusive stylized images linked to the movie, and its first trailer, all some six months before its premiere.

Pay attention this weekend and in coming the months to spot some new trends.

Three-Day Weekend With A Twist

Make this Memorial Day memorable.  According to about.com vacations are important for more than just fun.  They help promote creativity, stave off burnout, keep us healthy, and promote overall wellbeing.

So this Memorial Day avert the ordinary and take the road(s) less traveled.

Embrace the odd. America is full of unique Americana. For example did you know Boston is home to the Museum of Bad Art? Have a hankering for chocolate shaped body parts? Muellers Chocolates in Philadelphia is a must-stop for you.  And if you are traveling to Florida for the long weekend and like chicken, have they got a store for you, all things chicken all the time at The Chicken Store.

Staycations stay popular. This holiday weekend make your house more like a hotel.  Here’s how.  Love a spa day at a hotel why not bring the experience home with a relaxing in-home spa treatment. Cherish the alone time while your kids go crazy in a video game truck parked outside your house. Top it off with “room service” by way of a personal chef and voila, vacation!

Take a walk on the wild side. Seriously, walk this weekend. There are dozens of wonderful walks in every city. Did you know that Central Park offers no less than ten different walking tours, all free?  Not wild enough for you, try the Chelsea Nightclub Tour. Every city has a spooky tour of some kind. Nearby try the New York City Ghost tour or Weird New Jersey or Haunted Staten Island.

Whatever you do this holiday weekend, try to take a moment to remember why we take Monday off. Check your local papers for parades and activities to honor local heroes.

This is just the beginning of wonderful summer weekends.  What are some of the more unusual ways you spend them?