Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NY WICI Matrix Award Highlights

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending New York Women in Communication’s Matrix Awards for the first time. Some highlights:

- Brian Williams – hubba hubba! Not only is he charming, intelligent and soothing, but he’s quite the looker as well. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. His honoree, Campbell Brown, wasn’t too shabby either.

- S. Epatha Merkerson – so that is how you pronounce her name. After 15 years of watching “Law & Order” religiously, I finally had an answer. She seemed genuinely humbled to be introduced by Jeff Zucker of NBC, going in for a professional handshake but instead being engulfed in a hug.

- Donny Deutsch – I am not usually a fan but I thought his introduction of Linda Sawyer was really genuine, leaving me feeling like I would love to have her as a boss.

- Monica Langley – I wasn’t familiar with her work at the Wall Street Journal but I thought her speech was really interesting, discussing how she used her intuition and people skills to go beyond the headline to get the story.

- Leslee Dart – I interviewed her for the Matrix Journal so was really interested in what she had to say. But first Jessica Lange and Tom Hanks raved about her endlessly. Their publicist. I was shocked that they would show up, let alone sing her praises like they did. Publicity is such a thankless job but certainly not for Leslee yesterday. Tom Hanks was charming but did anyone expect anything less.

- Sherri Rollins Westin - serenaded by Elmo, what more can I say? And she apparently has a really funny daughter.

So glad I went and have become a part in the past year of such a powerful and rewarding organization. Who knows, maybe one day I will be the PR recipient.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bold Names

It occurred to me as the fascinating albeit terrifying story about the so-called Craigslist Murderer began to unfold this week that Philip Markoff has something in common with Scotland’s Susan Boyle: Instantaneous, world-wide name recognition in the blink of an eye. For two very different reasons, both Markoff and Boyle became over-night sensations whose Q ratings (the rating of one’s overall “fame”) blasted through the stratosphere like a NASA Space Shuttle.

Sadly, the public is introduced to people like Markoff through real-time, mass media obsession with much more frequency than to the Susan Boyles of the world: For every Miracle-on-the-Hudson hero like Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger, there are 20 Bernie Madoffs. And it seems that when a true hero like Captain Richard Phillips pops onto the scene, the public is given a kind of gift; an opportunity to identify with someone who seems just as regular as you or me but for a specific set of circumstances that results in mass awareness and genuine admiration.

Here is the thing about Susan Boyle: Her story is authentic. Despite what some of my more cynical friends have to say about her, there is no way, despite all the PR and marketing savvy entertainment companies have developed over the years, that Susan Boyle could have been manufactured. And because of the massive growth of media portals over the past decade, we all came upon her in ways that seemed tailored to our individuality: YouTube and the New York Times; Twitter and The Today Show; FaceBook and CNN.com. Another interesting by-product of the Susan Boyle phenomenon is that her story sometimes connected us with people who were not previously on our radar. I have a friend who heard about Susan in the beauty parlor by the client of her hairdresser who had recently had a baby and was feeling very sheltered and disconnected from the world until she found Susan on the internet. According to my friend, the woman’s enthusiasm in sharing the news of Susan Boyle’s astonishing audition for “Britain’s Got Talent” was just as powerful as the evidence of Susan’s talent itself. Even Simon Cowell would be impressed.

When I heard about Philip Markoff earlier this week, I knew to prepare myself for the hundreds of follow-up stories that would be filed in the days to come. Sure enough, the media, in all their shark-in-the-water frenzy, sliced and diced the story with cold precision. There was the reporting of stolen underwear and the Gray’s Anatomy textbook-cum-automatic pistol hiding place; the preppy image of a pre-med fiancé juxtaposed against the portrait of a woman-hating psychopath killer. The coverage overwhelmed the senses and demanded that we PAY ATTENTION! Even as we wanted to look away, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster gives and eloquent defense of the website’s safety policies in an interview this morning with The Today Show’s Matt Lauer.

So, we are left to wonder when the next heroine or villain will bump Markoff and Boyles off the proverbial front page and what that will feel like. It seemed as if Susan’s 15 minutes were about to be challenged earlier this week when another “Britain’s Got Talent” contender, 12-year-old Shaheen Jafargholi, came along and was christened by the world media in interview after interview. Not so fast! – a new video has suddenly (and miraculously?) emerged of Boyle performing 20 years ago pumping new life into the Susan Boyles news cycle. Similarly, today’s Markoff news was about the 24-hour suicide watch under which he has been placed has propelled his story into its sixth day. Let’s hope the next overnight sensation will be more Boyles and less Markoff; we could all use some more of that right now.

Posted by Jeff Smith, CEO

Explore-A-Story: A Celebration of Books

On Sunday, April 19th, more than 700 guests attended “Explore-A-Story: A Celebration of Books,” a family festival and fundraiser celebrating The Wonder of Reading’s purpose: to inspire in children the love of reading. ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood was transformed into a carnival-like atmosphere complete with celebrity readers (Shia LaBeouf, Jesse McCartney, Madison Pettis, et al), children’s book authors (Hope Anita Smith, Ann Whitford Paul, Elisa Kleven, et al), walk-around book characters, food from California Pizza Kitchen, art activities, book signings, and a book fair by Barnes & Noble Booksellers.

Other entertainment included the Invertigo Dance Theatre, which performed a dance to Where the Wild Things Are; music by Mariachi Cielo Nuevo; the Guild Opera Company, which performed Little Red Riding Hood and David Prather.

Despite the heat, children and their families had a terrific day and supported a wonderful organization.

Posted by Amy Fuller, Assistant Account Executive

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hit of the Week: Restaurants using Twitter in Reuters

As more people jump on the Twitter bandwagon, it becomes increasingly difficult to stand out in a crowded space. The goal, as media relations-focused PR professionals, was to figure out how to leverage our clients’ presence on Twitter to get them placed in a story that highlights them as being innovative and successful at what they do.

We worked with Reuters to develop a story about how restaurants are using Twitter to help boost their business, reach out directly to their customers on a more personal level and establish their brand. Inspired by the Kogi BBQ phenomenon here in Los Angeles, we gave the journalist a list of different types of restaurants and chefs who Twitter well, pitched how Twitter is a powerful direct to consumer communication tool for small business like restaurants, and hooked her up with some restaurant marketing and advertising gurus. The result: an amazing article that featured three of our clients - Tender Greens, Rush Street and Maggiano’s - alongside major companies like McDonald’s, Burger King and Starbucks as trendsetters and examples of restaurants that are creatively using Twitter.

Reuters is a business news syndicate that is distributed to 15.3 million outlets internationally. This article was picked up by more than 35 online business, technology, lifestyle and food outlets in the U.S. and internationally including Yahoo! News, Forbes, Money.CNN.com, WashingtonPost.com, Portfolio, ABC News, PC Mag and more. The story resulted in an instantaneous increase of followers for each of our clients, large amount of Twitter chatter, re-tweets with links to the article, and interest from other media and experts in the industry.

To read the Reuters article, click here: http://www.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUSTRE53I11Z20090420?sp=true

To see the Twitter chatter and people linking to the article click here: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=Reuters+twitter+restaurants

Posted by Christina Wong, Account Executive

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The State of the Cocktail in Paris

Paris is known for many things – romance, art, food, wine, literature – but it has never been known for cocktails. And why should it be? Parisians have all that wine to drink; though only the size of Texas, France produces more wine than any other country in the world. Many of France’s traditional cocktails include wine as a main ingredient (Kir Royal, etc.) or consist of sweet apertifs, not meant for an evening of imbibing. I’m not a big cocktail drinker myself; I enjoy the occasional margarita or Manhattan, but I don’t do much barhopping these days. Though when I was in Paris for my Honeymoon last week, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the budding cocktail culture there. “Budding” may be a bit generous. Most of the cocktail lists I saw at bars consisted of drinks you can find in nightclubs in Tijuana. It was truly hilarious to see these hip, well-healed Parisians drinking “Sex on the Beach” and “Blue Hawaiians.” I’m not sure how this happened and the hangovers these types of drinks cause surely give the French yet another reason to despise Americans.

There were, however, a few happy exceptions. I didn’t get a chance to go there, but right before I left the New York Times did a great piece about a bar called L’Experimental Cocktail Club which takes its cocktails as seriously as we do in LA. We did go to an American/British themed bar called Sir Winston not far from the Arc de Triomphe which had a decent selection of whiskeys and scotches and a very cool candlelit basement bar. Our last night in France, we stayed at the new Phillip Stark designed hotel, Mama Shelter, and had dinner at the restaurant there. We were very tempted by the cocktails after dinner – all the same types of cocktails you would find at any high-end restaurant in LA – but alas, too much champagne and red wine and a too-early wake-up call the next morning got in the way of a taste-test. Next time!

Posted by Amanda White, Account Supervisor, Newlywed

Hit of the Week: Sircuit Skin in America Spa

This February, Sircuit Skin Cosmeceuticals, an advanced anti-aging skincare line, partnered with JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa to be the signature skincare line offered at the award winning, AAA Five Diamond/Five Star resort. Rated as one of the top resorts and spas in Mexico, the exquisite Cancun hotel offers an exclusive Mayan-inspired spa featuring 35,000 square feet of spiritual revitalization, making it a perfect fit for Sircuit products and treatments.

This week’s best clip comes from American Spa magazine, a publication designed for day spa owners, managers and personnel. The Sircuit Cosmeceuticals and JW Marriott Resort & Spa relationship was announced in the Industry News section.

By expanding globally, people around the world will be exposed to a skincare line that is not only good for the skin and body, but contributes to overall well-being and skin health. With a presence in Australia, China and Europe, the JW Marriott Cancun in Mexico is a welcome addition to the Sircuit family.

Posted by Amy Fuller, Assistant Account Executive

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Explore-A-Story Returns

The Wonder of Reading’s annual event Explore-A-Story: A Celebration of Books takes place this Sunday, April 19th at ArcLight Hollywood. It is an incredible day of readings by children’s book authors and illustrators, performances, arts-and-crafts, movies, and a book fair with book signings…all inspired by great children’s literature. This year’s celebrity readers include Shia LaBeouf, Jesse McCartney, Jane Kaczmarek, Madison Pettis and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The event celebrates and supports The Wonder of Reading’s mission: to inspire in children the love of reading. Since 2004, The Wonder of Reading has played a key role in opening nearly 200 new libraries in public elementary schools in the Los Angeles area, as well as training more than 4,000 volunteers to read one-on-one with youngsters each week. Currently, more than 130,000 children are enrolled in partner schools and are benefiting from the libraries the Wonder of Reading has helped renovate and restock.

Posted by Amy Fuller, Assistant Account Executive

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Grilled Cheese Month

April is Grilled Cheese Month and here at JS2 Communications HQ we are obsessed cheese fanatics.  Melted together between hot, buttered slices of bread and it's almost a little piece of heaven.  Our clients Patinette, Ivan Kane's Café Wa s and Rush Street serve a darn good grilled cheese sandwich and we recommend them to anyone looking for a bite of gooey goodness!

For lunch, the best grilled cheese in close proximity to our office in West Hollywood is at Joan's On Third.  We all dream about it at our desks and argue over whether we should get it with bacon, slices of tomato or ham.  My personal favorite is a fresh slice of heirloom tomato with the rationale that adding a slice of tomato then makes the grilled cheese sandwich healthier.

Our chef's swear by the type of bread that makes their grilled cheese the best.  Chef Glen Ishii of Noé Restaurant & Bar at the Omni Hotel Los Angeles uses Asian bakery bread, easily found at 99 Ranch or any other Asian-owned bakery, which give his grilled cheese sandwiches a soft, pillowy texture. Chef Alex Reznik from Ivan Kane's Café Wa s makes his with slices of house made brioche grilled with truffle oil and stuffed with French Emmenthaler and Morbier cheeses.

Here are our tips for how to make the best grilled cheese sandwich:

  • Use nice quality bread!  A more dense bread gives your sandwich a heartier quality whereas a lighter, softer bread from an Asian bakery is almost light as air
  • Kraft Singles American Cheese slices are just not right!  It may be a part of everyone's childhood but a fine gourmet chunk of cheese really makes the difference in flavor. Use a nice blend of cheeses
  • Use real butter.  Not Pam, margarine, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, or fake butter substitute.  Real butter adds real flavor and gives the bread a nice crunch
  • Do add bacon
  • Grill on low heat so the cheese will melt without burning your bread

Happy Grilled Cheese Month to all!

Posted by Christina Wong, Account Executive, Foodie

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

JS2 Client Clip Cornucopia

Are you a SPAM lover or hater?

Does your face crinkle with disgust or light up at the thought of canned salty, meaty joy?  In honor the first day of ticket sales for the wildly popular musical “Spamalot,” the Center Theatre Group hosted a SPAMapalooza event and we refused to be outdone at JS2 Communications!  Together with our client partner, The Patina Spotlight Café, we featured a SPAM-errific lunch including spam tacos and mead.  The event took place on April Fool’s Day which added an extra flair of showmanship!

We successfully secured several key placements for The Patina Spotlight Café, but our favorites are hits on NBC Los Angeles and Grubtrotters 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

UNICEF's Tap Project highlights World Water Week

UNICEF recently held its annual fundraising campaign, the Tap Project, a grassroots initiative to provide clean water to children around the world that asks individuals to donate $1 or more for the tap water they usually enjoy for free at participating restaurants. The Tap Project took place this year during World Water Week, March 22 – 28, 2009 with more than 1,500 restaurants participating nationwide.

This year’s Tap Project kicked off with two Water Walks taking place in New York City and Chicago. Each consisted of a one-mile walk in which children and families carried one gallon of water in a gesture of solidarity with those who must collect and carry water on a daily basis. The Walks brought the communities together to kick off an amazing week of philanthropy.

Now in its third year, the Tap Project expanded in 2009 with additional efforts in Canada and Puerto Rico. UNICEF Ambassador Joel Madden, lead vocalist of the band “Good Charlotte,” served as campaign spokesperson, following his field visits to the Central African Republic in October and November of 2008. Additionally, celebrity chefs Marcus Samuelsson and Tom Colicchio continued their support of the campaign as additional spokespeople.

The Tap Project is such a simple way to reach people by asking them to donate during their meal at a restaurant. The donation doesn’t necessarily have to be a large monetary amount as UNICEF stresses that just $1 can supply a child with safe drinking water for 40 days! Our nation has been so focused on our current economic issues that we sometimes forget that there are individuals around the world who aren’t able to access the things we take for granted, like the most basic need of clean drinking water.

We are thrilled to have supported Tap since its inception and look forward to many more years working on the campaign and with UNICEF to further its goal to reduce the number of needless child deaths to zero. 

Posted by Liz Castoro, Assistant Account Executive