More and more, we at AGPR find ourselves acting not just in the capacity of a public relations, social media and marketing agency, but also as a general business consultancy. That’s one reason we’re excited and proud to announce a new member of the AGPR team. Mike Hulsey will head up our general business consulting operation and our new satellite office in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Mike and I go way back to the days when he was CFO and I was VP of Marketing for a health management firm–for years we’ve hoped to find a way to work together again and here it is! Read on to learn more about Mike.–Alex Greenwood
Mike Hulsey works as a “swimming coach”. Not in the traditional sense, but one that involves coaching businesses to stop treading water. For 25 years, Mike has worked with hundreds of small businesses in an effort to identify weakness, build strength, and create systems to maintain stability.
With degrees in Public Relations and Political Science, along with post-degree education in accounting and marketing, Mike brings to the table a wealth of knowledge and skill in the art of correcting the myriad maladies of business. He simply lives to help the dysfunctional small business move in a positive direction, setting out a plan to achieve greatness for every client.
Fresh out of The University of Oklahoma, Mike’s career began with promoting public transit ridership, creating successful safety programs and then setting a national standard for public/private agreements for operations of public parking services. Along the way, he analyzed and instituted programs to increase revenues for the parking programs by more than four times the original income in less than two years.
Operating his own accounting firm, Mike set up hundreds of new corporations, including setting up their accounting systems and creating business plans featuring marketing, budgeting, and financing strategies.
For established businesses, Mike works tirelessly to find new markets, tighten money management, improve cash flow, and correct collection failures. He has worked extensively in community development, health care and energy industries.
Mike embraces participation in professional groups as a tool to learn and network. He has past and current memberships in many local Chambers of Commerce, The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the American Association of Professional Landmen, the Kansas Hospital Association and the International Downtown Association.
When Mike is able to stray away from business consulting for a few moments, he enjoys family, friends, making new friends and the sharing of great American wines.
We took a few minutes to talk with Mike about his career, work and what he likes best about what he does.
Alex: Mike, you have a wide variety of professional certifications and experience–is that part of what drew you to management consulting? In other words, did your exposure to business owners and teams lead you to this profession?
Mike: I’ve always been fascinated by the confluence of business, government, and people and how they inter-relate. From as far back as I can remember, I was playing with mini-economic systems, (towns, if you will) in my neighborhood and engaging the neighborhood kids to participate with stores, stock exchanges, local governments and what not. We even printed up play money and contracts for transactions and sales. I suppose I just kept on with that and have been drawn to any type of business operation I could experience.
I’m hopelessly drawn to people who constantly evolve with new ideas. I may shoot most of them down, as my friends will tell you, but if I think it’s good, I’m instantly fascinated to help it come to fruition.
Alex: You seem very comfortable working with the government, whereas many business people find the government annoying at best and terrifying at worst. Could you talk about your past interactions on behalf of clients/employers working with the government?
Mike: My first degree being Political Science, I was directed at the dream of someday becoming the White House Chief of Staff, or at least the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. But after only a month of working on a political campaign, I just got a queasy feeling about politics. I have a huge respect for government and its challenges and feel the U.S. Constitution to be the most important document to ever be conceived by man. Conversely, this drives me to also be suspicious of government and its power.
History tells us that governments methodically seek more and more power. I have worked on behalf of many clients in moving through the immense field of regulations to acquire licenses for new businesses or fight tax issues. I generally find a way to find a common ground for both my client and the administrative agency we are dealing with to come to a win-win solution. I don’t like to burn bridges, just build them.
Alex: What prompted you to leave CPA practice?
Mike: An opportunity popped up at a time when I was facing some tough family issues. Also, I had promised myself in 1982–when the oil industry collapsed–that the next energy boom would include me, and since I was tiring of late nights and weekends at the office to get accounting reports completed, I jumped into the oil business. I have not regretted that move.
Alex: It’s interesting when you look at your experience in the health, energy, municipal and financial sectors. ls there a common thread that runs through every sector?
Mike: Alex, that’s a great question! And one I’ve never really pondered. In each of these sectors I’ve seen it happen: both good news and bad news have the same effect to make the organization better or make it fail. It gets down to how it gets spun.
Alex: Who or what is your ideal client?
Mike: The simple answer is: the one that finds me their ideal advisor. But I must say that I seek a client that really does need some help in a certain aspect, or even better–has just become lost and feels as if they are drowning–but at the same time is still passionate enough to want to make the business “rock”.
Alex: Walk us through what you do for your clients.
Mike: I abhor long meetings, so I will sit down with a client and conduct very quick interviews, initially away from the business, and then at the business, to get a feel for the issues they want to correct or improve upon. Then I’ll run through a checklist developed over many, many years of experience by several very smart folks and from there, begin working up the methods that will make their business thrive.
AG: What’s your favorite aspect of your work?
Mike: Getting the stress off the owner or manager and seeing the client smile.
AG: You have a degree in public relations. Will you be offering PR advice as part of your consulting services?
Mike: Let’s face it–business is all about public relations. I look at the business from the outside. And from the outside, I mean at two very different levels: first from the customer viewpoint, and then from the universe’s standpoint. I think this way, it allows an analysis to see a long terms. But the real beauty here, is that with AGPR, a team approach will be involved in developing the public relations piece to the puzzle.
Alex: What should clients expect when working with you?
Alex: How did you come to work with AGPR?
Mike: An inevitable evolution. You (Alex) and I have been longtime friends and I think we knew that at some point, both of us would have to work together again, but this time, on our own terms to afford us the opportunity to unite in making the world a better place.
Alex: Amen, Mike. Welcome aboard! If you’d like to work with Mike to stop treading water and start swimming, feel free to email him here or call 405.535.6038. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHulsey1. He’s on LinkedIn, also, here.
Does Your Halloween Haunted Attraction Need a Strong Social Media Presence?
Let’s look at the facts:
As Steve Cooper wrote in Forbes:
Halloween is the fourth most popular holiday that gets consumers to open up their pocketbook—next to Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter, according to Alliance Data Retail Services (ADRS), a marketing and customer loyalty solutions provider.
It gets better. According to America Haunts, there are at least 1,200 haunted attractions charging admission nationwide every year, with 300 amusement parks “dressing up” for Halloween and more than 3,000 charity attractions that open for one day on Halloween or one of two weekends in October.
The site also reports that the typical haunted attraction averages around 8,000 guests, depending on the market and size of the attraction. Some attractions do exponentially better. The haunted attraction industry generates between $300 and $500 million in ticket sales per year.
Imagine: this half a billion-dollar industry basically thrives in a six-week window once a year. If you own a haunted attraction, it better be good, it better be accessible…and people better know BOO about it. If you have a haunted attraction, you have to be damn good at marketing it, or you’re not going to make it (there are virtual graveyards of failed haunt attractions out there).
Forget for a moment that we’re talking about haunted houses. Let’s talk about any product or industry–for example, aluminum siding. Do you need aluminum siding every day? No. Every week? No. Every year? Probably not. Yet what do you see on local TV? Commercials for aluminum siding. Why? Do the aluminum siding salespersons presume everyone watching will “Call now”? No. What they assume is one of two things:
1. Some people out there in TV land do need siding in the near future, so why not reach out to them?
2. Many viewers will eventually need siding, so they want their company to be “top of mind” when that day comes.
It’s a basic precept of marketing–if people don’t know about you, they’ll never buy anything from you. This means that even if what you sell is a rare purchase, you better make sure your name is out there.
Let’s apply this rule to haunted attractions.
One thing I see over and over (with a few notable exceptions) is that haunted attractions do a lackluster job of keeping in touch with patrons throughout the year. Now, no, I do not believe you should run a TV ad in February for your haunted house. It would be weird. (Though I do think a little pattern interrupt–say, an ad in July is a good idea–but that’s not the point.) No, you should not be running ads year-round. However, you should be doing something else to keep your name out there. You should be active in social media.
Wait, wait. Come back!
Here’s the good news: it’s free (of charge, generally). The bad news: it takes time, and if you do not consistently participate, it doesn’t work.
So, being active on social media costs you time and creativity, year round. The benefits? If you maintain a consistent, entertaining presence on your Twitter of Terror, Gothic Google +, Fearsome Facebook, Icky Instagram and even Lethal LinkedIn, you can foster a regular, top of mind relationship with haunted attraction fans. This way, when your hot and heavy marketing push starts in September, you’ll have an army of brand ambassadors ready to help you spread the word.
Can you imagine the increased bang for your TV buck if hundreds of fans share your TV spot on YouTube and Twitter and Facebook? What if you have social media-inflamed excitement building over ticket or fastpass giveaways, or people posting pics with your scareactors from the wait line outside your attraction on Instagram?
And what if your haunt space is used for special events or other commerce the rest of the year? Social media is a great way to let your fans know what’s happening when the lights are on and the monsters are in storage.
Halloween is almost here, but it’s not too late!
If you need help creating a social media strategy (and/or operatives to run it) for your haunted house, hayride, home haunt or warehouse, We’d be thrilled to work with you. We do social media and public relations strategies for numerous businesses every day. It would be horrifically fun to create an affordable social media (and or PR) strategy to market your haunt. Call 816-945-2477 or email us today.
Be sure to follow our special @Hauntfeed Twitter handle…free of charge you can DM your haunt news to us and get a retweet. Let’s get spooky!
We ain’t scared!
America is excellent at inventing things, and celebrities are a huge export these days. For good or evil, we’re up to our collective rear ends in the rich and famous.
I’m fairly dubious of America’s fascination with celebrity culture; only rarely do I think we elevate worthwhile people to high status for good reasons. However, even in my cynical eyes, some celebrities are legitimate. For example, I think Captain Sully Sullenberger is one, because he did something heroic and seems to be a very decent human being. That perception of Sully is good for anything he endorses.
Then again, we are plagued with innumerable celebrities possessing no discernible talent, history of success or reason to be famous other than effectively maximizing the circumstances of their family or birth (see Kardashian, Kim; Hilton, Paris; or Family–UK, Royal) or making a public spectacle of themselves (see TV, Reality).
The pattern seems to be: 1. celebrity created, 2. maxes out their 15 minutes of fame, 3. makes bank by being used to promote a brand, 4. they fade out and are discarded (or 5. continue being a celebrity and live to promote other brands).
But at what price using celebrities for brands? Are celebrities a risky proposition for your brand? All too often, the answer is a resounding yes.
The easiest, most recent example is Jared Fogle, the everyman Subway spokesman who lost hundreds of pounds on the “Subway Diet,” then apparently also lost his mind and became a sexual predator.
Sure, Subway had no idea, and they did the right thing by immediately cutting ties when there was a whiff of trouble–but potentially long-lasting damage to the brand is done.
Bill Cosby stopped being the Jell-O Pudding pitchman years ago, but if Internet memes are any indication, his alleged assaults on women have created a sort of “zombie scandal” for the brand–he’s not their endorser, but his legacy with that brand lives on like the monsters in The Walking Dead–and is just as nasty.
Certainly, Jell-O is many years removed from Cosby’s stint as the face of pudding, but if you’re over age 35 or so, how can you not think of pudding pops when you hear his voice and see his name attached to a story of yet another women accusing him of sexual assault?
The list of similar situations is pretty long:
Here’s the thing: celebrities are human beings. They have flaws, foibles and failings. A brand considering using a celebrity has to weigh the risks of welding a celeb’s name to their marketing activities.
If everything goes well, you have Dennis Haysbert with AllState or Michael Jordan for Nike or Peyton Manning for Papa Johns. If it goes wrong, well, see above.
But there is also the question of the effectiveness of celeb endorsers. According to Ace Metrix, the practice of paying millions to a celebrity to get brand awareness is questionable:
“This research proves unequivocally that, contrary to popular belief, the investment in a celebrity in TV advertising is very rarely worthwhile,” said Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix. “It is the advertising message that creates the connection with the viewer in areas such as relevance, information, and attention, and this remains the most important driver of ad effectiveness.”
I think there is also the issue of whether people remember the celebrity, but not the brand they represent. Sure, we see Leonardo DiCaprio in a glossy magazine shot showing off a fancy watch. But which brand is it? Rolex, Citizen, Omega? I love watches and I honestly do not remember.
The chance for serious public relations damage, coupled with the very real possibility that even a good, positive celebrity spokesperson provides little return on investment anyway, warns brands to be circumspect about bringing a expensive celebrity into the marketing mix.
Me? I think I’d forgo the celeb (except maybe Sully if I could get him) and save the millions for a targeted campaign about the features and benefits of my product or service. Maybe save it all for a Super Bowl ad.
Those ads come and go fast…no chance of a Zombie Scandal.
Yeah…now there’s a good idea.
By Stephanie Greenwood
The recent TV interview with a St. Louis reporter and city comptroller (as her spokesperson intervened) has been the source of much scrutiny among PR professionals. Though I am not privy to the details of this situation, there are clearly many missteps (which have been covered ad nauseum by others). But for me, it serves as a good reminder about the need to prepare for difficult media questions and/or unexpected situations.
PR professionals should know their media contacts well and understand when a “no comment” statement will not be accepted. If you are asked about a situation in which an in-depth response isn’t appropriate, it is likely that a short written statement acknowledging the issue, providing brief context and/or correcting an inaccuracy would meet the reporter’s need versus saying that no comment will be given about the topic.
Communication with a client (internal or external) is critical. PR professionals should share when a media inquiry is received and provide guidance about what response should be given. Then talk through and agree on the approach. If the client is not willing to respond, draft a short media statement (see above). If they can respond but are not available to do so for a few days, tell the reporter and book the interview for the first mutually agreeable time. Then keep your client updated … let them know how the reporter reacts and prepare your client for what might happen next.
Media training internal and/or external clients is also critical; and they need to understand the media policy (and if there isn’t a policy, create one). Help them be prepared to work with reporters when they are approached directly. The policy may be that they need to tell reporters to contact the PR team first to schedule the interview at a mutually agreeable time. It may be that a member of the PR teams needs to be present during the interview.
Or it may be that they can quickly answer a few questions on their own … but train them in advance so they are well prepared to handle any situation.
Please tell me that if you’re reading this you’ve seen Jurassic World. If not, where have you been all this time, the cretaceous period?
An Adweek article questions the product placement strategy in the new movie as being too much.
I disagree. I believe it’s where we are going.
Most baseball fields are named after a giant corporate sponsor. So, in theory, why couldn’t a sponsor have their name attached to a dinosaur? I think the step that takes it too far would be having the dinosaur named after a company: meet the Kraft Rex or the Jack Danialsasaurous. See? Too far. But if a company wants to sponsor it and have their brand all over the cage, then why not, we already do that.
The article also references the age of consumers and their level of trust in traditional advertising and then why this was such a big deal.
Of course, this is news because the film broke a record for opening weekend AND there are multiple product placements amidst the onscreen carnage. It begs the question: what if this was a lower budget film with the same advertising? Would I even be writing this article?
I’ll leave you with this before moving on, let’s forget what we know about the movie’s background and say it needed funding. What’s the difference between this and Kickstarter? It’s the same thing; advertisers pay to get certain eyes on their product. This movie could have been lacking funding and turned to sponsors to finish it. The movie gets made and the sponsors get their advertising, we are seeing this more and more as new ideas come from Kickstarter everyday.
Strictly speaking from the perspective of a Millennial consumer, yes, I’m seeing sponsors and advertising in a very different light–and I don’t trust the first one I see on TV. First off, I don’t have a TV. Marketers and advertising agents have to get real and change their tactics to target growing chunks of the population.
A lot of people are ditching TV, so that route is going out the window. Why not push to buy some space in major blockbusters? We see it and if we like the movie, might give a product a try…AND unlike TV, everyone will see the ads over and over again because it’s in a movie and not something we can ignore on TV or DVR. We will buy the film and watch it for years to come and the product will get more eyes on it and new generations will see it.
What do you think? Is product placement on the rise in films? Next time you watch a movie, keep an eye out for any real world products. Companies spend millions of dollars making a film, if it’s in there, it’s there for a reason and on purpose.
Finally, I can’t leave you without reminding you of a great product placement example in a film, The Truman Show, I’ll toss a clip so you can re-watch the very…dicey scene.
And now AGPR thanks you for tuning in to this post.
Find me on Twitter at N_Smith7.