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Every February, one of the coolest trade shows in the world comes to New York City to take over the Javits Convention Center. An event with a lot of toys -- and where kids are not allowed! The International Toy Fair is not solely an event for sales teams and retailers to do business, it also gives consumers a first-look at what will likely be the hottest toys for the year ahead.
The 2016 show did not disappoint when it comes to the usual toys and games, but this year was a big year for tech toys. And at Cutline, we LOVE tech! The major trends showed how tech is being integrated into toys, how toys are educating kids about science and technology, and of course, lots of Star Wars.
Here are several of the coolest high-tech toys that stood out to me:
Image credit: Hasbro
Love2Learn Elmo is the newest Elmo doll from Hasbro. Through a smartphone or tablet app, Elmo becomes a “smart” toy that interacts with kids and encourages them to develop good habits. The app is connected via the parent’s device and has a variety of features. For example, Learn2Love Elmo can help a child with potty training. If the child is successful using the potty, the parent updates that information in the app and Elmo will send praises to the child. It can even learn the child’s name!
Image credit: Toyland Twitter
Barbie Star Light Adventure RC Hoverboard
In the midst of Mattel revamping Barbie’s figure, the company also came out with another doll. That’s right, it’s drone Barbie and she’s fierce! Barbie balances atop of a working drone that’s operated via remote control. Rhianna Lakin, Founder of the Amelia Dronehart (a group for female drone pilots) says, “This will certainly attract young girls, but also parents who want to buy a toy for their daughters that would interest them in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) realm but aren’t sure what type of toy would inspire that.”
Image Credit: Toyland
Barbie also got a serious home upgrade! She now lives in a full-featured, WIFI-connected smart home. Kid’s simply say “OK Dreamhouse” and Mattel’s new Barbie Dreamhouse responds by using voice recognition technology from Toy Talk. It can turn on the shower, lights, or turn the house into a flashy house party.
Photo credit: Edwin
This super cute bath toy might look like your ordinary rubber ducky, but it’s so much more! Edwin the Duck is a smart companion toy that can share stories, songs, games and more. It’s compatible with several apps that the parent controls, including Sleepy Time app to become a nightlight and sing lullabies.
Photo credit: © & ™ Lucasfilm Ltd.
Star Wars was all over Toy Fair this year and everyone was raving about Sphero’s BB-8. It’s your own personal BB-8 droid that has a modifiable personality the continues to change as you play with it. It responds to voice commands, limited expressions and can also be controlled with a wave of your hand using the Force Band.
Photo credit: Techgage.com
Think & Learn Code-A-Pillar is an educational, robotic caterpillar from Fisher-Price that enables kids to control how the toy moves and behaves, and seamlessly introduces them to coding. The toy comes with eight modules that link together and each one has a different function: go forward, turn left, turn right, make a funny noise, and more. Depending on how the child plugs it in, each module will make different things happen in different orders. There’s also an app that offers more advanced challenges.
At Cutline, we are avid readers of all types of news, and we keep a close eye out on the ever-changing media landscape. Last week, a few Cutliners attended Tech Press Meetup’s session titled A Meta-Media Panel to learn more about how reporters cover the media business. The panelists, which included Shannon Bond of The Financial Times, Jason Abbruzzese of Mashable and Tom Kludt of CNN.com, shared unique insights about the evolution of media, and how they cover the media as part of the press. Here are a few key takeaways from the event.
Social media networks and messaging platforms are becoming a one-stop shop for content
As much as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are social media channels, they also now serve as news outlets. Thanks to new updates like Facebook’s trending sidebar and Snapchat Discover, it’s extremely easy for users to read the day’s news while catching up with friends. However, from an editorial perspective, this sometimes creates a dilemma between the tech and media beat. As media becomes a bigger part of social media networks, more media and tech reporters are working together to submit story ideas to their editors.
The media business is growing, thanks to new investors
There are a ton of new players in today’s media space. While some receive investment from venture capital firms, others have grown by forming new partnerships and hiring top talent. When asked if this would be another “tech bubble,” panelists agreed that in the next few years, we will definitely see a smaller number of players who stand out by generating quality content and capturing the eyes of consumers. They emphasized that while receiving venture capital is a way to spur growth, it’s equally important to maintain the highest journalistic standards in order to generate long-term growth. In the end, people visit news sites to read news and to be informed, not to view ads or read branded content.
There are consequences of publishers being on social platforms
As mentioned, the vast majority of people are finding news content through social media, so it’s imperative that news organizations are working with social companies to feed content through their channels. During the session, we learned that there are also consequences and challenges in doing so. For example, the launch of Facebook Instant Articles showed the impact Facebook can have on media companies. However, the panelists stressed the importance of knowing that Facebook’s newsfeed algorithms are always changing. The terms could say one thing today and another tomorrow, which could be detrimental for some publishers, whose target audiences are active on social media. Therefore, it's important for publishers to maintain close relationships with social platforms, but they also need to be aware that the policies and search algorithms are always changing.
More transparency, new perspectives
All of the panelists agreed that with the introduction of social media, there’s more transparency to reporting. The media is now not only responsible for keeping their readers updates on latest news, but also to explain what this means to them. Thanks to technology, people now have unlimited access to information, and to share their thoughts with like-minded people. As it gets easier for anyone to publish their thoughts on the Web, we are seeing more perspectives and voices that present all sides of an issue.
The media landscape is changing rapidly -- just this year, we’ve seen new mergers and partnerships, media moves and editorial restructures. As PR professionals, we are curious to see how media relations will change in the next five years. Or will it not change at all? Tweet your thoughts to us at @Cutline!
If you know anything about football or have been paying attention to the news at all lately, you’ll know that the National Football League has had quite the scandalous year. From a PR standpoint, it’s been nothing short of a nightmare!
Most recently, the NFL and my home team, the New England Patriots, have been stuck in this infamous, never-ending controversy known as ‘deflategate.’ As a refresher, deflategate came about when Tom Brady - quarterback of the Patriots - was found to be playing with footballs that looked to be deflated during the first half of 2015 AFC championship (the game before the Super Bowl XLIX). Some say deflating a football is supposed to give a person a competitive advantage (it’s easier to grip), but the Pats still demolished the Indianapolis Colts 28-0 in the second half after the footballs were corrected. Did it really make that much of difference? Eh, no! Pardon my biased tone, I grew up in the greater Boston area.
Anyways, deflating footballs is a clear violation of the NFL playing rules and unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time the Patriots have been found doing questionable things. This led a sequence of on-going awkward press conferences and media reports, which had Brady, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell under fire.
Under pressure to act, the league decided to investigate the situation, which was led by attorney Ted Wells. They released a nearly 250 page Wells Report which found that Brady was “generally aware” (and most likely he was) that the footballs were deflated. The league suspended him for four games (that’s fair, he broke the written rules of the game), fined the team $1 million (they can afford it), and took away certain drafting picks until 2017 (that hurts).
In effort to fight back, the Patriots launched a website called The Wells Report in Context, which has their lawyer explaining or disproving the most incriminating claims from the original report.
For example, the NFL and Wells Report discussed a series of suspicious text messages where a locker room attendant called himself the “deflator.” The Pats and The Wells Report in Context justify that is was a conversation about one locker room attendant’s efforts to lose weight.
Brady has since appealed the ruling through the NFL Players Association, and Players Association requested for a neutral arbitrator. Roger Goodell denied the request and said that he would preside over the appeal. This decision has brought an immense amount of criticism against him and the league from fans and the Patriots, who are accusing Goodell of being unfair. This has *slightly* shifted the media focus away from the Pats and back on the NFL.
The Wells Report in Context does serve as an interesting lesson in crisis PR and how a company or organization can respond if they feel like there’s no way out of a bad situation. Some of the points may have been absurd, but the Pat’s report was simple, to the point, and tells their side of the story in their own words. Since the appeal hasn’t happened yet, it’s very likely this story will remain in the news cycle and will be interesting to see how it all unfolds as the new season begins. Stay tuned!
Earlier this month I attended the PRSA and Ragan PR & Media Relations Summit, which brought together 100 or so media professionals from all over the world. Attendees included both in-house and agency communications pros from both private and public sectors who share a common goal: maximizing reputation, reach and media results for clients.
So what did I learn? Here are the biggest takeaways from the three-day conference:
Engage & Educate
During the opening keynote, Ray Kerins Jr. (Senior VP and Head of Communications and Government Relations at Bayer Corporation) said that 50 percent of what we do should be engaging with the media, not just over email but over the phone or in person. No surprise there! But he highlights that we should be in an ongoing courtship. Get to know reporters, what they do, what their interests are. Subscribe to their blogs, leave comments through social media and congratulate them on a promotion. Help them extend their brand, too! If you’ve worked with a reporter on a story, be sure to circulate it on all social media channels. And don’t forget to write a thank you note!
Measurement is Key
This is an ongoing challenge for most PR and media relations professions (and their clients!). The best advice we received was to measure the impact, NOT the impressions. Say you place a story in the print edition of The New York Times, which has a circulation of 2.1 million. Well, not necessarily all 2.1 million eyeballs are reading that story. So instead we should focus on the impact that story had on our client’s business and how their end users are engaging with the story. How many comments did the story have? Were they positive or negative? Monitor Twitter chatter. Did the client see an influx in sales or in app downloads? Use focus groups quarterly to measure reputation.
Future of the industry: Brand Journalism
Perhaps the greatest lesson from this summit was this idea of brand journalism, which happens to be Mark Ragan’s, the CEO of Ragan Communications, favorite topic to discuss. He says “stop begging the media, and become the media.” This means taking the heavy lifting off of the hands of reporters. He notes that we should be writing the stories and creating our own content, and posting that content on a separate newsroom site. And the newsroom should serve as your client’s own press release website.
Take Coca Cola for example. They launched a site called CocaCola Journey. While it looks like an editorial site, and is supposed to, it’s actually a newsroom where their internal team reports and posts these stories. Then they ask journalists to subscribe to their page so they are updated on news as soon as they post. Traditional PR (emailing, calling and in-person meetings) is still very important and something we all must continue to do, but he strongly believes brand journalism this is where our industry is heading.
Overall, there were a lot of great takeaways from this event. For more information on this summit, the speakers or the presentations, please visit here.
Q. What will you do at Cutline?
I am an Account Coordinator representing Cutline EAST in New York City! I’ll be juggling all sorts of tasks - from pitching media, to writing coverage reports, to staffing on-air interviews - to support my incredibly talented teammates wherever they need me.
Q. What's your greatest moment in PR so far?
After a year+ of preparing and waiting for a huge announcement in a client’s industry, I helped to get my client’s statement in the Associated Press after the news was finally released, which was then aggregated to hundreds of media outlets. It was so gratifying for the whole team and, of course, the client! I’m looking forward to more great moments here at Cutline.
Q. Who do you love to follow on Twitter and why?
@PeterShankman -- Peter’s content is just perfection! It’s smart, witty and always current.
@baratunde -- Baratunde is hilarious, especially if there’s a political debate occurring. Well, if you’re a democrat you’ll think it’s funny. 🙂
@DunkinDonuts -- I love dunks coffee! I’m such a New Englander.
Q. What's the one gadget service you wish someone would come up with?
It would be so cool if someone would invent a device, like a wearable ring, that syncs to your phone, and allows you to speak reminders into it whenever, wherever you want. For example, say you’re in the shower and something pops into your head that you need to remember. Just push a button on the ring, tell it to remind you, and then the ring syncs with your phone and into your app.
Q. Android, iPhone, or other?
Q. What's your favorite thing about living in the New York City area?
There’s always, always, always something to do. I live in Hoboken, New Jersey (home of Frank Sinatra and the Cake Boss), which is right on the other side of the Hudson River, and I love it! It’s such a great city, but feels more like a small town. The food, the history, the community -- it’s the best. And I can get to the city by bus, train or boat in ten minutes.
Q. What do you love to do when you're not working?
I love catching up on my favorite TV show - Scandal!! When I have a few days off, I love going home to New Hampshire and being outside. I like to hike, be on the lake, do crafts, golf, cook and hang out with my friends and puppies!