Celebrating Atlanta’s Goodness with Our Friends at Plywood People

Atlanta and the ideas that shape its past, present and future are well worth celebrating, and each year, Plywood People throws the best party in town for the city we love. Plywood People is an Atlanta-based non-profit leading a community of start-ups doing good, and the Plywood team just wrapped up hosting the 10th annual Plywood Presents x ATL IDEAS Festival, the ultimate gathering of problem solvers seeking to change the world for the better. 

Capitalize on Twitter and LinkedIn Updates to Increase Engagement | Part 2

As many of you know, we’ve opened SSG ATL, the second ever installment of See.Spark.Go. We may be laying roots throughout Georgia, but we tell the best stories all over. And, we have the best people (just sayin’). Our team and the company we keep attracted our first-ever Atlanta-based intern, Jordan Nations, all the way from Sarasota, Fla. See, we’re all over.

In case you missed Part 1, Jordan shared about recent updates to formerly text-driven platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. In this next installment, our social media/blog-writing protegé shares how you can put the tips to good use. Take it away, Jordan!


The positive impact of visual content in your organization’s communication is measurable, and it has never been easier to create and share visuals straight to your targeted consumer’s pocket.

Invest in quality pictures and graphics worth sharing.

Have a good quote to share from the CEO? Overlay that quote on top of a picture of them speaking. Want people to know the benefits of your product or service? Create an informative infographic that displays the information clearly with language consumers will understand. Use images from your events, office happenings or advertising to engage your audience and make your brand personal.

Another option is using high-quality photos from websites like Unsplash or Pixabay to enhance your content. These photos are free and can be used however you’d like according to each site’s creative commons licensing policy.

Do not underestimate the power of video.

Videos require more investment but increasingly prove to be the most engaging content on all social media platforms.

Make it sleek and professional, like the latest from our friends at Airstream releasing the new Basecamp:

Or more comical, like this one we developed with Barberitos:

Sharing your story—whether personally or professionally—on social media requires increasingly engaging content as the social space becomes more and more cluttered.

What are you doing to engage the world with your story?

Capitalize on Twitter and LinkedIn Updates to Increase Engagement | Part 1

We’ve asked our first Atlanta-based intern, Jordan Nations, to weigh in on all things visual marketing, social platform updates and how you can put the next best thing to good use as a marketer. Here’s part 1. Enjoy!

It’s no secret visual media dominates the social sphere right now. Consumers love to scroll their feeds, checking for one more picture of Doug the Pug on Instagram, sharing the latest Tasty video on Facebook or stumbling through Buzzfeed clickbait for the list of “27 Things Only Girls Who Love Blanket Forts And Tacos Will Understand.” (I made that title up, but wouldn’t be surprised if it shows up on my feed later today.)

"It's officially Fall which means I am now a pumpkin" -Doug

A photo posted by Doug The Pug (@itsdougthepug) on

LinkedIn and Twitter have lagged behind visually driven platforms like Instagram and Facebook when it comes to images and video — choosing to differentiate themselves by being predominantly text-dominated platforms — but with some hot new updates, they’re both making a run at social media Gold in the unofficial user-engagement competition this year.


Twitter announced last week that media attached to a Tweet no longer counts against the ever-tantalizing 140-character count. The previous limit with media was 124 characters, and though 16 extra characters may not seem like much, it makes a difference. If nothing else, we can all start spelling out “You” instead of choosing “U” when posting that all-too-relatable GIF or funny picture from the latest office outing. With other updates coming down the line for video and the recently introduced live stream of Thursday Night Football, it seems Twitter is rising as a contender in the visual market.

LinkedIn rolled out a revamped version of its publishing tool last week as well that employs an ultra-simplistic post editor and increased visual incorporation. Users now can embed videos, podcasts and slideshows into posts. This update creates opportunities for businesses and job seekers to create more interesting content to attract their targeted audiences more effectively.


These updates signal a shift towards visual content, which research has proven is the best way to reach potential customers on social media:

Have a social media tip or best practice? Share with us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

Media Hosting 101

“To be a good host, you must also be a good traveler.”

—Kenneth Lander, THRIVE Farmers Co-Founder

Every story has a beginning, an origin. When a journalist has the chance to personally experience a brand’s process or foundation, it clarifies the lens through which he or she sees the brand. That’s why familiarization trips offer the perfect opportunity to share your brand story through experience.

THRIVE Farmers is changing the way you and I get our morning brew. This coffee company was birthed out of both necessity and a leap of faith after two entrepreneurs realized the brokenness of the coffee industry. The duo set out to change the economic reality for farmers across the globe. Other businesses latched onto this heart-driven ethos, and the brand grew more than 8,500 percent in three years, placing nineteenth on the Inc. 500 list this past August.

We had the privilege of traveling to Costa Rica, the birthplace of THRIVE Farmers, with the incredibly talented photographer, Michael George, for Inc. magazine’s September issue. If pictures say 1,000 words, an expert photojournalist can write a novel with his lens. Our job as communicators is to ensure the journalist has every opportunity to get that perfect shot.

So, in true See.Spark.Go fashion, here are our top #PRtips for hosting a successful familiarization trip:

Set expectations.

In any media coordination, it is important to find out as much information about the editor’s vision for the final piece as possible. The publicist’s job is to serve as the resource to all parties, so ask as many questions as necessary to be sure everyone knows where to be when and what the overall goals are.

How many days are necessary? What are the best flight times? Where should you meet at the airport? Where will you stay? How long is the commute from the hotel to your daily destination? What time of daylight is best for photos? What will the climate and weather be? What style does the photographer typically use? Can you help provide context for the destination with images before he or she gets there? When will the team eat? Do they need large breaks to tend to urgent emails? Will internet be readily available and what kinds of outlets do they use?

Answering these questions and more will help inform your schedule and avoid simple oversights from interrupting the success and productivity of your trip.

Be flexible.

Now that you have a crystal clear vision for all parties, throw rigid timeframes out the window. When was the last time you traveled without at least one unexpected interruption?

You never know when your photographer will need to scale a tree to capture the landscape or when your host will want to drive to his favorite spot to show you the Costa Rican sunset (no complaints here!).

Host everyone.

In the same way you would offer a visitor a drink in your home, you want to be sure you host everyone around you.

The best way to do this is to be sure you’re prepared with an “emergency everything” kit. Will there be bugs? Bring bug spray. Could someone cut themselves? Bring bandages. Will your team get hungry out in the field? Have snacks on hand.

If having an item on hand would make travel a little more comfortable for your host, your journalist or your subject, bring it along. This includes bottled water since we all can use the extra hydration. This extra preparation will pay off, promise!

Tell the story.

Our goal was to showcase the story of THRIVE Farmers from farm to cup—through sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, laughter, tears and dusty roads. Co-founder and Chief Sustainability Officer Kenneth Lander brought us to a few of the very first THRIVE Farmers’ hillside crops and breakfast tables to share the story’s beginnings. 

We hiked through the coffee trees, touched the waxy leaves and ate homegrown mango with tortillas and gallo pinto. We pet kittens, met farm hands and jostled our way down country roads in a pickup truck bed. Farmers looked into the photographer’s eyes with sincere pride for their coffees and thriving crops, knowing they are the faces for something much bigger than themselves. Cuppers shared about the process with which coffee is tested to ensure utmost quality in a scientific lab. With every turn, Ken shared some piece of Costa Rican history or his own funny memory from a particular town.

The trip was steeped with purpose, and our photographer walked away with a deeper appreciation for his coffee than any email pitch could ever provide. He got it because he experienced it from farm to cup.

Have fun.

Remember, you’re experiencing the story too! Be sure to soak in the little moments. Ask about what most interests you as it could lead to something significant for future storytelling opportunities. The more you learn, the better you’ll be able to share. And, don’t neglect your own lens. Personally share the story as it unfolds (but be sure you’re allowed to before you post!). Volunteer to hold the light reflector or stand in if the photographer needs to test out his lighting, and drink in every drop of the experience.

Say thank you.

Public relations, relating to the public, is founded on hundreds of personal relationships. We get to develop friendships with the people who hold the microphones of the world.

Whether the founder of a brand, a reporter on deadline or a coffee farmer, every person we interact with followed a dream, worked hard when no one noticed and took a risk to get where they are today. Our greatest privilege is to acknowledge just how much their work matters.

A hand-written note goes a long way. A swag bag allows the journalists to fondly remember their experience every time they pick up that mug or wear that T-shirt. A signed photo from the photographer to the subject creates a lasting connection that reaches far beyond the article. Gratitude marks the experience.

SeaWorld’s Change of Heart: Is It Too Little Too Late?

On March 17, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Inc. announced its decision to end its captive orca breeding program and phase out its “theatrical” orca shows. In recent years, SeaWorld has been at the heart of heated controversy following a series of violent scandals, brought to light by the 2013 documentary, “Blackfish.” The documentary sparked both traditional and social media buzz and catalyzed a dialogue surrounding the ethicality of animal captivity and performance. Three years later, SeaWorld has finally succumbed to societal pressure (in the form of plummeting ticket sales and falling stock prices) to overhaul its best-selling act in favor of a more organic and educational orca experience. But is this decision too little too late, and can the brand survive without its cash cow?

Long Story Short…

In the wake of “Blackfish,” SeaWorld launched its “truth campaign” in an attempt to salvage its reputation and reassure the public of its commitment to the well-being of its animals. According to SeaWorld, the focus of this campaign was to address the wealth of “misinformation” surrounding the brand post-“Blackfish.” The campaign’s primary focus was its veterinary staff, its rescue efforts, and its non-whale species. Unfortunately, the campaign’s limited successes were overshadowed by its failed social media campaign, #AskSeaWorld, which invited more nasty criticism than sincere questions. In addition to its ongoing PR nightmare, SeaWorld has also faced substantial legislative and regulatory hurdles within the past two years: in early 2015, SeaWorld San Diego proposed plans to expand its orca habitat in an attempt to appease animal-rights activists while still continuing its orca shows. Later that year, the California Coastal Commission approved the project under one condition: the park would have to cease its captive orca breeding program. Then, in November, California Congressman Adam Schiff proposed the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act, a bill designed to end orca shows and illegalize captive breeding and capture of wild orcas. This series of complications has positioned the brand between a rock and a hard place, forcing it to do the unthinkable: bow to the mounting pressure and give up its orcas.

Now What?

So, what happens when SeaWorld has to give up the animal upon which its brand is built? Fortunately, SeaWorld bought itself some time, so it won’t have to completely reinvent its brand overnight: the orca show phase-out will take several years, and the company has pledged to care for its whales for the rest of their natural lives, which could be decades. That being said, the verbiage used by CEO Joel Manby in his op-ed and various interviews since provides some insight into what we can expect of the “new” SeaWorld. In response to the announcement, Manby has discussed the overarching issues of animal endangerment and extinction, writing that “in this impending crisis, the real enemies of wildlife are poaching, pollution, unsustainable human development and man-made disasters such as oil spills — not zoos and aquariums.” Manby also announced SeaWorld’s partnership with its former adversary, the Humane Society––a move that is nothing short of strategic. Together, SeaWorld and the Humane Society intend to “work against commercial whaling and seal hunts, shark finning and ocean pollution.” Manby’s heavy emphasis on SeaWorld’s commitment to wildlife education and conservation efforts suggests that its brand will begin diversifying in response to what he calls society’s “attitudinal change.” Moving forward, we can expect SeaWorld to promote itself as an animal advocacy, rescue, and protection organization instead of as an amusement park.

Trends & Timeliness

SeaWorld’s “Blackfish” ordeal has taught the brand a lesson about the importance of trends and timeliness. Its first mistake was ignoring trends. In the 1970s, we knew little to nothing about orcas, so a combination of fear, awe, and curiosity attracted people to the parks; by the 1990s, Shamu was a household name, and Americans flocked to the parks for a seat in the “splash zone;” but by the 2010s, society had become disillusioned with the idea of animal captivity and performance, calling for reform of circuses and theme parks alike. SeaWorld’s belated recognition and acceptance of the animal advocacy movement has critics conflicted––is the move too little too late, or better late than never? You be the judge.

SeaWorld was, however, cognizant of the importance of timeliness in crisis communication. Legislation and regulations were ready to order an end to orca captivity; SeaWorld recognized that it had lost all the battles but could still win the war if it could find a way to regain control of the message––and that’s exactly what it did. Instead of waiting to be forced into major reform, SeaWorld beat them to the punch, allowing the brand to announce its changes on its own terms, in its own way. This proactive move is a welcome change from SeaWorld’s swell of reactive PR in recent years.

The Future
SeaWorld’s announcement, in conjunction with Ringling Brothers’ 2015 decision to end its elephant shows, provides the pleasant reassurance that our dollars really do matter. When societal issues like commercial corruption seem overwhelming and impossible to tackle, it’s nice to know that we, the consumers, really do have the power to affect change. Where and how we choose to spend our money reflect what we value as a society. This effect reaches beyond the amusement park industry; we see our dollars speaking volumes through the Made in America movement, the organic and local foods movements, and many more. So when you see the need for change in the world, just remember that you, the consumer, have the ability to make deliberate choices each and every day to show support and opposition of certain causes. Whether you agree with SeaWorld’s decision or not, the fact that consumers were able to force the hand of a multibillion-dollar company is a testament to the power of the people (and also capitalism).

“This is a guest post by Molly White who is currently apprenticing at See.Spark.Go.”