Communitas Awards Spotlight: Alliance Data

Communitas Awards Individual: Alliance Data
Title: “2014 Excellence in Community Services”
Location: Plano, Texas
Category: 1. Leadership in Community Service

Alliance Data Systems

When designing and implementing a corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan, professionals must look outward at community initiatives as well as inward if they want to create an all-inclusive strategy. Few companies have broad plans that address CSR at every level; however, Alliance Data is one of the rare ones that does and it has its strategy laid out in a well-documented plan.

To learn why the company, recently named one of the world’s most admired companies by Fortune, decided to create a formal strategy, we spoke with Danielle Ricketts, external communications specialist for Alliance Data. Ricketts was also able to give us a glimpse at its results inside and outside the Texas-based business.

Q: Alliance Data’s approach to corporate responsibility is comprehensive, covering not only community service but also other efforts that result in positive change and improved business practices. Why did leadership decide to create a formal strategy, and how has it affected Alliance Data overall?


This Week’s Latest Tech Gadgets – Nov. 11, 2014

By Gregg Ellman

Reviews of the Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT GPS, Kwikset Kevo door lock and the Maxell MB-2 portable Bluetooth 4.0 speaker.

Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT GPS

If Garmin could, they would control the gas and brake pedals in addition to doing an amazing job of getting you where you want to go.

I tried out the company’s latest GPS unit, the Nuvi 2689LMT, and again they made me wonder how they can make a better GPS unit than the previous – but they always seem to.




AVA Digital Awards Now Open

AVA Digital Awards is an international competition that recognizes excellence by creative professionals responsible for the planning, concept, direction, design and production of digital communication. Work ranges from digital engagement campaigns – to audio and video production – to website development – to social media interaction – to mobile marketing.

>>Enter Now!


You had me at Ello! 5 Questions with Founder Todd Berger

Ello Social Media NetworkThe following is a blog article from MarCom Awards winner John P. David.

Rarely a week goes by that I don’t encounter someone who is frustrated with social media. I have friends who have taken extended breaks from Facebook, and others who often see it as a platform for people to be nasty in a somewhat anonymous manner. Still others just find Facebook overly commercialized.

Entrepreneur Paul Budnitz and designer Todd Berger fall into this category. Budnitz, who also sells titanium “city” bikes that can retail for more than $8,000, and Berger are two of the founders of a new social network called Ello.

You may have heard about Ello, as it is being described by some as the “anti-Facebook.” Ello is an invitation-only social network that drew a lot of attention following an interesting confluence of events. Facebook changed some of its rules, which essentially forced people to use their real names on their profiles — or leave the site. A bunch of folks split FB and ended up at the newer, hipper Ello.

As word spread, Ello became the “it” site for several weeks and at one point had 40,000 people per hour asking for invitations to join. According to a story in The New York Times, the site went from 90 initial users in early August to more than a million now, with a waiting list of about three million. The rapid rise drew a ton of attention and even caught the eye of Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show.

The organization has taken a hard line against advertising — it even has a manifesto. (By the way, can a manifesto be anything but intriguing?) And last week, it changed its corporate structure, becoming a public benefit corporation with a charter that forbids the company from using ads or selling user data to make money. There’s all kinds of interesting stuff here, so I decided to take a deeper dive. Take a look at my recent interview with one of the founders, Todd Berger.

John P. David (JPD): Ello gained a lot of media attention lately and generated a ton of buzz. I would say a mix of positive and skeptical coverage. And The Tonight Show was a major PR coup. Given all that, how’s business?

Todd Berger (TB): Business is great. We’re working hard and having fun. We’re changing the way the Internet, and everyone connected to it, thinks about social networking. 

JPD: Why do you think users are flocking to your site in large numbers? Is there a thirst for a cleaner interface, or are people fleeing ads, fleeing less privacy afforded by Facebook?

TB: We think it’s all those things. A desire for a more pure space, design, aesthetics, simplicity, privacy, a lack of advertising and data sales, trust — there’s all sorts of reasons, and they’re a little different for everyone.

JPD: Some commentators have said folks are joining your site in a response to requirements by Facebook that users are now required to create accounts under their legal names. Why is it important that people be allowed to use alternate identities if they choose?

Todd Berger

Todd Berger

TB: Lots of people enjoy having an alias or pseudonym. This is for all sorts of reasons. It’s so a person can exercise an alternative or nontraditional lifestyle and have some semblance of personal privacy, support, and safety. Let’s say you work from 9 to 5 but after that you’re an artist, or photographer, or a writer and you have a pen name, or you’re a performer and you have a stage name — or who knows what. We support people that think differently, and we want them to have a place to connect, share ideas, and carry on in the manner that’s most fitting to them.

JPD: Ello doesn’t have advertising, but it is a business — and you have stated that you will charge for some features. What’s the inspiration for the future revenue model? Is it to make it a PBS or, perhaps, HBO of social media? Or is it a brand-new model?

TB: It’s to offer a new alternative. What we’re doing is most similar to Apple’s App Store paradigm. We’re going to sell features and experiences that enable people to customize Ello to keep making Ello better and better. We have some other revenue streams planned as well.

JPD: One journalist said the following about Ello: “One of its signature features is that the ‘provenance’ of anything posted to the site can always be followed back to its source, to divide innovators from follow-ons.” What are your thoughts on this? Do you believe that we are searching for authenticity in social networks and our communications?

TB: We’re all searching for authenticity. We want to live real lives. Honest lives. That’s what feels best. We all know that. Real things are better than fake things. It’s simple. We’re all looking for genuinely meaningful experiences. Ello’s a conduit for these sorts of experiences.


New social networks seem to come and go, but something about Ello gives me a sense it might stick. If you want to learn more, I suggest you give it a shot. I’m on Ello as johnpdavid (yes, I’m one of the chosen few), and I have some invitations left. I’m curious to know what you think.

This article was originally published on and has been republished with permission. 


John P. David of David PR GroupJohn P. David is founder and president of Miami-based media relations firm David PR Group, and represents law firms, financial institutions, insurance companies and technology start-ups. He has more than 20 years of experience in the public relations industry serving South Florida-based and national clients. David frequently blogs about public relations and marketing at and his posts are regularly published by the Huffington Post. He also serves as a partner with online reputation management firm, a website that enables businesses to effectively respond to negative Internet posts.


MarCom Winners Posted!

winners announced2Results of the 2014 MarCom Awards competition are in!
See  list of Platinum and Gold Winners here.

Use the hashtag #MarComAwards in your promotion so we can share your good news!


This Week’s Latest Tech Gadgets – Oct. 21, 2014

By Gregg Ellman

Reviews of the Rachio Iro sprinkler system, Epson’s new luster metallic inkjet photo paper and VisionTek’s USB 7-port charging hub.

Rachio Iro Sprinkler System

I was emailed an offer to try out the Rachio Iro sprinkler system, described as easy to set up and use. “As for the sprinkler, you plug it in where your old controller was and then it helps create a customized watering schedule with you home WiFi network. You then can change, update it from your phone anywhere you have a signal.”

Sure enough, it was pretty much that easy.

Rachio Iro sprinkler system


If You Think Your Audience Is an Algorithm, You’re Doing it Wrong

PR Tips

One of the first things I learned in journalism school, and later honed in my PR career, was the concept of knowing one’s audience. For example, when writing for the general “newspaper-reading” public, you need to make sure your text is crafted at no more than an eleventh-grade reading level. And while writing an article in a journalism class, if you throw in a bunch of heavy-duty words, you’ll get crucified by the professor. In the business world, if you don’t understand your audience, you can develop marketing material that goes over your audience’s collective head, or worse, insults them. Remember, your audience comprises people who you want to educate, connect with, and persuade.

Yet as communicators, in recent years, we have drifted. Our emphasis has shifted away from people and instead focused on the computer algorithms created by search engines. We write website copy overburdened with search terms, and we worry more about keyword density than meaning and message. We write copy of a length and depth that we think pleases Google, rather than what our readers want. And we endure seemingly endless meetings trying to divine what terms prospects will plug-in to search boxes, in addition to spending millions of dollars trying to drive people to our sites. This has evolved into a problem.

Believe me, we are all in the same boat. I still cringe, thinking about the keyword dense copy I had on my site until fairly recently. “As a Miami public relations firm meeting the needs of Miami businesses with a Miami public relations solution…” Gag me! What the hell was I thinking? Well, I wasn’t writing for people; I was writing for an algorithm at the behest of an SEO expert. (In retrospect, it’s even worse, because I consider myself a professional communicator. That copy was crap.)

As I have said many times, the folks at Google are way smarter than us, and the Google mission is to direct people to the information they are seeking. They have figured out that people want what they want and do not want to be driven somewhere else.

From a communications and marketing standpoint, this means it’s time to move on. We need to give up trying to outsmart Google and start writing and presenting meaningful content to our audience, which, remember, is made up of people, not computers. Meaningful content will get found, be appreciated, and ultimately further your business mission.

Google knows this too and is leading the charge. Fairly recent updates to its search process have sent many companies scrambling to replace web traffic. The old tricks aren’t working, and all roads are pointing to brand building and authentic communications. A recent article in Entrepreneur explains it better than I can.

Now, I’m not saying that publishing good content eliminates the need for search engine optimization. That craft still exists, and you still need SEO-friendly content. All those meta tags and descriptions are not for naught, but they are less important than you thought. And for companies that have a mass-market audience, I highly recommend consulting with experts who are regularly analyzing the ins and outs of search, the Google algorithm updates, and the finer points of SEO.

But if you are in a small, niche business, then you’d better be thinking about authentic, interesting, and worthwhile content, and forget about teaching to the algorithm test.

It’s important to note that I’m not just talking about SEO and being found online. Storytelling and compelling visuals, as well as attention-getting video, all need to be considered as we weave our marketing tales. We can never forget that our audience is made up of people—sometimes smart, oftentimes fallible, and frequently unpredictable, but people, nonetheless. They are the ones who click, who make stories go viral, and who ultimately reach into their wallets and make purchases. An algorithm will never be your customer, so don’t make it your audience.

This article was originally published on and has been republished with permission. 


John P. David of David PR GroupJohn P. David is founder and president of Miami-based media relations firm David PR Group, and represents law firms, financial institutions, insurance companies and technology start-ups. He has more than 20 years of experience in the public relations industry serving South Florida-based and national clients. David frequently blogs about public relations and marketing at and his posts are regularly published by the Huffington Post. He also serves as a partner with online reputation management firm, a website that enables businesses to effectively respond to negative Internet posts.


Last Chance to Enter 2014 MarCom Awards

Enter the 2014 MarCom Awards TODAY

The FINAL 2014 MarCom Awards deadline is upon us, but there’s still time to enter!

Submitting your work is an easy process that only takes minutes. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:

  1. Register
  2. Select category, add title of entry and fill in URL if applicable.
  3. Add additional entries.
  4. Proceed to check out and select either pay by Check or Credit Card. If pay by check, then mail it in.
  5. Upload files after checkout or send in your entries.

Visit now to enter and get the recognition you deserve!


2014 MarCom Awards Spotlight: Vision Internet

While the winners for the 2014 MarCom Awards won’t be announced for a while, we’re showcasing select entries that stand out. Keep checking back to see if your work will be highlighted.

MarCom Awards Organization: Vision Internet
Location: Santa Monica, California
Title of Entry: “City of Reno, NV Website”
Category: 178. Government

Vision InternetWhat’s front and center on most municipal websites? Most would not answer with “a search bar,” but that’s exactly what Vision Internet incorporated into the web design for the City of Reno in Nevada.

Why such an unusual setup? Reno was looking to increase engagement and put the citizen first in the redesign of the website. With this goal, Vision Internet created an intuitive, stress-free site with a search bar as the feature item on the homepage. Taking this function even further, the company added a sampling of “Hot Searches” just under the search bar to help visitors discover other information of interest.

With accessibility and engagement as the driving forces in this project, Vision Internet leverages responsive design so all visitors can get the information they need, whether on phone, tablet or desktop.
City of Reno Website By Vision Internet