PR's future in digital on the line

Facing competition from other disciplines, PR is fighting to keep, and grow, its piece of the digital pie.

Facing competition from other disciplines, PR is fighting to keep, and grow, its piece of the digital pie.

When Domino's Pizza set out to find an advertising agency two years ago, Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CPB) took the pitch in an unexpected direction. The ad agency wanted to do more than just advertising – it wanted to helm the pizza chain's entire digital strategy.

“We were looking for an ad agency to come in and help us define and evolve our brand,” recalls Tim McIntyre, VP of communications at Domino's. The company had worked with Ketchum's Chicago office from 2005 to 2006, before taking the PR function in-house. “But [CPB] came to the table and said they could do a lot more for us. They said, ‘If we are going to talk to people about your brand, we need to be involved online, in social media, where the customers are.'”

From then on, CPB became Domino's catch-all advertising, PR, and digital agency. This arrangement proved its worth in April when Domino's confronted a social media crisis after two employees posted a video on YouTube of themselves in a Domino's kitchen lodging ingredients up their nose, among other revolting acts.

“We didn't have to worry about PR people running one way and the marketing people running another,” McIntyre explains. “We want our agencies to be multifaceted because it allows us to streamline. It allows us to be in agreement on a plan of action and strategy.

“[CPB] identified the gap we had in the world of Twitter,” he adds. “They were huge advocates in having us enter the dialogue [surrounding the crisis] on Twitter.”

By now, many organizations realize that the success of their brands will be determined online. Yet other than this almost universal consensus, little else about digital has been decided. Its scope is constantly expanding and its growth potential has every marketing discipline jumping to adopt some part of digital as its own turf.

“There is all kinds of competition popping up [for digital] and it's putting a squeeze on communications professionals,” says Brian Solis, founder and president of FutureWorks, a digital PR agency.

PR, ad, and direct marketing agencies are all looking to carve a niche in digital as their conventional channels become increasingly irrelevant. With traditional ad revenues decreasing in value and news outlets shuttering, the most viable avenue for future revenue is digital. But the race to capitalize on digital has pitted many of these agencies against each other, especially as the boundaries between marketing, advertising, and PR blur online.

“Everyone gets that digital is the future and it's the only real hope for the PR industry to grow,” says Tim Dyson, CEO of Next Fifteen. “But this is going to require us to completely relook at our business. [It will take more than] PR agencies setting up digital arms to their practices.”

PR proclaims it is best suited to tackle social media because relationship- and community-building are its fundamental service. But other disciplines are leveraging their assets in digital, too. Ad shops know their expertise in developing dynamic visual content and branding stunts is valued, while direct marketing firms believe digital culls their strengths in motivating action and measurability.

And increasingly ad agencies – and other marketing services firms – are promising social media services, as do digital shops that are indifferent to conventional marketing boundaries.

This has set the stage for a topsy-turvy world in which PR agencies, while carving their own social media expertise, rely on digital firms for guidance and in which ad agencies are stepping up and claiming PR expertise.

“PR is no longer about the volume of press coverage you can generate,” notes Andy Lark, VP of global marketing, communities, and conversations at Dell. “It's about digital relevance of the coverage.”

Clients, while trying to encourage collaboration between the disciplines, are mostly divvying digital responsibilities along familiar lines. The majority hand over social media to communications, but keep the rest of the digital sphere – like Web properties, online video, social media widgets and promotions, and SEO – under the marketing umbrella. But owning the communities elements doesn't really give PR a meaty piece of digital that could result in more budget dollars.

“[PR understands] how communities work in social media terms,” says Dyson. “But that's not a particularly challenging area. It was a pretty novel thing when it first started, but it's really not that difficult and [people have] realized that. It's no longer the domain of any part of marketing because any part of marketing can do it.”

Ultimately, social media is a skill that other disciplines can easily adapt. By carving such a narrow niche within digital, the PR industry becomes vulnerable – especially as clients start to streamline their digital needs and realize that their ad or digital firms can take full control of digital.

Digital facilitating growth
According to growth projections at most holding companies, owning larger shares of digital is a primary strategy. The fight for digital is exacerbated now as the economy has put great stress on firms to maximize their budget share.

“If digital is not half our business in five years, I'll be shocked,” Dyson says. “It is easily going to be that portion of our revenues.”

In its preliminary results for 2008 released in March, WPP acknowledges “significant” growth in digital and interactive services, while branding and identity, advertising, and specialist communications remain under “tremendous” pressure.

Likewise, Publicis Groupe, known for its interactive global networks Digitas and VivaKi, aims to have digital make up a quarter of its revenues by the end of 2010. According to its 2008 earnings, released in February, digital represented 19% of its business in 2008, up from 15% in 2007.

IPG, in its annual report filed in February, asserts that it has accelerated its investment in digital – including staff training and technology. The holding company notes that digital “should not be treated like a silo” and boasts recruiting digital talent to “all marketing disciplines.” It specifically points to advertising firm McCann Erickson Advertising and digital shop R/GA as champions in the space. The holding company also plans digital acquisitions this year.

In its 2008 annual report, Omnicom points out that new media channels and interactive technologies are among the trends that have transformed its business. The report also forecasts a world in which organizations are consolidating these varied marketing needs with a smaller number of agencies.

The holding company reports, “In an effort to gain greater efficiency and effectiveness from their total marketing budgets, clients are increasingly requiring greater coordination of marketing activities and concentrating these activities with a smaller number of service providers.”

At a time when sudden and often dramatic cutbacks are the norm, it's expected – and smart – for agencies to stake a larger claim in digital. Right now, with clients being most open to any of their external agencies taking control, is the optimal time to make the grab. If more organizations begin to streamline their marketing functions to a single agency, the one with the most ground on digital is likely to nab the ultimate prize.

“We are open to any of our agency partners, whether in PR or ad firms, to come to us for digital strategy,” notes Bill Kircos, director of media relations at Intel.

One agency takes all For its digital counsel, CPB offers Domino's tactical and strategic support. Rob Weisberg, VP of multimedia marketing at Domino's, leads the company's digital efforts and reports into the CMO. He declined to cite how much of Domino's marketing spend goes to digital, but says it accounts for a low double-digit percentage of the overall marketing spend.

“Social media initiatives are a collaboration between my team, PR, and our agency,” says Weisberg, whose background includes stints at Ogilvy & Mather's inter-active arms. “[CPB] has done some amazing things in the social media space and they come to us with recommendations all the time.”

While clients partnering with their ad agencies is one way that PR stands to lose grand on digital, there are other shops that jeopardize the industry's standing. A slew of digital boutiques are increasingly picking up traditional ad and PR agencies' slack on this front. For example, in April Del Monte Foods named Catalyst:SF its digital AOR to handle its digital strategy, as well as media planning. Two former interactive marketing, sales, and media professionals founded the digital shop in 2007.

The firm's task obviously overlaps with advertising's traditional purview in digital media-planning. But in a statement following the win, Bill Pearce, SVP/CMO at Del Monte, also noted Cataylst:SF's role in “creating a meaningful and engaging dialogue with our consumers [online].”

Doug Chavez, senior manager of digital marketing at Del Monte, says the company relies on traditional ad agencies and digital firms for social media strategy and overall brand counsel, but is inching toward a more streamlined model.

“We see the move towards a holistic digital agency handling these efforts... rather than separating them out to multiple agencies,” he adds.

Cory Treffiletti, president and managing partner at Catalyst:SF, says the agency rarely comes into contact with Del Monte's PR firm. Rather, Catalyst:SF collaborates with Del Monte's ad agencies to translate that strategy into something that works online. This goes well beyond media buying, he adds.

“We define digital as anything that can be accessed through a digital screen,” says Treffiletti. This includes social media, blogger relations, mobile devices, and Internet-related services. When pitching for digital business, he points out that it mostly comes up against digital advertising agencies and other digital boutiques.

“We haven't really come up against PR agencies,” adds Treffiletti, noting his team works with Del Monte's PR department mostly so the company can explain its digital strategy to the media.

Del Monte declined to disclose how much of its marketing budget goes to digital, but it is increasing its digital marketing spend in the upcoming fiscal year “to a level that is more competitive with our peer set,” says Chavez.

So far, these arrangements of relying on one agency– either interactive or advertising – for digital isn't the norm. Comparatively, the conventional approach that partitions pieces of digital to various agencies provides firmer footing for PR. But this track can also confine PR and advertising to its conventional roles, while giving the most innovative work to digital shops.

At Intel, marketing and communications collaborate on social media. But marketing oversees most of Intel's digital properties and Web content, says Nancy Bhagat, VP of sales and marketing and integrated marketing director.

Despite this traditional divide, the company is careful not to exclude any of its external agencies from giving input on digital, especially as it explores the space. Intel's PR, advertising, and digital agencies contribute to strategy through an open-source model that is intended to encourage a “best-in-breed” environment among them. The strategy was developed in tandem with Paul Bergevin, VP of sales and marketing and GM of Intel's communications group, Bhagat says.

“There were challenges with external agencies being defensive about who owns digital strategy early on,” Bhagat recalls. “Part of the reason we developed this approach was to alleviate some of these positions taken by the agencies.”

This model certainly gives agencies more room to experiment, but doesn't push hard enough to get them outside of their traditional tracks. For example, Ogilvy PR tends to be most active with Intel's social media strategy, but the company also retains Avenue A/Razorfish, MRM, and other digital firms for online marketing efforts, notes Bhagat.

McDonald's has its long-time PR AOR GolinHarris work alongside its digitally oriented agencies, Tribal
DDB and OMD.

“It's a unique perspective from an agency's point of view,” says Anja Carroll, director of US media at McDonald's. “We have those three agencies work together with [Heather Oldani, director of US communications] and with a few others [that fit into our digital strategy].”

For example, Oldani adds, on a recent campaign about its Chicken McNuggets, the internal team set the strategy and then tasked the three agencies to divvy up the tasks.

“From there, our agencies are doing a pretty good job of working together,” she says. “Tribal would say they're taking designing the Web page and the Facebook page... and then OMD does media buys to direct people to those sites. From the PR side, Golin ran the Twitter campaign, as well reaching out to bloggers.”

Carroll points out, “We're not asking them to do anything that wouldn't fall down their traditional lines of responsibility based on their area of expertise.”

Rather than collaborate with digital shops entirely on their clients' terms, some PR agencies have taken the partnership in their own hands. Some team with digital shops at the request of a client, but others do so to strengthen their standing when bidding for new digital business.

Waggener Edstrom recently teamed with a digital/advertising firm, Wexley School for Girls, in a pitch that ultimately won it Microsoft's global mobile communications business. The two firms had previously worked together under Microsoft's direction on projects.

“We decided it was more efficient if we collaborate from the beginning, rather than coming together at the end,” says Frank Shaw, president of WE's Microsoft account.

Weber Shandwick also partners with social media agency Carrot Creative.

We heard Carrot was doing some really interesting work, particularly in social networking, so we gave them a call to start a loose relationship,” says Gail Heimann, vice chair at WS. “Carrot has a lot of expertise for our strategy sessions, which has helped develop a lot of what we're doing.”

Heimann declined to cite specific clients WS uses Carrot for because these accounts are still “in the bill phase.”

Aedhmar Hynes, CEO of Text 100, says the agency hasn't yet come against digital firms in pitches, but sometimes enlists digital partners to assist on a pitch or with a specific project. “We'll rely on [digital] partners if they are highly developed in an area that we're not,” she notes.

Sabrina Horn, founder and CEO of the Horn Group, says even though she's been pushing her agency in the direction of a digital communications firm, there are some aspects of digital that PR isn't equipped to take on, like search engine optimization (SEO). Smaller digital agencies looking to partner or simply find out her online parameters have also approached her.

“Everybody is sniffing each other out,” she notes.

Steve Rubel, SVP and director of insights at Edelman, says that when pitching for digital business he is most frequently pitted against advertising agencies, digital boutiques, and less often the digital arm of a large PR firm. Yet he is a supporter of PR agencies outsourcing digital tasks, such as paid searches, when it requires massive keyword buys.

Yet Next Fifteen's Dyson says filling these capability gaps within the industry is critical for PR to be a competitive force in digital.

“We tend to consider something like repurposing con-tent as geeky or something that we don't need to do,” Dyson points out. “We don't tend to have programmers on staff who put meta tags on content, people who are good at SEO. We tend to leave that to the ad agency, but search is PR's greatest ally, in my book.”

Dell's Lark agrees, adding, “We have to find a way to change the perception of PR people as people who deal with the media... Owning digital is more about how people think of PR and whether [clients] think PR people have the skills to do things [that digital requires].”

He adds that his company's communications department recruits people from non-traditional backgrounds, such as search engine experts.

Marketing leads budgets
Another hurdle for PR is the fact that marketing holds the purse strings. Marketing departments have historically outspent communications because of the economic reality of media buys. But will the ineffectiveness of media buys, especially online, free up millions of marketing dollars? Some PR pros believe so, but making a case for these dollars – especially if PR reports into a different department – might take some maneuvering.

Text 100's Hynes says, “We're seeing that budgets for social media are coming from [marketing]. If you have a client where marketing and PR are highly integrated, they're more likely to award dollars to the discipline that adds creative value. But if you have a client where [marketing and PR are] very separate, a lot of the digital budget will go to the marketing side.”

Dyson adds, “The budget land grab is as much organizational as it is how these companies are setting up.”

Chris Barger, director of global communications at General Motors, says communications took the lead on the company's digital efforts, such as its popular Fast Lane blog. And until recent cuts at the automaker, Barger was given a seven-figure budget to handle blogs, social media outreach, and online video.

“Our communications department probably had more [money to spend] on digital than other companies,” he notes. “But having said that, the marketing people have 50 times what I would have had.”

Barger adds that one of the company's YouTube videos of the Cadillac SRS, which had been shot with one person's amateur camera, was viewed more frequently than the slick productions developed in the marketing department.

“I think when the marketing or advertising firm takes over YouTube content, if they are looking to do what they have always done, it doesn't work so well,” he says, pointing out that budgets are not good indicators for which discipline is taking the lead on digital.

Because online advertising doesn't justify giving marketing departments staggering budgets and the communications departments will increasingly vie for this reallocated money, Barger foresees companies housing digital budgets within an entity outside of both disciplines.

“I think you'll ultimately see these budgets combine in some kind of digital umbrella group that is a stepbrother to communications and marketing,” he says. “It will probably have dual reporting structures.”

But the pressure to make these changes will have to stem from the communications departments, who have the most to gain from tempered marketing budgets. Marketing's budget model, which is often built on finite campaigns, will have to give way to a more sustainable funding stream.

Adam Brown, director of digital communications at The Coca-Cola Company, says social media calls for a new budgeting model for ad dollars. While ad departments traditionally funneled money into a campaign for a finite amount of time, dollars now have to be spread over long periods to maintain relationships built on social media.

Mark Addicks, CMO for General Mills, says for some of its brands, digital now comprises 100% of the budget, but more typically it is about 30%. Because his company has integrated brand teams, this money funds all digital efforts across all disciplines.

“If you look at PR efforts, [it is] not best to measure in [how much each program costs] because PR is a lot less expensive than, say, a 30-second TV ad,” he says. “So it's better to focus on the ROI.”

If communications has access to marketing dollars, there is an opportunity for it to parlay its experience in social media to a larger leadership role on digital, says one communications executive at a major retailer, who requested to be on background because the retailer has not yet revealed its digital strategy publicly.

“I think a lot in digital is going to be marketing-funded, communications-led,” the source added. “I do think that's a model that will get more legs.”

The Horn Group's Horn adds, “[Budgets] are all over the place. There is a communications budget for social media, then the Web site budget is owned by someone in marketing, particularly at large companies that have had the marketing and communications division in place for awhile. But the smaller companies are pooling the budgets into one.”

Clashes within
Without a clear lead on digital, internal teams have unintentionally collided in unexpected ways. Even though IBM recently merged its marketing and communications departments under the leadership of Jon Iwata, SVP of marketing and communications, digital responsibilities are still primarily doled out along traditional lines.

The social media elements are led out of communications; the mass-market tools like search, video, and banner ads, are a part of marketing's portfolio.

“This is unsatisfactory,” Iwata says. “While I think we're doing a reasonably good job utilizing tools and doing programs... these are tactics that are being used in ways that are familiar.”

When IBM pooled marketing and communications under Iwata's oversight, the intent was to mix and challenge traditional organizations and functions.

“[We knew] that with digital, you can't just park it in different places because if you give media relations the bloggers, they'll just try to influence them the way they did reporters,” he adds. “If you give the advertising department Facebook or YouTube, they'll create branding assets.”

According to Iwata, most companies, including IBM, have treated Web 2.0 tools like traditional broadcast mechanisms – in part because organizations have refused to let go of traditional marketing roles.

“[Digital] is now about empowering entire workforces and partners to connect, publish, and speak about the company without direct authorization or supervision,” he says.

“[Yet] we find that our professionals in communications, as they have stepped into this world of social media, have reacted almost violently to [others within the company speaking or writing about IBM],” Iwata adds. “It's because we are used to doing that ourselves and suddenly we're in a world where a large number of people are also representing the brand.”

To solve the problem, he is developing a digital strategy at IBM that involves collaboration not only between communications and marketing, but with departments ranging from legal to HR, as well as the CFO.

“This isn't just a tug-of-war between marketing or communications,” he explains. “What any digital strategy needs to get its head around is, ultimately, your entire workforce [having the tools] to speak about the brand.”

But the turf wars more typically sit between marketing and communications, particularly at companies that – unlike IBM – house the two disciplines under different and separate reporting structures.

Intel mitigated its turf issues by also implementing a broader digital strategy developed by senior leadership in marketing and communications.

“It was a challenge internally at Intel when we did not have a clear digital strategy,” Bhagat recalls. “There was some confusion about which discipline should be taking the lead on digital. It became clear at this point they needed to have a lead on both communications and marketing to oversee certain aspects... But our PR agencies have offered ideas on marketing's area, especially with regards to microsites.”

While policy amended the company's fractured approach to digital, it also allocated responsibilities along the traditional marketing lines. Communications took on PR and analyst relations; marketing helmed advertising, branding, Web properties, and digital content. Generally, marketing takes on consumer and enterprise relations, while communications handles media relations, Bhagat explains.

“But in this environment consumers and media are often the same,” she adds.

In instances where communications takes the lead on digital, justifying its leadership role becomes tricky when marketing wants in. GM's Barger points out that as marketing waded further into digital, its projects pushed against those of communications, sometimes creating a “scatter-shot” approach.

“We could have had 50 different Chevy YouTube channels and everyone who started one was well-intentioned – but it dilutes your audience,” he notes. “I think we could have been coordinated and more strategic.”

GM is now collaborating with marketing and advertising to develop a more coordinated effort, Barger adds.

Marketing leads strategy
Along with marketing's deeper pockets, its role in setting the company's branding strategy hasn't changed with digital. Of course, branding has always been housed with marketing. But with as much overlap between disciplines as there is with digital, a marketing-led strategy can paint PR into a corner of being a tactical, rather than strategic function.

“If you try to be very functional about it, I think we look to marketing to try and set the broader brand strategy,” says General Mills' Addicks. “In that case, it means – ‘What's the brand growth idea and how will it grow?'”

“But when you get to some of the digital areas,” he adds, “I would say, yes, typically in our world PR is the lead. It makes obvious sense because [so much in digital] is about non-paid media and seeding an idea in the culture in a relevant way to make it have buzz that's going to actually lead people to act differently.”

Like Addicks, Laurie Steuri, associate director of global external relations and influencer marketing at Procter & Gamble, relies on marketing to craft the company's broader strategy, but PR then takes the lead to fit this strategy to social media.

“I feel very bullish about the role of PR and our PR agencies in digital,” she says. “I don't see them leading the strategy development because that is collectively owned, but they definitely sit around the table. But it's so hard for any one type of communications group to really own it. I don't think on any of our brands the strategy is being delegated to any of our communications or PR people or agencies. There are a lot more players to consider [when developing the strategy].”

Large-scale execution
But while internal departments iron out the details of their digital strategy, PR firms are often pushed farther outside the ring and tasked with tactical implementation. PR agencies have long fought to be taken seriously as a strategic partner, while still balancing their functions as a large-scale execution shops. But now the stakes are much higher. In order for PR agencies to get a larger portion of budget, they have to convince clients that they are strategic partners.

“I would say [broader digital strategy] sits at the high level,” IBM's Iwata says. “Maybe because I haven't [asked my agencies for strategic counsel], but I think [external partners] are best on the execution of tactics and great programming.”

Coca-Cola's Brown agrees and says because digital is a strategic collaboration between marketing and communications, there are enough people internally working on strategy. In April, his company launched an office of digital and social media that is led from its communications department.

“We are coming up with the strategy more in-house, but we still rely on our agency partners, both on the ad and PR side, in the digital/social media [implementation],” he explains. “And these relationships are going to become critical [as our digital presence grows].”

Dell's Lark reiterates the value of in-house strategic teams.

“[Digital] requires a close degree of proximity to content,” he says. “[Digital strategy] requires the team to be more closely linked to sales and customer service than ever. Agencies can't fill that void.”

However, taking the tactical approach can be a way in for PR agencies. GM's Barger says the company's PR firms – Weber Shandwick and MS&L – were initially enlisted to implement the company's digital strategy. But the deeper the agencies got into the trenches of execution, the more lessons they were able to bring back to the strategy table.

“As in anything else, the arms and legs of an organization are the ones learning the most valuable lessons,” Barger explains. “They're now helping us incorporate these back into our strategy.”

The aforementioned major retailer communications executive says agencies are ultimately training in-house entities to do digital themselves.

“I've told my agencies this as well,” the executive says. “Yes, we use agencies to pitch products and product launches, but in terms of owning media relationships – my team owns them all. I want my own team to own strategy, content, dialogue, and the execution of social media, too.”

Reaching the CMO
Companies like IBM, where marketing and communications report up the same structure, are ideal for PR firms caught in the digital battle. But this structure, which was only recently implemented at IBM, is rare. More commonly, PR agencies' and departments' reporting ladders don't lead to the C-suite.

“We are blessed to have a good relationship between PR and marketing,” Brown points out, “[but] that's not true at all organizations.”

Because marketing already has the attention of the CMO, it is more likely to come to mind first when the CMO doles out digital budgets from the marketing end. This gives those on the marketing side an advantage on jump-starting innovative digital programs – even for social media. Unless communications has a direct channel to talk to the CMO, it will likely get overlooked – like the case in which Del Monte's CMO Pearce turned to his digital/advertising arms for digital.

“When [the CMO] doesn't control communications, it's difficult to get to those marketing dollars,” Next Fifteen's Dyson adds. “If the communications team has a great digital program, but has no money for it, if they see money sitting in the CMO's pocket, the only way they can get it is to convince [the CMO] to take those dollars away from advertising.”

Getting the ear of the CMO could mean breaking traditional chains of command to get noticed by those with access to marketing budgets.

“We [tell] clients we can be more effective if we don't use the channels traditionally available to PR,” says Text 100's Hynes. “This is about examining the overall marketing mix.”

When a CMO notices communications, there are ways PR can have a piece of the budget without crashing the entire structure. For example, Addicks has built fully integrated teams for General Mills' brands.

“Digital is a growth imperative, so we're very much looking at the dollars and activities,” he explains. “But it's pretty inevitable that everyone is going to have digital as some part of their plan.”

PR takes on digital:

Edelman and AHA

In 2008, Edelman, digital and PR AOR for the American Heart Association's [AHA] “Go Red for Women” product, worked with the nonprofit on an interactive campaign to create a platform for female heart disease sufferers to share their experiences. The team built the online forum around the messaging, “Share Your Untold Story of the Heart.” The effort included promoting the product's Web sites, as well as traditional PR tactics to draw women to the online forum and raise awareness about heart disease in females.

The union has continued this year for AHA's newest campaign, “Our Hearts. Our Choices.” This initiative selected women to be nationwide advocates for raising heart-disease awareness. It also included online casting calls and raising visibility of the nonprofit in social and traditional media.

In addition to the online community, the team has created a Facebook page with more than 63,000 fans and a Flickr page with 68 members and 147 uploaded photos.

“There is a huge advantage to have our digital and PR teams talking to each other – and in this case with Edelman being the same agency,” says Anu Gandhi, director of marketing for consumer markets at AHA.

In January, Coca-Cola's PR and ad teams collaborated for its 2009 ‘Mean Troy' Super Bowl ad. It was a remake of the iconic 1979 spot in which a kid offers football star Joe Greene a Coke.

The new ad starts with a child offering current Pittsburgh Steelers star Troy Polamalu a Coke Zero, but takes a comedic turn when branding managers interrupt the moment. While the ad department developed the spot, communications added exclusive online content to give the ad more context and scope. In addition to traditional media relations, pre-game efforts featured outreach to key blogs and social networks, including a short viral video offering a sneak preview of the ‘Mean Troy' spot, as well as behind-the-scenes footage and sound bites from Polamalu and Greene.

The team also launched a YouTube channel that now has 18 videos, 42 subscribers, and 2,000-plus channel views. The videos' viewership ranges from 26 to 363,344. The video/link appeared in hundreds of online outlets, with highlights including stories/posts on the Web sites of Dallas Morning News, USA Today, AOL, and dozens of blogs. On day two of online outreach, the video was among the top 20 sports-related videos on YouTube. The teaser has been viewed 170,000-plus times on the site, according to Coke.

GM and MS&L
GM partnered with MS&L to correct misinformation and address rumors and myths surrounding the company's future and government-backed loans.

MS&L built GM Facts and Fiction, a site addressing common myths and legends about GM. The site targeted journalists, bloggers, staff, dealers, politicians, and average consumers.

On November 18, the day of the Senate Banking Committee hearing on government loans for the auto industry, the site had 194,994 visitors and 425,839 page views. In its first seven months, the site has received 2,026,409 page views by 757,514 unique visitors, with each visitor spending nearly two minutes on the site, according to MS&L.

The title of this story appears in print as "Future on the line"

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