Week 2: A Conversation with Guest Speaker Dan Portnoy


Marisela Cervantes

By UCLA X425 Student Marisela Cervantes

Our guest speaker for week two of UCLA X425 was Dan Portnoy.  He had a very interesting perspective as a PR “fixer,” with a specialty in creating video content.

Dan told us that as marketers we should embrace the strengths of the brand we are tasked with promoting, and always focus on what makes it special. He also stressed that we do not need a lot money to produce engaging video content. We looked at the popular “Will it Blend?” YouTube series as an example of a low cost campaign styled to look like it was produced in the ‘70s. In addition to promoting the company’s product (high-end blenders), the other items featured in the series consistently see a bump in sales. We also discussed the Doritos commercials made by fans as part of a Super Bowl campaign. Most were low tech and done at home, yet yielded a very high engagement rate for Doritos at a very low cost.

Can Portnoy

Can Portnoy

Dan also walked us through two major campaigns he worked on – one for the United Way and the other for Union Rescue Mission. We discussed how email still a source for hyper engagement such as fundraising. He said that people are not sitting at work thinking of something to give money to, so the brand and content must connect with and inspire them to act. We looked at sample videos for both organizations including a really cute series Dan created for the United Way with a superhero theme. The idea behind his approach was that people are more likely to donate when they feel their contribution makes a difference.

In summary, PR is now about creating content and getting consumers to connect directly with a brand. The challenge is that the way a company wants to communicate is not always how its message gets received. Think about PR campaigns as ripples, with the website as a base extending to the different tactics employed to grow the audience.

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