Category Archives: Public Relations

Surprise Prize Pack for Fallon Worldwide’s 10,000th Twitter Follower

Fallon Worldwide rewarded its 10,000th Twitter follower with a surprise prize pack of agency swag.
Fallon 10,000th Twitter prize package.

Fallon put together a rather nice package of swag for its 10,000th Twitter follower … me!

I’m a little slow on this one, but I definitely owe a big thank you to the great Minneapolis ad agency Fallon Worldwide. Out of pure luck, I became @wearefallon’s 10,000 Twitter follower on July 11, 2012 and I received a surprise @mention the next day announcing me as the winner of Fallon prize pack. The surprise is two-fold: 1.) Considering I have a PR & Advertising list on Twitter and I’m a big fan of their work, I was surprised to learn I wasn’t already following Fallon and 2.) I had no idea they were planning to reward their 10,000th follower. Here’s the surprise tweet:

Of course I sent in my address right way. However, I didn’t really know what the prize pack would include. I assumed it would be some pens and a note pad or something. Little did I know, I would have a box of high-quality goodies show up at my doorstep the day before my birthday.

The swag pack included a Lands’ End vest, an aluminum water bottle, ball point pen, journal, bracelet and rather nice coffee table book celebrating 25 years of Fallon’s work. But that’s not all, I even got a signed and framed picture of Pat Fallon to hang on my wall (which I did).

From a social media marketing standpoint, there’s a couple key takeaways here. First, the power of a surprise reward can be just as good as a full-fledged online contest. Sure, you might not get all the consumer information as you might with a sweepstakes (users’ email, mailing address, demographics, etc.), but if you do it right, it can still work for you. After Fallon announced its winner on Twitter, they also posted photos on Facebook and Google+ to get a little more traction. It also helps that Fallon’s 10,000th follower also happens to maintain a blog (I’m now writing about my experience). 

Another takeaway was Fallon’s decision to go big on the prize package. It would have been much easier and cost effective to send me the pen and note pad I was thinking. However, I don’t think I would have gotten too excited about that. By including a book, vest, framed photo and other swag worth around $100, I definitely felt obliged to brag about it on my social networks and, eventually, blog about it.

Again, I thank the good people at Fallon Worldwide for taking time to reward a random Twitter follower. I’m looking forward to wearing my vest this fall and The Work: 25 Years of Fallon compliments my favorite advertising book, Juicing the Orange rather nicely.

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10 steps to get the most out of Foursquare for your business

Foursquare check in decal

Foursquare is definitely one of the most underutilized social media platforms. Sure brands such as the History Channel and Starbucks are completely killing it on Foursquare, but the location-based app is fantastic for businesses of all sizes. Small businesses in particular have a great opportunity to gain exposure, reward patrons with deals and earn customer loyalty. Chances are, your business already has a spot on Foursquare. Wouldn’t it make sense to claim your venue so you have control of it?

There are plenty of articles about Foursquare success stories and you can skim through a few case studies on the app’s website. Probably the best reason to get your business on Foursquare is for the check-in specials–those are deals users can unlock after a certain number of check-ins or for becoming the ‘mayor.’ Check-in specials are only the beginning though. The following is a quick how-to on getting the most out of Foursquare–without spending any money.

Setting up a ‘personal’ account:
  1. Create a new account for your business. To make this happen, go to foursquare.com and download the free mobile app.
  2. Fill out profile completely. This includes a good profile photo/logo, location, phone number, Twitter handle, and your company’s bio (160 characters).
  3. Add people you know & people in the area.
  4. Create lists & add tips. This is why setting up a personal business profile is important. Maybe you’re a restaurant owner who also serves pizza by the slice at local sporting events … might as well add a tip to those venues for fans to grab a slice during intermission. As the social media manager at KVSC-FM, I created a list of “KVSC’s Favorite Eateries.” The restaurants on the list are all underwriters for the station and the tips include special discounts for members of KVSC (a public radio station). Being a college radio station, I also created a list of tips for venues around campus such as “If you’re walking through campus or driving around town, tune to KVSC 88.1FM for college radio awesomeness! You can listen on mobile devices too. Just go to http://www.kvsc.org/listen.php” and “Make sure you get to hockey games in time for the pre-game intro. It. Is. AWESOME! Read more.” What’s really great about adding tips and lists is that you can link to websites and you can easily check the stats (e.g. “10 people have done this tip”).
  5. Connect other apps, check privacy settings. Foursquare has a number of apps you can connect such as Foodspotting, Instagram and The Weather Channel. If your business is on Instagram for example, you can sync Foursquare to automatically check-in at a venue when you share a photo (by the way, if your business is on Instagram, go ahead an connect your Tumblr and Twitter accounts too). Since you’re a business and not an actual person, be sure to make your privacy settings as loose as possible–make it easy for customers to get in touch.
Setting up your business page:
  1. Create/claim your venue. Unfortunately, this can be quite a drag–taking up to a week or more. This is good though because Foursquare is doing its best to make sure only real venues get claimed by the rightful manager. To get started, head to foursquare.com and sign in using the business account you just created or your personal account–doesn’t matter which. Search for your business and look for the “Do you manage this business?” and hit the “Click here” button. After that, just follow the steps. You will need to verify using the phone number of the business.
  2. Fill out profile completely: Profile photo/logo, Address, phone number, Twitter handle, website, hours and keyword tags. Restaurants also have the ability to add menus and prices.
  3. Create a special. Now that you’re managing your venue, go ahead and create your first check-in special. Foursquare offers a variety of specials to attract new customers or reward existing customers. Choosing a special for users who check-in to the venue for their first time might be a great way to get started. You can create multiple campaigns and test which ones work best.
  4. Add employees and managers. If you’re a busy manager or owner of your business, it might be a good idea to delegate the responsibilities of general venue upkeep to another employee. Also, you can add employees to your venue so they can’t become the ‘mayor’ and reap the rewards that your actual customers should be getting.
  5. Promote. You should get a window cling from Foursquare when you secure your venue … put it somewhere visible. Create fliers, Tweet it, include it in your eNewsletter, put it on your business card, train your employees to tell customers about it, add links to your website and anything else you can think of. Just be sure to follow the Foursquare brand guidelines.
Further reading:

Social Media: Personal and Visual, Pt. 2 – The Power of Visuals

Infographics can be a great way to communicate complex statistics.

Infographics can be a great way to communicate complex statistics.

In my previous post, I discussed the importance of knowing your audience as I presented at a recent St. Cloud State University mass communications alumni event. Now is time for part two of that discussion: the importance of visuals in communication.

The idea that people are visually minded is nothing new, but I feel it is important to discuss as the concept directly transfers to the public relations industry. There’s been talk for a number of years about whether or not news releases are effective and if they are on the way out. The short answer is no, they are not on the way out. That’s my opinion maybe, but as long as there are journalists with tight deadlines and news organizations that continue to cut staff, news releases will be an easy go-to source for journalists.

Without getting into the particulars of  journalists expected to push out more content in a shorter amount of time and editors choosing to sensationalize soft stories instead of producing in-depth hard news, I’ll just say news releases are still important. What has changed over the past few years is how the news release is developed and disseminated.

Now in the PR world we’re seeing more interactive news releases. News releases optimized for search engines and the “social media news release” are commonplace. These are news releases rich in content—containing at least one visual element, keywords and links for more information. A media-rich news release is far more effective in reaching a target audience and should resonate with reporters much better.

Visuals are so effective now that many companies are using infographics in place of the news release. Infographics are great because they can take relatively complicated statistics and visualize them into easy-to-understand graphs. A news release with a bunch of stats crammed in the body will never be as effective as a well-designed infographic. They also are easy to share and can make their way around the Internet with little effort.

Further building off the importance of visuals in PR, let’s take a look at what has brought us to this point. Surly, communications specialists have recognized the importance of strong visuals long ago. Marketing and advertising is almost completely based off of visual cues. Even radio commercials contain a visual element—a good radio spot will paint a picture in the mind of the listener, which can be more effective than actually seeing something in print or video.

Social media and, more importantly Web 2.0, have made it much easier to share images and video across a variety of platforms. A few major news items have surfaced over the past few months that have really made this point be heard.

The first is Pinterest. Pinterest is a social networking site that allows users to pin images that link back to the original source onto “boards,” or a scrapbook-style collection of a user’s personality. Pinterest is significant because the website hit 10 million U.S. monthly unique visitors faster than any standalone site ever.

Another interesting phenomenon is Draw Something hitting 20 million active users in just seven weeks. Draw Something is a Pictionary-style mobile gaming application in which users draw something from a set of words and the other user watches the drawing unfold as he/she tries to guess the word.

A final piece of news is that of Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram for $1 billion–which was still a startup at the time with only 9 employees. Each of these news items should aid in understanding the the importance of using visuals in communication.

Lastly, please stop using comic sans and clip art:


Social Media: Personal and Visual, Pt. 1 – Know Your Audience

The importance of knowing your audience.

Is your target audience a crowd of conservative men or does it have a greater variance to allow for more flexibility?

I recently spoke at a St. Cloud State Mass Communications alumni event regarding trends in social media–especially in the Public Relations industry. As an intern at Kohnstamm Communications and only a couple years as a social media manager at KVSC-FM under my belt, I’m hardly an expert on the subject, but I do feel I came out with some good points and generated an interesting discussion. I rarely write out word-for-word what I plan to say at these things, but for some reason that’s what happened. I ended up making an outline of speaking points for a more natural impromptu delivery and my original ‘script’ for my presentation “Social Media: Personal and Visual” is below.

I learned a lot as the Director of PR & Social Media at KVSC and a lot of what I learned along the way is directly transferable to the PR industry—whether the B2B clients I work with at Kohnstamm care about social media or not. I learned two main things while building KVSC’s social media presence: 1.) It is important to know your audience and 2.) People are very visually minded.

For the former, I learned early on that no one really cares about basic station updates that can easily be found at kvsc.org, people want to be entertained and involved in the conversation. In other words, people want to be reached at a personal level. I found that posting opinionated articles relating to the station’s music format or pop culture in general would garner a greater response than simply announcing what was coming up in the programming lineup.

It’s definitely important to know your audience and have a good understanding of what types of posts will get their attention without offending anyone too much. A great example of this is with a new recruitment firm I’ve been working with. At KVSC, it seemed I could get away with just about anything. Making fun of Nickelback, posting popular memes and silly YouTube videos are all commonplace on the KVSC Facebook wall. For example, one of the more popular posts on the KVSC wall consisted of a black and white photo of a little boy smoking a cigarette next to a chicken and the caption “Could someone please explain this picture?” (side note: the little boy happens to be a young István Ládai). With Grapevine – Targeted Sales Recruiting, I posted a picture of an Easter bunny portrait gone slightly wrong and wished everyone a happy Easter. It was all in good nature and was meant to be funny. However, someone didn’t like it and contacted the owner of the business and we took it down.

Lesson learned. Monitor and know your audience before you really test the waters. As with any good PR campaign, knowing your audience will help in crafting a news release, pitching a reporter or otherwise getting a client’s news out. Knowing your audience allows you to create much more targeted and personal messages. Maintaining personal messaging in any communication strategy allows for better conversation, but can only be achieved if you know what your audience is interested in talking about.

Further reading on the subject of knowing your audience:

Image via juicebag.blogspot.com.


Starting an Internship: What I Learned in a Long Job Hunt

Kohnstamm Communications Welcomes Eric Wheeler.

A fine welcome indeed. I had never seen my name on a sign before!

Tuesday, Feb. 21, marks the first day of my internship at Kohnstamm Communications in St. Paul, Minn. Yes, the long job search is finally over–at least for a few months.

I learned a lot during my 9+ month job search. I did the typical resume blast using job search sites such as CareerBuilder and Monster, I applied to jobs I found on LinkedIn and Twitter and I did my best to promote myself in the online world. In the end though, it came down to who I know.

Though I landed many phone calls and on-site interviews through the strategy mentioned above–even having employers reach out to me because of my blog or online presence–it was a former teacher who got me the initial contact.

It is definitely nice to know a former teacher believes in me and wants to see me succeed. I had Lisa Heinrich as a professor in both Advanced PR and Media Ethics at St. Cloud State University as I was working on my masters degree in PR & Advertising. One of my favorite professors for her ability to weave in her own professional experiences in lively class discussions, Lisa continued to stay in touch with me after graduation. She would occasionally send me job postings she thought might be a good fit.

My opportunity came when she informed me another former student of hers was looking to hire someone with a little social media experience. I sent an email to Katie Heinze at Kohnstamm that same day and a couple months later I was in St. Paul for an interview.

Though I was not particularly looking for an internship in my job search I felt this was an opportunity worth pursuing for a couple reasons. The position being full time and paid was definitely nice, but I also want to work at a PR agency and this should be a nice foot in the door. I currently do not have any public relations experience in an agency setting so this will hopefully open up new opportunities.

I knew as soon as I walked through the door at Kohnstamm that it was the right place for me. After being greeted by Gail at the front desk, my eyes were drawn to the large sign welcoming me to the “2010 Boutique Agency of the Year.” I had never really seen my name featured on a sign before so I snapped a picture and tweeted about it later that night.

It’s been nearly two weeks since I accepted the position. It may be surprising I haven’t been tweeting about it and posting the news on Facebook, but wanted to make sure my family knew about my new adventure and to make sure I found a place to live in St. Paul. I have made the appropriate phone calls and have found a nice house with a couple roommates (thank you CraigsList) in Midway just a 10-minute drive from the downtown office.

Thank you to everyone for the encouragement and for thinking of me when coming across opportunities. Please continue to keep me in your thoughts. My four to six-month internship will be over before I know it and I will continue to be on the lookout for my next opportunity.


Leading up to my First Solo Photography Exhibit

Art show invitation for "Visions of Minnesota," a photography exhibit by Eric D Wheeler.

"Visions of Minnesota" takes place Jan. 27 from 4-8 p.m.

Tomorrow (Jan. 27 from 4-8 p.m.), I will present “Visions of Minnesota” at Iris Vision Care–my first solo photography exhibit. “Visions of Minnesota” will mainly feature black and white photographs from around Minnesota and will also have a few color images. I have also been experimenting with photography on my iPhone (or iPhoneography as some may call it).

For the past 45 days, I have stepped out of my apartment to snap a picture using my iPhone 4 of a road leading down to the Mississippi River here in St. Cloud, Minn. The road was recently put in along with a new park and is enclosed on both sides with tall trees. The project started after going on a photo walk one exceptionally foggy morning and has continued since. Besides the natural beauty of looking downhill on a road engulfed in ominous trees, the project has gained traction as I have pushed both my curiosity and creativity through the use of iPhone photo applications. Each photo is snapped from the same position and, although I use many different iPhone apps to create various effects in post-edit, each image ends up on Instagram and can be viewed by searching the hashtag #wheelers_road.

wheelers_road is an example of iPhoneography.

The first 16 days of my photo-a-day project utilizing multiple iPhone apps to capture a tree covered road.

The bulk of my show, however, takes a largely traditional approach to photography and includes many black and white landscapes and a few landmarks from central Minnesota, the Iron Range and Duluth. I will have a few color photographs on display including images from depicting nature and landscapes. The event is free and open to the public and all pieces are available for purchase.

I should probably fully disclose that this is technically a public relations event for Iris Vision Care. My girlfriend, Dr. Sally Jackula is the owner and I have been doing some light PR, photography and social media marketing for her for the past year or so. The main motive for holding the event at her office is to build awareness, get foot traffic and hopefully help her gain a few new clients. That being said, I am very much excited about showing off my work for the first time without any public backing or organizational support such as being part of an art crawl or photography contest.

The Androy Hotel in Hibbing, Minnesota.

This photo of the Androy Hotel in Hibbing, Minn. will be one of my larger framed photos for sale.

From a public relations perspective this has definitely been a success so far. One of my photos taken at Quarry Park last year is currently featured on the cover of Minnesota Moments magazine, which hit newsstands earlier this month. I ordered 100 postcard-size invitations to hand  out (pictured above). I secured an interview with an arts reporter who ended up writing a story, which ran in the Jan. 19 edition of Up Next. I submitted my event to several area events websites including the sctimes.com, kvsc.org and aroundthecloud.org and even got a live-read community service announcement on KVSC-FM.

Of course, I put forth the standard social media effort as well–creating a Facebook event and cross-promoting on my photography page, personal page and on the Iris Vision Care page. I spread the news using Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn as well. I even changed my cover photo on Facebook. To top it all off, Ryan Ott featured my photography exhibit in his “Five things to do in Minnesota” for this weekend on iammnnice.com. That was a bonus I didn’t even see coming. Thanks, Ryan!

With that, I hope to see you at Iris Vision Care to check out my work as a budding photographer. Please help me spread the word during these final hours leading up to the event by sharing this post. Thanks!


10 Things I Learned as a PR & Advertising Grad Student

What I learned from grad schoolThis list is essentially a follow-up to my previous entry. Towards the end of that post, I mentioned how I really wanted the entry to be about what I learned in graduate school, but it ended up being the story of why I decided to pursue a Masters Degree in the first place. Now that I’ve had a couple weeks to reflect on my two years of post-graduate education at St. Cloud State University, I present a “Top Ten” list of things I learned. Some topics were learned in the classroom, some while writing papers and others came about in other ways as a student. Though I am not going to elaborate on any of the topics, I do challenge you to ask questions or argue some of the statements. A few might even be considered controversial. Here goes:

  1. There is nothing ‘new’ about new media
  2. Learn the basic theories of psychology, and become a better communicator
  3. Even when you think you have produced creative content, you should step away and try again
  4. Always know your audience and do the research to find out more
  5. Differentiate, segment and tailor the message for each medium
  6. Never stop learning; I will never be an ‘expert’ in anything because there is always more to learn
  7. Media convergence is impossible, but web convergence is possible
  8. If you want to be successful in any communications-related industry (journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, etc.), you must live and breathe social media
  9. Huge corporate media conglomerates are the demise of democracy–nearly every media outlet is conservative … even NPR
  10. News outlets can no longer afford to simply push out information … people expect to participate in a two-way conversation about everything
Have you attended graduate school for mass communications? What did you learn?

“Use Your Digital Nativeness”

Children's Cancer Research FundThe headline to this article is a direct quote from Kris Huson, marketing and communications manager for Children’s Cancer Research Fund. I had the pleasure of listening to Kris speak at today’s St. Cloud State PRSSA weekly meeting. If you’re confused as to why I chose “Use your digital nativeness” as the title for this blog entry, don’t be. We’ll get to that in a bit. (Hint: Think about the importance of social media)

As a professional communicator Kris has a rewarding job, but with the usual stresses that come with fundraising and marketing for a non-profit organization. The first advice given on reaching a target audience is to keep the message personal, tangible and emotional. The most important aspect in regard to communicating a message for a non-profit organization is to make an emotional connection with the audience. Obviously an organization such as the Children’s Cancer Research Fund has plenty of emotional stories. The trick is to recognize those stories and relate them to the target audience.

Once emotional stories are discovered and the message is disseminated to defined audiences, that’s when engagement rises to importance. Social media can be a great tool to create engaging online conversations and to relate emotional stories to the stakeholders (potential donors). Of course, as any successful non-profit organization knows, once someone does make a sizable donation, the money needs to be well spent. If you can prove to the donor the money went to a truly worthy cause that may not have been possible without his/her contribution, then the donor will give again.

Kris admits they are still trying to figure out return on investment (ROI) for social media in the non-profit sector. However, she definitely agrees social media for non-profits is important. This is where the “Use your digital nativeness” came about. When giving advice to students starting a career in public relations (non-profit or other), she pointed out the importance of understanding technology in the new media landscape. Basically, there are three types of people: Digital natives (those who grew up on computers and technology), digital immigrants (those who have adopted technology as life progressed) and digital ignorant (self-explanatory).

As a student looking to get into public relations or a young professional looking to advance his/her career, being a digital native is an advantage if used properly. Just as Kris has to be able to take medical language and make it consumable to a wide audience, young PR pros need to use their ‘digital nativeness’ to their advantage. This means having a deep understanding of trends in social media and how to use it to leverage marketing for a company. Maybe more important, students and young professionals need to use online social networking  as the term suggests: To network. Kris believes Twitter is the best networking tool for business professionals and it is imperative to not only understand how it works, but to actively engage with other professionals in your industry. This all proves once again that social media changes everything.


Mass Comm Career Panel: Getting that First Job

John's First Job.In another event co-sponsored by the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and the American Marketing Association (AMA) at St. Cloud State University, the annual Mass Communications Career Panel opened up helpful insights for students as we work towards beginning careers in our respective fields. The panel was led by Andy Ditlevson of SCSU Career Services and consisted of five speakers:

Tracy Carlson, Padilla Speer Beardsley
Bill Hatling,  HatlingFlint Marketing
Dan Schulzetenberg, General Mills
Ryan Meints, G.L. Berg
Lori Jacobson, Carlson Marketing

The first discussion included ways for college grads to get their foot in the door as they work towards finding the job that’s right for them. Among some of the advice dished out, the importance of holding an internship came up from each speaker. Several mentioned having multiple internships as they worked towards getting their first job out of college. One speaker even stressed an internship as being a “critical” stepping stone.

Other tips for getting that first job out of college included volunteering for non-profits, having a mentor and not being too ambitious in your job hunt–though most people don’t really want a sales job, it can be a perfect starting point for a career in marketing. Bill Hatling talked about social media as being a “game changer” and his company is always looking for new hires who understand the trend. The media landscape, as he put it, has changed dramatically in the past decade and it makes sense for students to have a good understanding of new media. This means doing some self-study and finding something about it that interests you. At the very least you should maintain a clean online reputation, but you could take it further by blogging for a non-profit organization or helping a small business with its social media efforts.

On resumes, having good keywords that showcase your skills is important. More importantly though, making sure the resume you submit is catered to the company and the job description. If you feel you can provide the company a fresh perspective in social media strategy, then incorporate that into your resume. However, as Ryan Meints pointed out, having a great resume isn’t everything–he has never even submitted a resume for any of the jobs he has landed. From his perspective, networking is key.

Ryan’s point led to the importance of personal branding. As important as it is to maintain a positive online reputation, having something as basic as a good voice mail greeting is just as important. If you’re applying for jobs, would you want an employer to listen to a greeting that is a simple “Hey, leave a message” in a dull voice or would you rather actually greet your potential employer? My voice mail is simple, yet friendly: “You have reached the voice mail of Eric Wheeler. Please leave a message and your number and I will be sure to get back with you. Thanks!”

Probably the most important piece of advice came from Dan Schulzetenberg: “Understand what your values are.” That simple idea can have a huge impact on your life–whether you’re looking for that breakthrough job or you’re a seasoned pro. Always have strong values and work ethic and life will reward you. What are your values?

Image credit: www.socialsecurity.gov


PR in Social Media: Owning up to Mistakes

Just like Homer Simpson, we all make mistakes sometimes.

Just like Homer Simpson, we all make mistakes sometimes.

In my last post, I talked bout the power of social media on a personal level as it relates to St. Cloud State University choosing to eliminate homecoming. I had a short anecdote I wanted to include, but omitted due to my goal of keeping posts at 500 words or less. The anecdote was about a typo I had on a Facebook post for KVSC on homecoming being eliminated at SCSU:

“Top story at kvsc.org today: St. Cloud State University to climate Homecoming.”

Not sure what “climate” homecoming is all about, but people started making fun of the typo almost as soon as it was posted. Although the headline was posted as KVSC, I was the one behind the typo (or auto correct more specifically). So once it was called to my attention, I had to make a choice: remove the original post (also removing user comments) or own up to my mistake with a personal remark.

Being a PR guy, I felt it was important to be transparent and admit the goof up. So I simply replied to the post (with my name and face next to the comment) and made a little joke out of it with a reference to damnyouautocorrect.com.

Many social media experts believe it is important to always put a face with a company status update. Personally, I feel it depends on the type of post. Posting an article that is “trending” on your site should not require a face behind the post. However, if there does happen to be a typo, whoever made the error should own up to the mistake.

Lastly, just as a reporter should never remove an article with a factual error, a company should never remove a post or tweet with a mistake. It is much more professional to admit fault. Plus, admitting your mistake can only create more impressions and build credibility as a reputable source of information.

Thankfully, this was merely a typo and not anything offensive. Some celebrities and journalists alike have made “jokes” on Facebook or Twitter that have turned out to be quite offensive and created backlash from their followers. Check this article out to learn of a larger-scale mistake and how Kim Wilson suggests handling a “Twitter Faux Pas.”

I should mention I had a mistake in my last post as well. When I omitted the part about my mistake, I left a sentence in that was completely out of context. It was up for a few hours before I noticed it. Can’t even remember what it was now. Did I just break my own rule of owning up to mistakes?


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