It seems almost daily, someone makes the news for making an outlandish statement claiming erroneous facts as truth. Bob Knight, Jesse Jackson, Jon Kyl and Miss Teen South Carolina USA are just a few of the recent and infamous examples. In each case, they missed an important lesson in public speaking and interviewing 101: Don’t bluff your way through an answer.
In case you missed it, here is a quick recap of their respective missteps:
During budget debates earlier this month, Rep. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz) claimed abortions are “well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does.” (Turns out, it’s actually 3 percent)
And who could forget Miss Teen South Carolina USA 2007, Caitlin Upton’s frazzled and rambling response when asked about why U.S. children can’t find their home country on a map? (We can’t even offer a fact check on this. But this You Tube video can help refresh your memory about “South Africa, The Iraq, everywhere like such as”)
During a media interview you may find yourself in a similar position. But when a reporter asks you something you don’t know, making up a response (that is always “on the record”) can only end poorly for you, your company and your brand (and potentially land you in viral infamy.) Instead, your best tactic is to just be honest, and let the interviewer know you will provide an answer later. “You know, Amy, that is a great question, but unfortunately, I don’t have the statistics on that in front of me. But I will follow up with you this afternoon to get you an answer.”
However, if you find yourself in a live broadcast TV or podcast interview or an on the spot situation like a Q&A round after a speech, postponing is not an option. So instead, answer the question you wish you were asked that loops back to your core messaging (another Interview 101 tip.) So let’s revisit that poor Miss Teen South Carolina as an example. Let’s suppose her platform was physical fitness for kids. A better response would be “Students not being able to locate the U.S. on a map speaks to my concern that kids are spending too much time indoors and inactive. By encouraging more physical fitness and activity within education, all students will be better off.”
The best media interviews always look like a flawless, friendly conversation, with two people just bantering about. But getting to that point takes a lot of work, practice and preparation. And even the most seasoned interviewee will tell you they usually get asked at least one question that makes them stop to think. But rather than make it up, just remember, when in doubt, leave it out.
Schwartz friends and family might recall our December 2010 content marketing event with MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer Ann Handley and HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan. We received great feedback on the talk and were happy to see the room packed, but guess it's to be expected--content is very much on marketers' minds, particularly as they consider social media and lead generation.
Yesterday my colleagues John Moran, Matt Duffy, Ross Levanto and I got to meet up with Ann again to chat about topics ranging from the importance of setting content marketing goals (and why "we want a Twitter strategy" is absolutely not an appropriate goal), to how content marketing and PR can work together, to the relative importance of optimizing all that content.
The real question, however, was whether it's acceptable to order and eat two entrees at a business lunch. (Answer: It's absolutely fine, and is best accompanied by your story about the time you vacuumed up 14 Krispy Kremes without getting sick.)
Fortunately, we left time to talk about Ann's new book with co-author C.C. Chapman, Content Rules. The book has become required reading for Schwartzers, not only because we offer content marketing alongside our public relations, social media and public affairs programs, but because its suggestions are valuable across industry segments, I'd argue, and for companies of all sizes.
Most authors and speakers assume that all marketers and communicators find value in hearing about big-budget case studies from major brands, but honestly, I check email when someone starts talking about what car and candy companies accomplished with high six-figure budgets. Content Rules shows you how to work with the story, money and time that you've got.
Check it out if you haven't already to see how content and content marketing might work for your business. I know we'll be pulling the book's recommendations into many of our own programs.
I've been trying, pretty much in vain, to make my salads from our building's cafeteria taste like something. My latest strategy is putting so many jalapenos and Tabasco sauce on that I can't actually taste anything at all. Thank you, Altoids! And thank you, Google Reader, for bringing me updates to my many blog subscriptions so that lunchtime is always full of new ideas, if not flavor.
One of today's posts from paidContent talks about a broad reorganization of editorial responsibilities at Thomson Reuters, which of course runs Reuters. It says:
"As the internet has changed the game for how news is accessed and distributed, Reuters and its rivals, Bloomberg and Dow Jones, have been working for the past few years to streamline and refocus their respective operations to take better advantage of multimedia and attract a broader business audience.
"[The new editor in chief]'s move from the professional division a year after arriving at Reuters--following his departure as BusinessWeek's EIC as it was in the process of being sold to Bloomberg--has compressed those efforts as he's put his stamp on the newsroom quickly.
"For example, earlier this month, Chrystia Freeland was put in charge of the company's interactive efforts in the newly-created post of editor of Thomson Reuters Digital."
If you read other articles about recent changes at Reuters, you'll see that they and the other wire services are adjusting the way they operate in order to take into account things like the consumption of news on mobile devices (smartphones and iPad-like readers). That's a change in the way information is presented. Is the type of information they're working with also changing? I see, in yet another article, that Reuters is trying to offer more consumer content to supplement its business information.
That got me thinking about the wires in general. Wire stores are an integral part of much of Schwartz's work because one article about a medical therapy, an IT security breach or trends affecting an industry at large can be syndicated in dozens or hundreds of other outlets. While going direct to people using social media is important, it shouldn't come at the cost of also going broad (or high, if you like) to potentially reach millions of readers or viewers in national and local media, which tend to pick up wire stories.
As Reuters changes and looks to incorporate more video and stories that will appeal to people using all those mobile devices, it seems smart to revisit your approach to working with the wires and to ask yourself whether your content is likely to pass muster by outlets that want to stretch beyond straight business news. Not as a replacement for more precise messages for other outlets, but as an important addition.
What do you think--is your communications program wire-ready?
The lettuce image is covered by a Creative Commons license. My salad, however unique, is not.
Halfway through Mitch Joel’s keynote speech on the first day of Radian6’s inaugural social media measurement conference, Social 2011, I leaned over to my fellow Schwartz Research Group member, Kiley Phalan. In a day that ended with severe writer’s cramp from writing down so many optimistic social media visions of the future, I joked to Kiley that I would name my recap blog post “The Future is Going to be Awesome.” As the conference progressed, more emphasis was placed on how social media is changing the volume at which your average consumer can be heard, so I opted instead for one of my favorite John Lennon songs: Power to the People.
I could write a book with all of the intel I gathered at Social 11, but the takeaways were clear: the world (and business in particular) is in a transition phase. At one point in time, businesses learned how to adjust to telephones. Then came fax machines, the internet, email and now--social media. Radian6 CEO Marcel LeBrun calls it “the biggest transformative force in a century.” I can’t argue with that. It’s been known for a while that more people communicate via social networks than they do via email, a point that was echoed and driven home throughout the conference. Naturally, as social media continues to grow, people are starting to demand metrics to prove that social media is helping drive business. And we have them.
For those of you unfamiliar with Radian6, it’s one of many tools the Schwartz Research Group has in our measurement arsenal. Analyzing Radian6 metrics allows us to identify industry and news trends, listen to consumer conversations, determine key influencers and soon enough--report on your brand’s audience demographics with Radian6 Insights. Speaking of brands, we learned a lot about those too. Marcel LeBrun says “your brand is the sum of conversations about it.” Mitch Joel offered another definition, saying “your brand isn’t what you say it is--it’s what Google says it is.” Say what you will, but one thing is clear: with social media, businesses aren’t determining what their brand is any more--consumers are.
So what does this mean for the future? The Schwartz Research Group has a few predictions:
Demand for Measurement & ROI Imagine you’re a football coach. If you’re the only one who knows the score, what good are you? Words of wisdom from Amber Naslund, co-author of The NOW Revolution. It’s easy to have a score, but it’s better to know what you need to improve on. As many traditional businesses tread into the waters of social media, they’ll be unfamiliar with what kind of expectations to set. Measurement and benchmarking will be critical to establish realistic expectations and find out if your social media strategy is actually working.
The Consumer is in Charge “With social media, every customer is now a reporter.” Brands like Dell and Nike are utilizing social media to interact with their consumers. Social media monitoring allows us to effectively communicate with our customer base, ensuring that major customer concerns don’t go unanswered. To interact properly with the consumer, we need to be as human and personable as possible. Don’t be a business robot.
Social media has reunited families, changed the course of businesses and even helped overthrow dictatorships. “Power is no longer in the hands of who has the biggest buck--it’s in the hands of the community,” says Marcel LeBrun. We couldn’t agree more and we can’t wait to watch it all unfold.
The old adage states that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but this isn’t quite the case. Those of us who make our living in consumer PR know that managing our clients’ reputations is a big responsibility, and that it is critical that our client’s brand is seen in a positive light. A recent stain on the public reputation of Food Network star Ina Garten shows illustrates how important it is to manage a brand’s reputation tightly.
The advent of the internet brought unparalleled benefits to humankind—instant, constant and limitless access to information has made our globe smaller than ever before. Unfortunately, the down side to this rapid flow of information is that mistakes can become public at a moment’s notice, and in some cases, causing permanent harm to reputation. Yet at the same time, harnessing the web is essential to successfully gaining visibility and loyal fans.
In the case of Ina Garten, a simple mistake has seriously called into question her likeability as a person, and by extension, as a brand. For the sake of full disclosure, I’d like to state that I’ve always been a fan of Ina’s. Her recipes are fantastic (if not a little heavy on the salt) and the image she portrays of life in the Hamptons makes me want to up and move every time I see an episode of her wonderfully entertaining show on the Food Network, “The Barefoot Contessa.” But Ina messed up recently, as we all do from time to time. When a six year-old boy with Leukemia requested to cook a meal with her through the Make a Wish Foundation, she declined. Twice.
At first glance this seems utterly heartless, and frankly, at odds with the public persona we’ve all come to love and admire. After all, she used to work in the White House! Her devotion to her husband Jeffrey is nothing short of heartwarming. Could she really be so cruel as to turn down the wish of a critically ill six-year-old? The short answer is yes, but for good (well, good enough) reason. In public statements, Ina’s representatives have emphasized the number of requests for perfectly worthy charitable causes the star receives in a given year—hundreds—stating that there are more than any person could conceivably take on. This is understandable.
The trouble is, the mother of this six year-old boy has a blog. And when she got the news that Ina had turned down her son’s invitation, well, she blogged about it. Suddenly this “snub,” which may well have gone completely unnoticed in decades past, went viral.
The resulting fallout was, frankly, a mess. Ina’s people made an attempt to schedule a meeting as a result of the public outcry against her, but to no avail—the child’s parents did not want to put him through any additional stress. He will learn to live with the disappointment, even as he faces Leukemia.
At the end of the day, the story is just sad. A six year-old boy will not get his wish, and a celebrity who (as far as we know) had good intentions must live with a less-than-savory reputation, at least for now. No one wins, but one thing is perfectly clear: the internet is powerful, and to underestimate its power will only end in trouble.
The lesson to PR professionals is clear: we live in a different world now, and one where we all must (and will) be held accountable for our actions. We must assume that anything that could be made public will be made public, knowing that a single headline can become a thousand headlines in a matter of minutes or even seconds. We need to tread lightly. With great power comes great responsibility; we must use it wisely.
So here’s the deal, last week New York City hosted the first of many firsts: the debut of the Daily Deal Summit. The daily deal industry has spawned over 500 similar businesses with the same general business model. The summit was an opportunity for all the players to come together as peers, rather than competitors, to discuss the ramifications they’ve placed on the consumer.
The business of couponing has now become a behemoth of an industry, taking a slide of the billions of dollars the U.S. retail industry U.S. generates. Just like a popularity contest, there are more recognizable brands then those that are the new kids on the “deal” block. Big names like Groupon, LivingSocial (who expects to earn over $1B this year alone) and Gilt participated in conference panel discussions, delivering snappy answers to the little guys’ questions on the pursuit of success.
One challenge that faces the whole couponing industry, and came up repeatedly throughout the day on panel discussions: How do you make daily deals matter to consumers who don’t want what everyone else has?
The word of the future is personalization.
In an era where a novel experience or product discount is simply a social coupon away, more online shoppers are buying discounts to things they wouldn’t normally be able to buy (or willingly afford to splurge on). Yet the problem that became apparent at the Summit was that while Groupon and LivingSocial can get you that once in a lifetime deal, can they keep you as a customer?
Most marketing communication strategies’ endgame is to retain customers. Daily deal sites offer the deal to millions of people, and 83% of them “can’t wait” to open their emails, according to VatorNews. Yet many purchasers are left grumbling. Why? Because millions of others are getting the same deal. We all want to feel special, especially if we’re paying a good amount of money for that treatment. And it’s these companies’ job to make us feel special. The novelty is started to dwindle, and daily deal marketing execs are scrambling to find ways to make the experience that much more personal. It’s the power of “I” marketing.
One of the ways that some of the more ingenious daily deal companies have found to do such a thing is by offering credit. DealPulp.com, the only national daily deal site that offers a 100% national online deal (even to rural Arkansas residents who for which no Groupon is relevant), occasionally offers $1 purchase deals for $10 in credit to use site wide over a period of time (full disclosure, DealPulp is a client in our Consumer PR practice). Out of 90,000+ subscribers, over 20,000 of them continue to open that day’s deal. It’s natural selection. Another marketing effort seen at the show is to offer rarely accessible bundles of things, like couture or vintage clothing a la Gilt or RueLaLa. Another option is go hyper-luxe: offer we consumers a vacation package to Malta or a private experience in a restaurant/theatre/adventure. This way, the average daily deal purchaser feels taken care of because the daily deal knows us.
Customer acquisition is a tough problem that every company with a product has. A retailer is more likely to have a customer become loyal if they can expect something that their friends can’t have. Make it about me. That’s not a request, it’s a demand. If you want to push product at me, it better be served on a silver platter. It’s the marketing mentality of pedestaling the purchaser. And people like me eat it up. Because really, I’m kind of a big deal.
I've been considering a post I read last week from Joshua Benton on the Nieman Journalism Lab blog. I wouldn't say that I missed the point that Mr. Benton is making in "Decline, plateau, decline: New data on The Daily suggests a social media decline and a tough road ahead." He's talking about the early success, or maybe lack thereof, of The Daily, a news brand launched two months ago for the iPad. As I read his post, however, I thought about some general implications for how companies measure the effectiveness of PR programs.
In the post, Mr. Benton describes how he's extrapolating information about the size of the paid readership of The Daily. He has to resort to an educated guess because "[n]o one outside of News Corp. and Apple has a reliable way of knowing how often people read The Daily." Contrast this to data available about most websites and web-based publications, which can sort of be measured using tools like Alexa.com and Compete.com.
As a surrogate for those tools, Mr. Benton looks at stats about the volume of Daily articles that paid subscribers share via Twitter. Basically, more tweets probably indicate more readers. He knows that this is an imperfect measure, but it's what he's got. Using it, he's suggesting that the "general direction" for the publication is down.
That's probably interesting to the many people who are trying to figure out whether the iPad and other readers will help news publishers make more money. But for me, as a PR person, the take-away message is that as more content is consumed on iPads or other readers, it may become even tougher to measure the number of people a publication reaches. This makes the accuracy of one of the easiest PR metrics to gather--impressions--even more suspect.
But if publishers choose not to report their iPad or other reader figures, where does that leave PR people who tally results based on number of impressions? Making bigger and bigger guesses over time, it seems. To me, this argues for marketers making more of an effort to keep our collective eye on what really matters, which is action taken by people who read those articles. More website traffic? Shortened sales cycles? Improved reputation? These sorts of things can be tough or expensive to measure, so many companies pass them up in favor of what they can put their finger on.
Maybe Apple will become the new Cision and start selling data about how many people actually buy magazine and newspaper apps. In the meantime, I took Mr. Benton's post as a reminder to pay attention to evaluating what matters--action undertaken because of PR--and not to simply collect figures that are readily available.
Sam Whitmore's invaluable media survey site is used by PR pros every day for insight into the changing nature of the media universe.
Occasionally, Sam pays a visit to Schwartz to exchange views on what we are seeing from the front lines. This week, during his visit, Sam agreed to sit down in front of our cameras. Per an earlier blog post, I was eager to talk to him about new approaches certain media outlets are incorporating to derive revenue. Most recently, the New York Times has launched its digital subscription services. You can watch the video below.
Last week, Oprah announced her final show will air on May 25. After so many notable (and some infamous) moments, the world is abuzz with what is in store for Oprah’s farewell. We asked members of Schwartz Communications’ consumer practice to give us their predictions:
Allison VanNest: Oprah will invite President Obama and the first family to her last show. They'll talk about the American Dream and she'll provide audience members with scholarship funds. Stedman will join the show and clear up any lingering doubts about his relationship with the talk show queen, and they will announce that they are adopting a child together.
Andrea Hawley: To a certain extent, I expect Oprah's final show will follow the mold of other “farewell shows”: a trip down memory lane and a blooper reel (I just hope it includes a flash back to those early 90s commercials that proclaim "OPRAH'S ON!" and so you must stop talking, working, doing laundry, etc.) Any guests appearing on the final show will have a light hearted feel to them. And to top it off for all the lucky audience members, one of each of Oprah's favorite things for the past 25 years (and the money to cover the taxes on all those items!)
Carol McGarry: Oprah has been mending fences with old friends with whom she subsequently had a falling out. So perhaps on the last show, she’ll apologize to all the people who made fools of themselves on her show, by revealing way too much about themselves. Naturally, Tom Cruise will be at the head of the line. We can only hope.
On a more serious note, she is taking a big risk with her own channel. Will her audience follow her there? I’m thinking she’ll do a last show that is very personal and relates her personality very strongly to her viewers. Perhaps she’ll do a kind of Oprah travelogue that follows her emotional and professional journey since starting the show. She might have highlights of her favorite interviews. Or perhaps she’ll bring her staff in front of the cameras to thank them and end with a group hug, like the last episode of Mary Tyler Moore back in the day.
Chris Prouty: It’s possible that Oprah may put Stedmond and Gayle (as well as her long-lost sister) in the interviewee seat. She’ll do a recap of her career, along with a final group of her guests spanning from the beginning to the last show. She’ll have a musical guest like Jennifer Hudson or someone equally with pipes (Aretha, Aguilera, Jessie J, Alicia Keys, etc). Obama and Mariah Carey will do a live feed well-wishing.
The final product placement: cable for all her guests, since her new network OWN is on a brand new paid cable channel! That or she’ll offer to put every child of every guest through college, as that was a big topic for her.
Julie Goldman: I think as a final guest Michelle Obama is a definite contender. First, she is an easier “get” than the president, especially while there are so many major global problems. The First lady also combines a lot of what Oprah viewers love—smarts, family, fashion, and she brings a bit of politics without a heavy hand. And the Obamas’ Chicago connection can’t be denied.
As for a giveaway: During this season’s Favorite Things, Oprah said her all-time favorite Ting is her iPad and she gave everyone one. Now that the iPad2 is out, maybe Oprah will give her final audience the newest tablet.
Other random thoughts: Could she do a “walk down memory lane” of notable guests? I am thinking Maya Angelou, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Jennifer Aniston (she loves Jen), and even infamous folks like James Frey (A Million Little Pieces). This season she has devoted entire episodes to catching up on big stories from years past. (UPDATE 4/21/11 According to TMZ.com, James Frey WILL be coming back to chat)
Finally, a crazy thought—Maybe there will be no guests. It will just be Oprah, alone, talking about the past 25 years, what it means to her, how it’s impacted her, what’s changed, what hasn’t, and her thoughts about the future, not just for the OWN network, but for her as a person.
Kim Angell: Oprah has launched careers for several people. I can envision Nate Berkus, Rachel Ray, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz coming on to share what it means to be part of her inner circle. I think she will use her last show to announce yet another protégé and then give away tickets to be guests on their show.
Mark McClennan: I predict the show will open with Tom Cruise jumping up and down on the couch. It will then go to her last significant interview…with Barak Obama. For the next to last segment, she will have Celine Dion on to sing another song and talk about motherhood (Celine has been on the show more than anyone else). The final credits will have Oprah flying away in a plane piloted by John Travolta (her first guest).
As for the giveaway, I predict that GM will be on, giving everyone a new Chevy Volt. (Failing that they will donate the money the Volts would have cost to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami relief in conjunction with the Red Cross).
Do you agree with any of the predications above? What (or who) do you most want to see in her final episode?
Ladies and gentlemen, you are looking at a winner. Last week, I won an Australian low-flow toilet from Grist.org and Caroma through a contest I read out about on Twitter. Admittedly, as the renter of a small apartment in San Francisco, this does create more problems for me than it solves. Yet I still manage to feel awesome because of it. A toilet? Yes. Why did I enter? Several reasons:
a) It was easy. The contest itself came about organically, based off a post designed to skewer Libertarian Senator Rand Paul's war on toilet & light bulb efficiency. The toilet company read it and partnered with the site for a giveaway. I was a fan of the original piece, and the contest merely requested I provide my name and email address to be entered to win.
b) It was interactive. The writer, publication, toilet company and I have exchanged a few hilarious tweets and those interactions brightened my day.
c) The genius and novelty of Free Stuff. For nothing. Enough said.
Contests have humble roots, usually of the corn-picking/hula-hooping variety at small, community-oriented events. Winners were celebrated as small-town heroes, and eventually companies in these communities began sponsoring and organizing their own contests as a means of gaining exposure and credibility with the consumers they coveted. While Mom would be gearing up to take home the $50,000 prize she hoped to win in Pillsbury's annual Bake-Off contest, her kids were busy writing an essay to Kraft's panel of esteemed judges for the chance at winning a full-sized rocket simulator (between saving their Bazooka Joe comics and cutting out General Mills box tops for their growing collection of decoder rings & spy watches, of course).
Over the years, many companies grew up and lost their small town appeal. Contests got more outlandish and gimmicky (sometimes even dangerous - remember the woman who died during the "hold your wee, win a Wii" contest?). Contest-driven consumer-brand interaction has had a long, strange trip, but thanks to smart consumer PR and the rise of social media, it appears to be approaching another golden age.
From the perspective of a brand (be it established or aspiring), the rules have been re-written. A simple reply or RT can quickly make a customer into a brand loyalist. Most of the active Twitter and Facebook users I know follow several of their favorite brands (whether they fancy themselves consumers or not), and clever brand awareness campaigns that leverage social media are a great way to drive conversation onto facebook walls and twitter feeds and beyond, to water coolers and barstools.
From a consumer’s perspective, expressing appreciation for or airing a grievance at a brand via twitter and facebook is a far more effective means of eliciting a response than waiting on hold for someone half a world away to take your call, or writing a letter expressing your gratitude or dissatisfaction. In our increasingly connected, socially-driven lives, this type of transparency directly translates to power.
While I have no idea what I will do with my new toilet (by the way, it can flush a freakin' potato!), my next mission is to taunt the Wheat Thins tweet team (@CrunchIsCalling) and inspire them to track me down with their creepy windowless van and present me with a free box on camera. Do I need a box of Wheat Thins (or even *like* them that much)? No. But it’ll be fun. No word yet on whether the concept of brand taunting actually works. Consider this case-study “in progress."
In college, I got into the habit of reading the physical copy of the New York Times every day. Granted, that was in the mid 1990s, but I still read primarily the print copy of the paper even today. Over the past month, the New York Times has gone through the oft-dreaded process of starting to charge for its electronic version. Sure, you can read X number of articles for free, and any articles you are brought to via a search engine are free, but the bottom line is, the days of free NYTimes.com content are over.
An admired media watcher, Sam Whitmore, is visiting Schwartz next week. Last time he was here, we had a nice discussion about the bifurcated models used by certain publications in an attempt to derive revenue from online content. He noted how many efforts have not worked.
In the case of the New York Times, my reaction to the whole shift has been interesting. For the first time since I was in college, I might actually become a permanent New York Times subscriber.
I have dabbled with the idea for a long time. Subscribing to the print edition, that is. However, often the paper is delivered to my downtown Boston apartment after I have left in the morning. With an electronic subscription, however, the game has changed.
This morning, I signed up for a NYTimes.com subscription for access via my work and home computers and via my iPhone. I don't own an iPad yet, but when I eventually get one, no doubt I will upgrade so that I can also read NYTimes.com content there.
As an aside, a co-worker came to my office this morning and showed me how she accesses morning newspaper content on her Kindle. The advantage of the Kindle is that you don't have to pay for wireless charges like you do on an iPad. Then again, the newspaper content on the Kindle is not as jazzy or colorful as that on the iPad.
Why am I suddenly hooked on the electronic options? The reason is convenience. I often search NYTimes.com content for work, and I like the immediacy of news on my iPhone during the day. I wonder if other avid New York Times fans have had a similar reaction to the electronic options.
And I wonder if the day is coming soon when I will no longer buy the paper in the morning.