As overt and shameless mediaphiles, we PR folks jump at any chance to get an inside look at how the media machine works. You had us at hello, you are the wind beneath our wings, we just can’t quit you and we’d like to wear your skin, media. So, when PRSA hosted a panel titled “Inside the Newsroom of All Things D,” I was ready to rock. Oh, and did I mention this event was held on the Facebook campus? That’s right – the opportunity to check-in atFacebook, on Facebook was not overlooked. Score.
While we waited for the panel to begin, most of my PR brethren were locked to their phones furiously reading Google alerts, re-tweeting and having other out-of-body, media driven experiences. And then, the All Things D panel of Mike Isaac, Ina Fried, Liz Gannes and Beth Callaghan arrived on stage to answer all our burning questions.
“How do you like to be pitched?”
“So...what exactly is your beat?”
“What are you working on right now?”
“What makes for a good story?”
You don’t have to be MacGyver to realize that everyone repackaged the same question in a different way. All we really want to know is “What do we have to do to get you to write about our clients?”
Then, Mike Isaac said something amazing. Brilliant, in fact. I half expected him to drop the mic and walk off of the stage. He said, “Remember that we are both humans just trying to work together in this rat race of news.”
And, here’s what’s beautiful about that.
Obsession with news, and those who make it, comes with the territory. We are junkies with powerful enablers like The Huffington Post, Associated Press and New York Times. While we are all still waiting for the technology that delivers news alerts directly to our frontal lobes in real-time, it is easy to forget what’s behind the curtain at Oz – a real person.
There is no trick, or secret code to good public relations. While we may wish there was a formula of X + Z = WSJ coverage, let’s be real – none of us went into PR because of our stellar math skills. If given a choice between the superpowers of flight or invisibility, most PR folks would ask – which can I trade for a psychic connection with media?
PR superheroes aren’t those who live inside their news feed 24-hours a day. They are the ones who simply tell a compelling story, to the right people, grounded in the real world with relatable, human elements.
Heck, I could get used to this human thing. Now, if I could just figure out how to spin it.
When asked what makes their model different during an INFORUM panel discussion with Pando Daily’s Sarah Lacy at the Commonwealth Club San Francisco, Fab.com’s CEO Jason Goldberg and CCO Bradford Shellhammer immediately quipped with those phrases.
Launched last June, Fab expects to do $100 million in sales this year. Fab.com’s business model may be an anomaly, but they’ve hammered home that in order to keep consumer interest in the fickle world of e-commerce, a brand has to get to the heart of the matter: liking what you’re selling.
Fab.com is a design-focused flash sale site combined with innovative social commerce features. The site features daily sales and design inspirations from everyday users and established chandlers alike. Yet throughout the panel discussion, the two heads of the company did not say they were a flash sale site. On the contrary, they consistently maintained the message that they were there as a medium (they prefer the term “platform”) for consumers who enjoy seeing and/or purchasing design-centric items.
Shellhammer divulged that every brand, not necessarily each item, on the site has to be approved by him before it goes live on the site. And he has gone on record that he doesn’t care if there is a large quantity of the item or if it’ll sell well. Just as long as he likes it.
The idea of curation versus profit margin is a tricky concept. On one hand the idea behind an e-commerce is to sell product. Otherwise it wouldn’t be an e-commerce. On the other, having more of an abstract (read: emotional) take on presentation and the products themselves takes the uncomfortable thought of “we’re SELLING you something” out of the experience. Or at the very least, it can push the consumer to purchase because there isn’t that cold pressure to buy.
Bringing the NEED for the design instead of the LOW COST of the product seems to be the magic bullet that Fab.com has found. They just hit the 4.8 million user mark, and generate over $300,000 in sales a day. And this is with products from varying artists and designers of different retail industries that are sold at a discount- but not so cheaply that the costs overrides the consumer focus on the product.
Interestingly enough, Project Runway host Heidi Klum coined the catchphrase “you’re either in, or you’re out” in regards to the designer hopefuls cast on the tv show. The question that remains for us is: How do you maintain an enduring experience for consumers when even pop culture changes?
"The only reason I love social media is only because it sells S#$%. I don't give a S$%& about Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook or whatever, I care about where my customers' attention is going so I can sell them S#$%"
Gary Vynerchuck, curseword user extraordinaire, got into business at 13. He made $1,000 a weekend selling baseball cards and was sitting on a pretty pile of cash ($30k) within a year, that's when his Dad made him go to "work" at the family liquor store. Pretty quickly, Gary realized collecting wine was almost the same thing as baseball cards and by 1997 winelibrary.com was born.
Vynerchuck saw his competitors were sending out catalogues or faxing (yes, sending paper through a machine!) when he figured out e-mail! What started out as a weekly email sales offer turned into bi-weekly email service, then daily email service, then 5 days a week and then daily. At first, it was awesome and everyone opened, read and used the coupons in his emails, but like most things, the more you give the more diminished returns.
He goes on to say that you have to pay attention to culture shifts and get onboard no matter how much time it takes. Didn't we first think the WEB was a fad? Didn't we first think that Twitter was fad!? So, where do we spend our time next? After realizing that EVERYONE is now on email, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Gary declares retention is the next stage in the game. It's not how many customers you get, it's how many you can keep. It's the lifetime value and % of wallet you get from your clients.
With that, similar to the context discussion yesterdsay, the next step isn't just about finding people, but finding what their interested in. Through all of the social media tools out there we can learn about you and then, we give a F*&^, and we can sell to you better. Effort for the end user is such a valuable thing, if they can sense your effort in learning about them, they want you.
"As our world goes more Jetsons, the marketers and business people that act like the Flinstones are gonna win" This is awesome as I have been described as an old soul and my aesthetic as "grandma chic." Gary talked about how our grandparents way of business (showing potential clients you're interested and showing real clients that you are still interested) works!
You've got to build a brand or else it's a tactic, and the brands that win put in the effort. if you can figure out how to afford the allocation of effort, your long term value will be dramatically higher! If you do anything at all, audit what you and your business do and and take the percentage of dumb stuff and put it towards effort in your customers. Use technology to bring us back together and show you care about people. It matters.
In summary, Gary says do nice S*%$ while you've got them, not when they're going!
The other two sessions were: Inbound Marketing Success Within An Enterprise- David Donland @ddonlan, Kevin Karner @kkarner23 (Performable, acquired by HubSpot) and Part 2: The View from the Marketer's Eye by Mark Sneider- Owner/President RSW/US & RSW/ AgencySearch. Lessons learned can be found soon in a little something we are working on! Hope you enjoyed the #Inbound12 play-by-play and that I'll see some of you there next year!
More music, more excitement, more #inbound12! Day 3 and no signs that this team is slowing down. As Darmesh very excitedly shouted, "a few years from now we will say 'remember when Inbound was only 2800 people!'" So to keep it concise- things are moving fast and it's awesome to be on this train.
There's a massive transformation about how we input into the world, now we have an accelerated pace! In the same note, there's a shift in the pattern of shopping and learning and we have to transform to match human behavior. People are getting better and better at blocking out the traditional marketing format.
We used to use the phone and marketers could find us… now we have caller id and can screen! We ignore mail, let it pile up because we know it's nothing important. Email, we can now prioritze our inboxes and send messages to spam and use Ad Blocker to block ads.
We need to create marketing people love! This means we create remarkable content and then use that content to pull people in (stop interrupting people with emails and blasts and let them come to you!)
2. Where's inbound marketing going, what does the next 6 years look like? And how does 1+1=3?
Simply put: We use content to pull them in, and context to pull them through!
The key to context is making magic and making your tools work together in completely new ways. Based off an Amazon example we can all understand, Darmesh and Brian call this magic making effect the 1+1=3! You know how when you go to Amazon.com it's like your best friend recommending a book. For instance, they suggest books on tennis, dogs, and marketing to me... perfect, my three favorite things! The more presonalized it gets, the more we want to use it... this is the context engine in action and the next generation of marketing!
3. What HubSpot is doing to power the next phase
HubSpot3, the biggest release in HubSpot history, is revolutionizing the way our contacts, leads, landing pages, blog posts and social media all can work TOGETHER to get us results. And I, for one, am excited to use it!
Closed Loop Social with HootSuite and HubSpot - Craig Ryomoto @craigryomoto Director, Pro User Growth & revenue HootSuite
Now that we have social media, how do you prove ROI from social media? This is called closing the social loop. Without getting into the details too much, the basics include:
1. Listen to your customers, competitors, and influencers
2. Engage with your audience in their platform of choice
3. Analyze and understand the results and engineer better outcomes
How to create eBooks and Webinars Your Prospects Will Love - Maggie Georgieva, Inbound Marketing Manager, HubSpot
Maggie is an Inbound Ninja and shared some great tips on creating remarkable content:
ase your content decisions on DATA
Look at blog analytics, which posts get the most views?
Look at page performance, which page is doing the best?
Landing page analytics, which people are visiting the page and thought it was compelling enough to fill out the form
Email marketing analytics, look at the names that resonate with people
Look at which format gets you the most return, if it is eBooks do a ton more!
What if you don't have much data? Check other sources of data (Google news and enter an industry keyword, see what's recent and newsworthy and being published)
When to publish? The more social media updates, landing pages, web pages etc… the more leads you get
31-40 landing pages gets you 7x more than 5-6 pages --> PUBLISH MORE
Prefect is the enemy of good, Voltaire… just get good content and stop trying to make it perfect--> PUBLISH OFTEN
Publish more and often:
Repackage the content: Expand a blog and make it longer, reduce an eBook to a blog. Repurposing the content to publish it more.
Combine 20 how-to blog posts into an eBook or guide
Curated Content- re-packaging content! Go to LinkedIn and find a conversation or ask people what they think about a specific topic and gather the quotes and information etc.
101 awesome marketing quotes, 54 pearls of marketing wisdom, learning LinkedIn from the experts (use numbers and images)
Is your offer compelling enough?
Did you target the right audience, did you send it to the right people?
Are you not sending enough traffic to it?
Key steps for suceeeding with marketing offers
Don't optimize before you build strong foundations. Use real data to drive your content strategy. Publish often & iterate later do more of what's working
There were three other great discussions today that covered Increasing Facebook ROI, Introverts in Marketing, and an amazing guide to Making Content Work for You in A Sales Pitch! Stay tuned tomorrow for more marketing magic from #Inbound12!
At the risk of using an Olympic metaphor one month too late, public relations has evolved into two forms of running. Social media is the sprinter, or Usain Bolt, and traditional media relations is Meb Keflezighi (if you know who he is), or the marathoner.
Social media is a world of short bursts in which you can largely control the narrative. With 140 character tweets, three paragraph blog posts and spontaneous Facebook and LinkedIn campaigns, it’s possible to create the exact message you want to reach the exact audience at the exact time. If you can drive and control your campaign the way a sprinter rockets down his assigned 100 meters of space on a smooth precise track, you will win.
Media relations doesn’t work this way. You don’t have the control like you do with social media. Just like in a marathon where the weather and the course are as important as the competition, the success of a media relations campaign is not solely based on the quality of your narrative. It is impacted by outside factors such as a reporter’s subjective interest in the story, a larger competitor’s news trumping yours or last second external events that occupy the media agenda for days on end. You also must rely on outside parties like customer references and outside experts to tell your story, in the same way that a marathoner is dead without electrolytes and PowerBars. The campaign cycle for media relations is also a much longer process; results don’t happen overnight. It requires patience, endurance and flexibility, and to never give up until it is over.
Olympic sprinters and marathoners must specialize; endurance is useless to a sprinter and blinding speed is relevant for only the last 10 meters of a marathon. Companies however, must develop and execute a strategic social media and media relations campaign if they are going to win the gold medal of customer awareness that drives adoption.
As of August 8, Great Britain has seen an overwhelming amount of support on Twitter and Facebook, securing more than 3,000,000 mentions over the past 30 days. Even weeks before the Olympics started, #TeamGB was tweeted thousands of times daily. The public using the hashtag #TeamGB or #TeamGreatBritain included remarks about being proud of their country or would also include the hashtag #OurGreatestCountry. Specifically, there was a lot of support for Jessica Ennis, Tom Daley and Mo Farah on social media.
Even with the gold medal for country spirit, Great Britain is behind USA and China in total medals. But, USA and China spirit on Twitter has been a little short. The USA spirit peaked around the swimming events and then started to die down after Phelps, which makes me question: in the USA, are we more ‘TeamUSA’ or ‘TeamPhelps’?
Conversation around Michael Phelps dominated the social discussion in the Olympics, doubling the total number of mentions for #TeamUSA, and Phelps saw over 500,000 more Twitter mentions than Great Britain’s prideful spirit. Below, you’ll find the top 10 countries with the highest social media discussion.
Last night, millions of Americans were transfixed by the gold-medal winning performance of the U.S women’s gymnastics team. The “Fab Five,” as members of the media now fondly call them, made history by catapulting the U.S. to its first Olympic gold in women’s gymnastics since 1996.
However, one look at the social media discussion shows that Americans (and the NBC announcers) were far more consumed by concern for Jordyn Wieber—the reigning world champion who was narrowly edged out of the women’s all-around final earlier this week—than cheering on the team or team members who did advance to the women’s all-around final.
At around 11 p.m. last night when the events were airing, Wieber was the subject of at least 9,000 tweets, blog posts, and Facebook posts, compared to Raisman and Douglas who garnered about 3,300 and 2,500 respectively. Even today, Wieber continues to dominate.
Raisman and Douglas will both advance to tomorrow’s all-around final, giving the U.S. another plum shot to win gold. Raisman brought the house down with a floor routine and Douglas overcame a months-long struggle on her balance beam routine to prevail, yet neither sparked much conversation in the blogosphere or Twitterverse.
Wieber also trumped mentions of Team USA in relation to gymnastics by about 4,000 mentions.
Overall, Wieber received about 46 percent share of voice for all discussion about U.S. women’s gymnastics and the athletes competing.
This data raises an interesting question: Do setbacks inspire the American public to chime in more than success stories? And if not, why do you think discussion about Wieber overshadowed the tremendous performances other team members delivered last night?
The Olympic Blog Guest Post is courtesy of Michelle Hirsch, a member of the Schwartz MSL Research & Insights Group
When it comes to social media discussion and celebrity, the answer is a resounding no.
To date, U.S. Olympians have won five gold medals in the 2012 games. They have been mentioned 176,568 times on social media over the past few days. Some, such as Lochte and Franklin are household names. As of now Franklin is a slightly bigger social media phenomenon than Lochte.
But what about the other gold medalists?
Matt Grevers is getting short shrift behind Lochte and Phelps, which just shows the danger of being overshadowed by competition that have bigger brand names to begin with (despite Grevers being tied for the most medals to date).
And if you are Kim Rhode or Dana Vollmer? You are not getting the attention you deserve. Rhode won a Gold in Women’s skeet, yet has been mentioned only 1,598 times over the past few days. To put it in perspective, that is a 0.8% share of voice. Even then, she is beating Dana Vollmer, gold medalist who won the women’s 100m butterfly, who received a bit more than 1,400 mentions.
This reinforces that point that while social media is increasing Olympic buzz to a height never seen before, it is still being driven by the more prominent sports and what NBC makes a focus.
The XXX Olympiad is being called the "first social media Olympics." While I don't agree with the moniker, more attention is being paid to both the social media aspects of the Games and the availability of content as never before.
The members of the Schwartz MSL Research & Insights Group are die-hard Olympics fans. I remember staying up and watching wrestling at 1:00 a.m. for previous Olympics. The breadth of coverage has been great this year – my two sons and I loved watching the women’s foil matches on Saturday afternoon.
As the Olympics approached, we wanted to see - with the democratization of the Olympics through social media, are once niche sports letting their fans and followers communicate as never before?
The answer seems to be a resounding "yes." While swimming and gymnastics continue their dominance (69% share of voice), over the past three days, the other two most discussed sports were water polo and beach volleyball. Although it must be noted, discussion of these events spiked right after they aired on the main NBC broadcasts, showing the power of the network’s spotlight.
Don't believe me? See for yourself…
Most of the conversations for some of the niche sports revolved around people commenting on how cool it was, how surprising they were to watch and how tough the athletes were. There were quite a few jokes as well. When it came to the “majors” more discussion was around the results.
Note: Schwartz MSL used Radian 6 to analyze the social media discussions across Twitter, blogs and other channels since the opening ceremony. We used common event names, plus permutations (i.e. swimming included event types as well as Phelps and Lochte). We only looked at social media in English and the topic spread may well be different in different countries of the world.
What do you think about social media and the Olympics so far?
More and more brands are flocking to Twitter to connect with customers, engage in dialogue and spread their promotions. But recently there seems to be a spate of tweets that can be called clueless at best, and offensive at worst.
Just this weekend, I was exposed to the latest example of clueless marketing on Twitter. In this case it was someone using the horrible incident in Aurora, Colo. to promote their clothing brand.
(Note: I cut their name out so as not to give them any more free publicity).
If this were an isolated incident, I would just shake my head and move on. But it appears we have reached an inflection point where more and more clueless marketers are thinking that any trending hashtag is something to glom onto.
The now infamous Cairo shoes tweet:
There is also the less popular, but shocking Tsunami alerts are good for business. This one comes from a marketer in Thailand who must have forgotten that 8,000+ people were killed by a Tsunami in Thailand in 2004.
“Let's hurry home and follow the earthquake news. And don't forget to order your favorite [XXX] menu”
Then there is the less well known but still shocking tweet sent out by one coffee chain in the republic of Ireland:
What is my advice to marketers, communicators and public relations professionals on using Twitter hashtags?
Twitter is a great place for sharing news, observations and having two way conversations
Using #hashtags is a great way to label your content and bring it to the attention of those engaged in topical conversations
#hashtags are not a good way to interject your totally off topic or even tangential promotion or brand message into an ongoing debate, tragedy, revolution or social movement.
Never tweet alone. Before sharing a tweet using a trending #hashtag, ask a colleague or better yet three colleagues what they think of your brilliant and creative idea.
If you can think of any way that your planned tweet could be considered offensive…step away from the keyboard, iPad or touchscreen. If you don’t – do not blame me when you are pilloried by the Twitterverse
Do you have any other advice or horror stories to share? If so, leave a comment.
There are three things I’m addicted to: my social networks, HBO’s Game of Thrones and fresh fruit. But really how often do at least two of those intersect? I was struck dumb this morning by the seemingly innocuous inside label of a strawberry container:
“Scan our QR code with your smart phone…Check us out on [insert labels for Facebook, YouTube and Twitter].”
How amazing is it that even perishable consumer goods have their own social following on social networks? A bit of investigation revealed that: 545,000 registered users on Facebook currently “Like” (and like!) strawberries. That means that out of the 750 million people on Facebook (1 in 9 people out of the total global population), 7.3 percent of them like strawberries. Compare that to strawberry daiquiris, where 1.1 percent of the total Facebook network “Like” their berries boozy.
Looking at YouTube, 490 million unique users who visit every month (as of February 2011) and over 190,000 of the videos involve the strawberry. That means there’s a 3.88% chance that someone at any given moment is watching a video about the berry.
The advent of websites for food has grown dramatically as well. A study done by MSLGROUP Americas published in this month’s Food Technology monthly states that social and digital media have replaced moms in the family kitchen.
"As consumers use social media to discover and share information about food, they quickly become more active participants in food culture," the study's authors, Steve Bryant and Laurie Demeritt, wrote. "They look to bloggers and other opinions online to expand their culinary horizons and make purchase decisions."
If companies want to gain the attention of consumers, they must use social media to communicate in ways that are authentic and personable, the study found.
So back to strawberries—the brand dishing the fruit now allow consumers who buy their product (similar to any B2C brand out there) to connect with them on multiple channels, increasing the content that’s available for everyone to view online.
A piece of advice for brands that make the social jump: make sure the content, like fruit, is fresh. Expiration dates and consumers don’t mix well.
Today was a great day at SxSW. I had the pleasure of attending three different sessions on payments and mobile wallets, one on the future of retail and a most inspiring session that looked at updating classic iconic ads for today’s technology.
I was prepared to write a very payments-focused post. But as I was thinking about today, I realize the key lessons for PR and business professionals transcend the payments market. Every presenter today, in their own way, was talking about convergence.
What do I mean?
Too often communications, marketing and business professionals think about communications and sales channels. Despite our best efforts we silo our thoughts. What does mobile allow us to do for payments, what business use can we get from mobile devices, what is the future of digital video?
While that thinking is important, it can also be limiting. It was expressed in different ways on the different panels, but it came down to a few observations.
Mobile payments isn’t about payments. If all you think about is taking a contactless card and putting it on a smartphone, you are missing the bigger opportunity and the market won’t grow. Isis is taking it a step further and realizing that for mobile to succeed it needs to be better, faster and cheaper. As I discussed yesterday, they are betting on loyalty, security and a better shopping experience to be the growth drivers.
But the discussion at the FutureShop panel made me realize there is more to it than what even Isis is saying. We need convergence and to see how all the channels can work best together. The retailers on this panel were nowhere near as optimistic about NFC as the payments players in other sessions. But they saw an even bigger picture. Convenience and loyalty offers are great. But that is just looking at one side of the opportunity. When retailers configure their stores to take advantage of mobile technology, it will prosper. The speakers gave examples of one company that had a scavenger hunt like game that lead people through the store to daily specials. These retailers see the iPhone turning into the helpful sales clerk of years gone by.
Seth Priebatsch of Scvngr challenged the status quo, but he added another piece to the puzzle. With loyalty blending with analytics businesses and communicators can adjust consumer shopping habits using game theory. In Philadelphia they ran a 45-day test that showed rainy days correlated to significantly less restaurant revenue. So they designed dynamic deals to encourage people to visit a restaurant on rainy days and saw a significant business lift.
It is only by putting the wallet vision of ISIS together with the bricks and mortar innovations of Future Shop and some of Scvngr’s futuristic ideas that we truly can see the shape of the future of mobile payments come together. Without all three perspectives, without the gestalt of the different perspectives the success will not be complete.
This transcends payments. This is a lesson that communications professionals should take to heart. We need to make sure we are not narrowing our vision to influencer channels, social media strategy or analyst relations. Sure those can drive results. But we need to look not just at how they work together and challenge ourselves to find at new ways in which they can work together.
Google and Coke did just that with projectrebrief.com (along with other brands). The project updated four iconic ads for today’s mediums.
The premise was powerful, yet simple. We don’t want to do social media campaign. We want to do a campaign that is social. What Coke did is amazing. They made it possible for someone to actually send the world a Coke. Consumers could record a video on the site, and send a free Coke to a number of machines around the world. Someone would receive your message in less than 90 seconds (after it was reviewed for content) and could then thank you. You would receive that video a minute later.
It is powerful. It is social and it harnesses physical, digital and social channels to create a result much greater than the sum of the individual parts. More communicators need to think like that. If we do so, our programs will be much more compelling, we will gain better understanding of consumers and drive greater business results.
So join me in always looking for ways to advance convergence. We won’t regret it.
It was so popular yesterday, I decided to end with it again today. The five most quotable observations from Sunday at SxSW:
Pharma is not bad. Pharma is probably going to save your life
Security is not a selling point for consumers. Criminals will find ways, and consumers think the phone is less secure even if it is more secure.
We are on the precipice of shopper 3.0 – The combination of Wed, brick & mortar, and mobile.
Tools today are an extension of our mental, not physical self. The shape of technology tools has changed dramatically over time, this is not the case with many physical tools.
If you want to drive consumer engagement, get people to look forward, not back.
If you have any questions in this post, leave a comment or tweet me at @mcclennan to meet up at SxSWi.
Saturday at SxSW was much more interesting than Friday. I had the pleasure of attending a very wide range of panels. The topics included strategic communications, Dad bloggers, enterprise social media, the future of mobile wallets, a comedian/activist keynote, and a look inside Joss Whedon’s head. The panels were a mix of both aspirational visions and cautionary tales.
The sessions were all great learning experiences, but they present something of a challenge. How do you blend parenting lessons from Leviticus with social analytics and loyalty programs? While many of these sessions merit their own posts (and will likely get them in the future), I wanted to focus on overarching themes that I noticed.
I would say there were two key takeaways from these sessions.
Destroy the labels
Know who you are
From the Mmbile wallet to NFC Chips to Dad bloggers, people and companies are too often failing to reach their full potential because they are succumbing to easy labelization. Don’t get me wrong, there is immense power in the study of groups and flocking, but if you too quickly group someone, you may come to the wrong conclusion or miss opportunities. I saw that time and time again today.
This is particularly insidious when it comes to Mom bloggers. Mom bloggers are too often defined by who they are rather than who they write about. Very few “Dad” and “Mom” bloggers blog about parenting. They are parents who blog. A mom blogger who writes about beer or food, should not be lumped in the same category as one who writes about technology or parenting. I personally have seen too many companies make this mistake. The lists created by influencer tools may serve as a good start, but influencers are not Oreos. Each is unique and needs to be understood and communicated with in context.
The same lesson applies to the mobile wallet. First of all, there is a blurring between mobile wallet and P2P payments and this line needs to be clearly understood. It also applies to enterprise social media when “employees” are lumped together as one audience as companies roll out solutions. Some of the best advice from IBM today was to understand what your corporate culture is like and what tools employees use to work and to communicate, and enhance those existing tools rather than make everyone conform to new tools. If you try to force people to do something they do not want to do, you will end up with an empty wiki, upset employees and wasted budget.
The second point is to know who you are. If you have a niche, carve it out. Just don’t let others put you in that niche.
Isis in the digital wallet space seems to clearly know this. They understand that in order to convince people to move away from contactless cards and Mag Stripe they need to offer more to retailers and merchants. They are betting their success on the premise that bringing loyalty cards and coupons into an integrated whole to provide consumers savings and convenience; and providing retailers a chance to impact consumer purchasing behavior before a transaction will push them over the edge. (That and retailers being penalized by the issuers if they do not adopt NFC by 2015).
I am not sure I agree with them completely, and I know not everyone in the audience did. Consumers have shown amazing willingness to stay with what works. As one panelist pointed out, 10 years ago the cover of Card Transactions was “Mobile Commerce is Ready for Takeoff” and we are still discussing its pending rise today. Additionally, consumers have shown a willingness to have multiple loyalty cards and apps, and there are other alternatives to impact pre-shopping behavior today (such as eGiftcards – technology from a client of mine - and location based deals).
The audience definitely did not all agree about the easy path of NFC. My most popular tweet of the day was “NFC being positioned as the Borg. Do not resist. You will be assimilated.”
Knowing who you are also helped many companies in the first panel I attended of the day. The reaction to Zappos’ data breach was much less negative than most breaches of its type. That was because Zappos quickly communicated in a way that was appropriate for its customers.
This post is getting long, so I want to wrap it up with the five most quotable observations of the day:
Before you make a critical business decision, ask yourself – what would John Stewart say about it?
Great ideas are not always great and not always well received.
Bloggers have more influence over purchasing decisions than traditional celebrity endorsers do
48% of B2B CEOs say social media helped generate qualified leads
Voice of customer research is not for validation, it is for discovery
If today’s registration line is any indication, SxSW Interactive is going to be more popular than ever. Despite coming at an off time, registration still took more than 90 minutes – more than I ever had to wait at CES or COMDEX in its prime.
True to SxSWi though, the time was not wasted. While in line, I had great conversations about the future of interactive marketing, the rise of mobile payments, better uses of technology to aid elections and those suffering in Africa, and the five major design flaws found in most socks today (who knew?).
Based on my (admittedly small) sampling from the first day of the show two of the most prominent themes already at the conference are:
1) The transformative rise of mobile payments 2) The evolution of content
Financial services technology has always had a strong, but limited presence at the show in previous years. But between Isis’ prominent sponsorship to the 13 scheduled sessions looking at mobile wallets or mobile payments, financial technology discussions are becoming much more mainstream. It’s interesting to look at the dichotomy of the sessions’ focus. They range from “The Payment Revolution is Coming” to “How the wallet was won.” There is a very divergent set of perspectives on this topic. Personally, I disagree with both. The payments revolution has been underway for some time and the wallet is most assuredly not won. Expect me to blog more about it in the coming days.
Theme two: Content. This goes beyond Content is King. People are discussing new ways of using content to engage. I had a great 60 minute conversation with a USA Today executive about their new iPad app and new ways they are looking to leverage and use content. There were a few interesting debates on the form of content (video was the most discussed, followed by a debate on how not to lose the richness of language and its ability to subtly shift perceptions as we move to microbite creation and consumption).
All in all, a good first day at the show.
Like anyone, I realize my impressions at SxSW are shaped by the relatively small number of people I had the pleasure of speaking with. I thought it might make sense to take a step back and look at what the overall conversation trends were today:
Over the past day there were more than 140,000 tweets and blog posts about SxSW (98% were tweets). To put this in perspective, the social media volume around SxSW far exceeds that of the recent Mobile World Congress or RSA:
The discussion is relatively fragmented. The only tech brand to break into the top discussion word cloud is Nokia, thanks to its foursquare badge. Most of the discussion is what you would expect, with people surprisingly upbeat despite the rain.
For the second year in a row, the Schwartz MSL Research Group worked with Business Wire to determine how many PR professionals are optimizing their news release headlines for SEO. There was slight improvement compared to last year, but there is still a long, long way to go.
The two most important elements for optimizing a news release headline are keyword inclusion and brevity. In terms of brevity, a full release headline must be 65 characters or fewer to be fully displayed in Google.
Many search engine optimization (SEO) experts, including our experts here at Schwartz MSL, advise that companies try to keep the characters in the headline under 70 characters. Anything beyond that will be less effective in supporting a company’s SEO.
This year, the Schwartz MSL Research Group, with invaluable help from Business Wire, analyzed the headlines of more than 16,000 news releases issued over Business Wire in a 31 day period (July 26, 2011 to August 25, 2011). This is the same period we examined last year. Since Schwartz MSL cannot know the keywords that thousands of companies are hoping to use to optimize their content and releases, the Schwartz Research Group focused on headline length as a success factor.
Most PR professionals are not fully optimizing their headlines. (I am sure Schwartz MSL is guilty of that as well from time to time.) Our analysis showed that only 19.5% of all releases have headlines with 65 characters or fewer, a one percent increase over last year. When we look at 70 characters are less, the total is 23.7%, an increase of less than one percent.
While the majority of releases are under 150 characters, we did see some examples that were much longer than the recommended length. The most egregious cases were the 2% of releases with headlines in excess of 300 characters, with one headline that was over 1,800 characters. The shortest headline we found was 21 characters, which is also probably not ideal for SEO as it’s unlikely that enough of the company’s keywords were included. Overall, the analysis found the average headline length to be 123 characters, unchanged from 2010.
The Schwartz MSL Research Group has written a Research Brief that takes a more in-depth look at this topic. If you would like additional analysis, including buzzword usage, and the geographic headline faceoff, you can download it here
Walking through the halls of CES 2012, many people see flash and excess, maybe even view it as a signal that the economy is in recovery given that companies are spending money to share their story. What I saw was a lot of HARD WORK. Every banner that was visible to attendees was the thoughtful results of graphic designers, marketing teams, printers and who knows how many others --all before landing in the hands of someone with a forklift and support staff to dangle it from the rafters.
In our work with client SimplyHired.com, we are closely examining the trends around employment and reminded regularly that it is a tough job market out there. The effort and enthusiasm from booth and convention staff was refreshing—no one was taking for granted the opportunity to earn a living.
On the flip side, attendees were grumpy! You couldn’t go anywhere in, around or near the convention center without overhearing a personal “war story” from one of the thousands of attendees. Gripes about cab lines, food options and the outrageous cost for any fill-in-the-blank item was the main topic of discussion. Many aspects of the convention experience is perceived as broken and it made me think “Where there is a market problem, enlies a business idea!” Cab shortages?
What about bike rentals or PediCabs?
Long lines for unhealthy lunch options? The hotels should sell healthy BROWN BAG LUNCHES! It would be nice to get people thinking about active-lifestyle alternatives.
Speaking of active lifestyles, there was an admirable cluster of Digital Health and Fitness companies this year at CES. Everyone from Garmin to iHealth to Striiv, was showcasing new options for monitoring blood pressure and glucose levels or devices that keep you motivated to walk more (Striiv’s monitor, for example donates clean water to third world countries when its users hit certain milestones for daily movement).
I am anxious to see how this space shakes out from an adoption perspective. The amount of walking that was done over the course of the week makes CES attendees the perfect target for these devices. Maybe next year, someone can use the event as a test bed!
Other notable companies in the iLounge area were Mavizon, who was showcasing “Mavia” a socialization tool that ties into your car, Looxcie, a hands free camera with streaming capabilities, as well as Boost Case which won some CES award accolades for its slim cases that double battery life of your iPhone or iPod. I also enjoyed seeing the buzz around one-time client Dish Network’s launch of “Hopper”
its new DVR offering. Hopper messaging was everywhere, but this is the one I wanted to bring back to the office. It would be perfect for an office group nap!
Did you attend CES? Please send me a note at kangell at schwartzmsl dot com or comment here. I would love to hear your war stories or business ideas, maybe this time next year it will be in beta…
Over the years, I have probably been to hundreds of trade shows. My clients frequently ask me what I think of trade show/Expo X and if they should exhibit/speak there.
To me it always boils down to:
Who will be there?
Will you have a chance to engage meaningfully with prospects (and the media/bloggers)?
How crowded will it be?
What commitment is involved.
How much will it cost?
This weekend I ran across a company that deserves praise for picking an absolutely perfect trade show for them - Bissel.
I took the family to LEGO Kidsfest. A three day 140,000 sq. ft. LEGO extravaganza.
One of the exhibits was "Big Brick Pile” a 50x100' file of LEGO bricks. At the end of the pile Bissel was there demonstrating the power of its Super Sweep Turbo (it is not a vacuum) to pick up LEGO bricks of all sizes.
Kids were lining up to use the sweeper, pick up bricks and dump them out again.
This is a great example of experiential marketing where the company identified a use of its product, and provided prospects a chance to try it in a real work environment. The Bissel staff was also handing out coupons and explaining the three different stores you can purchase the product at.
What really drove this home to me was after my four year old swept up LEGO bricks for the third time and almost go into a fight with a six year old over who got to pick up the bricks next - My wife turned to me, grabbed me by the collar, looked in my eyes and told me "I don't care about the 'husband rule' that says 'thou shalt not buy your wife appliances as a gift.' I want this. I want this. Do you understand me?"
I am positive my wife was not the only person with that reaction.
So a tip of the hat to the Bissel marketing executives, and a story for all companies to think about. Does your trade show participation and display create that type of reaction from prospects? If not, what can you do to create that scenario.
Yesterday, the White House announced a plan to help put veterans back to work with the assistance of Schwartz MSL client SimplyHired.com, which gives veterans access to more than 500,000 job listings from its “veteran-friendly companies” job search filter.
This initiative marks a huge milestone in our country’s commitment to repaying the debt of gratitude that is owed to all men and women in uniform by providing military veterans with immediate access to employers who are committed to hiring veterans.
The reality is that many veterans return home to a stark reality: high unemployment rates and rising costs of food, shelter and services in nearly every state. That’s where companies like SimpyHired.com are now stepping up to help make the transition from deployment to employment easier for our veterans and their families. So how does the plan work?
In addition to the White House’s plan to provide other new resources for veterans, Google, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs and SimplyHired.com have been working together to develop the Veteran’s Job Bank, pulling from more than 500,000 specially-tagged job postings on
SimplyHired.com that feature opportunities from veteran-committed companies all over the country. As more employers undertake to become part of the Veterans Job Bank, Google will index these new job postings to help increase the available jobs for veterans on NRD.gov.
To learn more about how to mark your company’s job postings as Veteran-committed so that you can be a part of President Obama’s commitment to put veterans back to work, please visit https://www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov/home/instructions_for_employer_participation.
There has been quite a bit of discussion lately around the costs and benefits of getting a bachelor’s degree. With state and federal budget cuts, shrinking endowments and a lackluster economy, colleges and universities are dramatically increasing tuition costs. A lot of students have good cause to be frustrated; what other commodity or service increases its rates, on average, eight percent per year?
Late last year, Peter Thiel, co-founder of Pay-Pal, re-ignited the back-and-forth industry discussion by paying 20 (incredibly lucky) students $100,000 each to put off attending college. Instead of attending classes, seminars, club meetings and athletic events, the students were paid to enter the workforce years before some of their recently graduated peers. This was a win-win, right?
Not exactly. If you’d like to get a job in this economy today (and you didn’t make it into Thiel’s fellowship), having a degree is critical. Think about how many qualified or over-qualified applicants there are for an entry-level position these days.
In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau pegs your average lifetime earnings with a high school diploma at $1.2 million. Not too shabby. But, take a deeper look into the numbers. People with a four-year bachelor’s degree can expect an average of $2.1 million. Add on a professional degree later in your career and the amount doubles to $4.4 million over a lifetime. These are direct and tangible benefits of higher education. As a comparison, take a look at what people in your area and in your profession are making using SimplyHired.com's Simply Salary tool.
So what about the unquantifiable benefits of higher education? The new concepts, networking, social clubs, discipline and well-rounded outlook to solving the world’s problems today? You might not be able to see these things in the Greek and Latin inscriptions on your diploma, but they’re there.
Student loan debt is also an issue for students who have attended private and public universities. A graduate from a public university had, on average, $16,000 in debt; a graduate from a private school accumulated approximately $26,000 in debt.
There are resources out there to help pay your tuition and your debt. The first, of course, is FAFSA (www.fafsa.ed.gov) – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. One you might not have heard about is CollegeNET.com*, which has opened its weekly scholarship (up to $5,000) to anyone with student loan debt.
Taking four years out of your professional and personal life certainly seems daunting, but in a 21st century economy and with so much intense global competition for quality jobs, it’s not a luxury people can afford to lose. The bottom line is pretty simple: college is worth the time and the expense.
As a history major and a PR practitioner, I never thought I’d say this, but do the math.
Written by Tommy Owens
*Full Disclosure: I work on the PR team for CollegeNET.
Have you ever counted the number of Google applications you use on a daily basis? Google, Gmail, Google Reader, Google Talk, Google Maps and Google Docs are indispensible to me personally (the jury is still out on Google+) and it seems like at least once a week someone tips me off to a tool that makes my professional life more efficient as well.
Many of Google’s tools are designed to assist in ad targeting, but they can be incredibly useful for PR as well. Here are three you really should try if you haven’t already:
•Google Analytics: It came as a shock to me today that one of our clients wasn’t already using Google Analytics on their website and is the real impetus for this post. There is no reason why anyone with a website shouldn’t run Google Analytics, in my opinion, and hundreds of reasons why you should. This free tool enables you to better understand where your visitors are coming from and what they are doing on your site. Many of our clients share access to Google Analytics with us, and this allows us to examine the impact of media coverage we generate based on the traffic it sends. It helps us fine-tune our outreach and ensure we’re targeting the most important media outlets for our clients.
•DoubleClick Ad Planner: Enter a URL and Google will present you with traffic statistics and, more crucially, detailed demographic data. For example, the mom blog ConsumerQueen.com had 140,000 unique visitors last year. 88% were female, 61% were between 35 and 44, 73% had attended some college and 46% had a household income of $25,000 - $49,999. You can also see the sites those visitors also visited as well as their interests. This is valuable data for evaluating bloggers and getting the real insight behind a publication’s circulation numbers. The only downside is it doesn’t work for lower traffic sites.
•Google Adwords Keyword Tool: There have been loads of gripes about the accuracy of Google’s Keyword Tool but word on the street is that they’ve changed the algorithm and earned back respect from SEO experts. From a PR perspective, Google’s Keyword Tool helps you determine the best keywords to use to optimise the content on your website and in press releases by telling you how many searches there are for your search terms, and related terms, and what the competition is like.
Please do tell: what are your favourite Google tools for PR?
As a public relations firm that deals with consumer technology companies, we always like to keep on top of the current trends and cultural memes. We were talking internally about how certain issues can be covered dispoportionately and decided to engage the Schwartz Research Group to do a quick look at what Americans are discussing in social media.
The question we asked was simple: What is garnering the larger share of discussion on social media: The debt ceiling debate or the NFL Lockout?
These are definitely popular topics. They key phrases were mentioned 307,308 times in the past seven days.
Following are two graphs that show the discussion on blogs and Twitter over the past seven days (when the Lockout ended, and including feedback from the President's 7/25 national speech on the Debt Ceiling):
While overall the debt limit discussion may slightly trump the NFL lockout discussion (by 28,300 blog posts/Tweets), when it comes to breaking news, the NFL beat the president.
If you would like a full-sized version of the first chart, just click below
Take a look at the billboard below. Do you think this is effective communications or not?
I took a photo of this billboard as I was driving through Connecticut. I was convinced this was one of the worst billboards I had seen in my life.
Yes, the message was simple. If you are injured, you should get Carter.
I love simplicity, and frequently point out that a simple message delivered with a 10 lbs. sledgehammer can be very effective.
But sometimes simplicity goes a bit too far.
Most importantly, how do I “Get Carter?”
There is no phone, no email, no twitter, no address, no Website. The full name is in tiny print that is tough to see as you are speeding by.
I knew who to get (but not why), but had no way of getting him.
I was pretty set on writing a fairly critical post about the billboard. But then I did what millions of people do. I Googled it. The search was simple – Injury Carter.
The results are below:
So in this case, a simple message, tied into an effective search engine marketing program – makes the billboard actually work to an extent.
Mind you, it loses folks that don’t have internet access or think to search – but it communicated very effectively in a time- and space-limited medium. One of my colleagues, Laura Kempke has written a great whitepaper on how to blend inbound marketing with communications.
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.
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.
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."
Today, Salesforce announced its plan to acquire Radian6 for ~$326 million in cash and stock. Radian6 is one of the main social media monitoring and engagement tools we use at Schwartz Communications. This is good news for Radian6 employees, but what are the takeaways for the industry?
To my mind, it all boils down to another company betting that even more companies will realize the power of listening, and as a corollary, the power of engaging. Salesforce.com is one of the top sales and CRM solutions.
This is enhanced when you add inbound marketing companies, such as Hubspot, that can help sales and marketing nurture the most valuable customers and promising prospects. That is one reason Hubspot makes such a big deal of their Salesforce integration.
The social listening (and to a lesser extent engagement) offerings provided by Radian 6 are another piece in the customer engagement puzzle.
Good PR has always strived to understand the needs and desires of the customer and other key stakeholders. Only by understanding them can we give the most effective counsel to the organizations we represent. The future tie-in of sales/crm, social listening and nurturing should help companies develop deeper, more meaningful and effective relationships with their customers.
I am intrigued by the possibilities of this acquisition, but it will be interesting to see how it proceeds.
Some of Radian6’s greatest weaknesses are Salesforce's strengths. But I can also see the volume of data that Radian6 regularly captures overwhelming the needs and desires of many users and too much less than useful information being integrated into the Salesforce contact stream. As my wife often tells me, just because you hear what I am saying, doesn’t mean you are listening. The data is only good if it is processed and acted upon.
I don’t think this is the final piece of the puzzle. Integrating capabilities such as Rapleaf into the new Salesforce/Radian6 would create some very targeted and meaningful monitoring and lead to even greater success.
No matter how this acquisition proceeds, the winners will be the companies that increasingly engage with their customers through tailored, proactive communications.
Most cereal eaters of the 80s let out a collective gasp when the rumors of Quaker’s Cap’n Crunch cereal being end-of-lifed circulated. The "cereal" killer here is labeling on consumer packaged goods (CPG), and the public relations campaigns that big food brands are doing around the health benefits of their food. Fox News discussed its demise as a result of the “food police” and the fact that the sugar content isn't boding well with discerning consumers who are paying more attention to what's in the food they buy and serve to their families.
Sales of Cap'n Crunch have been dwindling and this trend in consumer behavior reveals that brainwashing is starting to be a thing of the past. Take for instance what the Quaker (by way of PepsiCo) company says of its cereal on the Cap’n Crunch website: "Cap'n Crunch is a great-tasting, crunchy sweetened corn and oat cereal your whole family will love. It's an excellent source of seven essential vitamins and minerals, is low in fat, and contains zero grams of trans fat perserving." What it doesn’t (explicity) tell you is that there are 12 grams of sugar per serving, which nutritionists say is nearly half of the recommended daily intake. This fact is the tip of the iceberg for moms trying to start their kids off on the right foot.A recent study found that 84% of kids' foods that made front-of-package health claims didn't even meet basic nutritional criteria.
So, if you are a food manufacturer, how does this affect the future of consumer PR campaigns? Let’s look at this way: transparency isn’t only for top companies anymore. Keep your tagline- sure. But make sure everything else is included. Be aware. Give up the gimmick. Today’s consumer is informed, thanks to the media’s obsession with product reviews and consumer reports. Manufactured electronics, foods, clothing, daily dealsites, even iPad apps have to expose their own flaws if they want any credibility in the eyes of the shopper. You’re better off saying that you use a model similar to your competitors than completely denying it.
The average consumer is exposed to hundreds of ads a day via web, print and word-of-mouth proclaiming unique experiences. How does a new brand go toe to toe with the big fish? Communication will have to come clean if a brand wants to be trusted, especially during a rough economy where everything, from price to productivity, is considered. Flashy ads are a thing of the past- quality of service reigns supreme. In the end, hype is hype and the person buying your product knows it.
Well it has been a week since the end of SxSW Interactive 2011. By this time, most of the attendees have recovered from the five days of non-stop seminars, parties, meet-ups and informal hallway networking. What did it all mean?
There are a few key takeaways from Schwartz’s discussions at SxSW that I thought would make sense to share with our readers.
Group Communications Overload – The “hot” market is definitely group messaging and communications. Between Foursquare, Gowalla, Scvngr, Whrrl, Hurricane Party, and others, there are more networks than ever before. To be honest, I see significant hurdles for most of these apps. The benefits of the new services are at most incremental over Foursquare and Gowalla, and do not give a reason to move. Hurricane Party impressed with its focus on parties, and is something I will check out at other industry events. But beyond that nice, I did not see market disruptors. We are seeing dot revs, not new products. The true innovators will need to be even more creative to stick out from the group communications babble.
Microblogging back channels are thriving – Every panelist faced competition – the Twitterstream. Between 20-40 people (including me) were using HootSuite or another tool to comment on what was being said, ask questions and be snarky. Those panelists that integrated the Twitterstream into their presentations had much more dynamic sessions. A few panelists even had other folks at their company monitoring the stream and providing real time feedback and commentary so they could focus on the talk, but also capitalize on the back channel discussion.
Uniform Optimism – Aside from the ubiquitous “SxSW isn’t what it used to be,” the people I spoke with at SxSW were uniformly optimistic. It didn’t matter if they were engineers, C-level, PR pros or venture capitalists. The attendees are all preparing for a coming innovation explosion. Most see it around mobile and connectivity, and I find it hard to disagree. This is no just limited to B2C, but B2B financial services markets are seeing the mobile possibilities.
This is just the beginning – Underlying the optimism was another undercurrent. Priebatsch from Scvngr talked about a coming layer (the game layer) that will go on top of the current social layer. I do not agree with all of his ideas, but it does show that there is still significant innovation to come. We are just at the infancy of the group communications. With the explosion of smartphones and apps, more sophisticated data modeling and group communications, what we see today will likely bear little resemblance to what we see in five years. And here at Schwartz we find that to be extremely invigorating.
The last day of SxSWi 2011, I decided to take a brief foray into crisis management, specifically looking at how brands respond to Facebook attacks. The dynamic session was highlighted by Dell and Intel discussing how they handled the issue of brand attacks.
Ekaterina Walter, Intel’s social media strategist and Laura Thomas, a senior consultant at Dell who oversaw its Facebook presence consolidation, provided a few helpful tips that I thought made sense to share with our readers. While many of these are common sense, they shared some good data:
Facebook interaction changes perception—Over the past year, Dell interacted with more than 5,000 customers on Facebook. A set of them had 98% negative view/comment of Dell. After the Facebook interaction, 36% of the 5,000 publicly expressed satisfaction.
Social media crisis response still requires planning—Organizations need to have the right policies and procedures in place, but they also need to test them. Ekaterina from Intel shared an example where Intel had the listening tools in place, and the listeners alerted one department, but not her. This showed they needed to have more practice drills. Companies should plan a few social media crisis drills/year.
Explain your actions—If you are turning comments off, not responding to certain posts, or deleting certain posts, clearly explain why. Laura @Dell emphasized “Make sure you set up at the very beginning what you will/won't allow and enforce it.” For example, Dell allows negative comments but not R-rated language. They will highlight that a response was deleted due to profanity.
Another example that was shared by the panel: A Mayo clinic radiologist had allegedly made some racist comments. Protesters went in and posted the comments on Mayo’s Facebook wall. Mayo allowed the negative comments to run for 2-3 days, then created a discussion tab and thread there, and they posted to the wall, they had moved the discussion there, and if people continue to post on the wall, those posts will be deleted.
Volume (both positive and negative) matters—According to panelists, just 0.02% of posts on Facebook make it into people’s “Top News” feeds. This means a lot of Wall discussion is only seen if you visit the site. If you want to be visible, you need to encourage conversation on the Wall, not on discussion boards. Or as I like to say it: “Links are Google Juice, Wall Posts are Facebook Juice.”
For the past few years, to critical acclaim, the Schwartz Communications Research Group has conducted the NCAA Social Media College Basketball Bracket Analysis (we believe we were the first to do it in 2008). As a PR firm that deals with high-tech, healthcare and services companies, we live social media every day and have a love of metrics. Therefore, we asked ourselves what if the schools in the Big Dance had to compete based on their social media prowess, not their hoop skills? I mean, forget guard play, or how the Orangemen’s zone has been inconsistent…
Two members of the research group (Mark McClennan and Bill Bode) carefully evaluated the field of 64 and had the teams face off solely on social media skills and came up with a power ranking for each school. We kept the NCAA seeds and let them face off.
You may question - does this really work? Well in 2008, the NCAA Social Media Power Rankings were one of the few to predict Davidson's tremendous run deep in the tourney - so mock it at your peril.
How was the power ranking determined? It was determined by (# of Facebook users in the School/Team group or fan page (whichever was larger)/number of students at school according to Wikipedia). Note: Yes that includes alumni, but they count as fans in the stands cheering on the team. And if the students didn't join their schools network or the groups were hard to find...we considered that they didn't show up for the game. We recorded it in Excel and took it from there.
Is it mathematically perfect? No. But wait to you see our plans for next year! Do we encourage wagering on games or any other activity which may take this as anything other than entertainment - no.
Without further ado:
You can see the full size bracket. here. View image
As for surprises?
Ohio State runs away with it all. They have a SMPR of 14.95.
Butler is a strong #2 with a SMPR of 13.47
While Duke does well (8.29) it runs into a reinvigorated Texas team (8.98)
SDSU is the weakest #2 seed, and one in the weakest in the tourney (0.36) but it manages to squeak out a first round win.
The biggest buzzer beater? Wisconsin (2.064) vs. Kansas St (1.987) for a difference of 0.07.
The East and West Brackets are the toughest draw with 7 of the top 10 SMPR teams
For me, Sunday at SxSW could best have been described as analytics day. They decided to have all the research and measurement die-hards make the trek out to the AT&T Executive Conference center. The surroundings were plusher, the seats much more comfortable and the data was fascinating.
There were two interesting panels on measurement and analytics and the most exciting part is none of the speakers were from vendors. Shawn Brown from MIT’s Sloan Management Review and Chris Traganos at Harvard spoke about how they measured Web success and worked to increase traffic; while Elizabeth Winkler from the University of Texas - Austin, discussed how she and her colleagues developed a model that showed how Twitter chatter accurately predicted movie revenues.
Harvard was doing some very interesting things and relies primarily on five social media tools:
These are tools most of our readers know, but it shows that tools like these, used intelligently and backed by great content can deliver very good results. A few practical tips on how they grew traffic included advice such as:
Lots of tags are your friend: every story they push has 30 tags that are fed into blog aggregators
If you aren’t using Facebook’s OpenGraph and you create content, you need to start doing so. Instead of the share button, use the like button. Despite the power of the tool, you should check URL Linter to see what Facebook is getting and not getting.
Chartbeat is a perfect complement to Google Analytics. I haven’t used it on my sites, but I plan to check it out. It gives you real time analytics in a way Google does not.
Probably the biggest “huh” in the session was the tidbit that the smaller the URL, the less dense the QR code is, so it works faster. Keep using those URL shorteners, and make sure they point to a site that is optimized for mobile.
These are great practical tips for growing and analyzing site traffic.
This was a great primer for the next session that looked at how Twitter chatter could be used to tell how good a movie will do on a weekend. Elizabeth Winker and her team used a set of 20 servers to gather and aggregate tweets on movies and store than in a database for further analysis.
They first eliminated the false positives (which was very tricky for the movie “The Hangover”) and broke the results down by positive, negative and neutral using an automated system they built themselves. By then analyzing how many people said they planned to go to the movies and the reaction and buzz afterwards, they showed how positive Twitter chatter mapped nicely to box office sales for the 60 movies they analyzed.
One area Winker touched on briefly, but I think is worthy of further consideration is the power of Twitter and geolocation. They could map the Tweets on a certain movie to the subset of those that have enabled geolocation on their phones and break out the analysis and prediction on a regional level. This could help allocate ad and marketing spends to the areas where it is most needed. One Winkler didn’t explore that I would love to see is if there is greater correlation based on the chatter that is made immediately after a movie (which a movie company should be able to do by mapping the tweets to theatre locations). This also has implications for CPG and consumer technology companies.
The panels weren’t earth shattering, but they gave good practical advice and a glimpse into the future of quick, high-volume analytics.
SxSW is alternately described as a tech party a la COMDEX in the mid 90s, Spring Break for techies, DEMO for those trying to reach young, hip, consumers and a conference that has jumped the shark. To me it is a great event and a great way to make connections, hear great speakers and have thought provoking conversations.To get myself in the right frame of mind, I listened to Alice's Restaurant on the plane flight to Austin.
For my first session at SxSW I went to hear industry pundit Brian Reich discuss how social media is like an asteroid approaching the earth. Basically his premise was that we need to fundamentally change the way we think about things, and nowhere is this more important than with those issues that transcend business (hunger, oppression, disaster relief). He believes that the way we address serious issues is no longer working.
We are not capitalizing on the power of the connected society. I agree with him in that the "networked" society is still in its infancy, and despite all our activities over the past 15 years, the true impact is still just now being felt.
What really stuck me was that many of the transcendent issues are the issues that businesses have been struggling with since the dawn of social media, and frankly, since communications became a strategic discipline.
How do we impact change?
Are we measuring the right things?
Raising awareness is a great and necessary first step, but it is not enough.
Don't get me wrong, there were great ideas that came out of the session (the crying need for more transparency in how donations are distributed, how giving people choices on how their money will be used will encourage more donations, etc.,)
I disagreed with some of the points being made. People that just gave money were being called lazy. I spoke up at that and pointed out there is a full spectrum of engagement. Business realize not everyone will be an evangelist for their product or spend hours on the messageboards answering questions. You need to treasure those folks, but you need to respect all stakeholders, regardless of their activity level. To do otherwise jeopardizes what you are trying to accomplish.
Another telling point to me is many of the people in the audience were from NGOs and were starting to realize the way they should measure needs to change. (I felt like I was at an IPR meeting). How many people tweeted about your cause is just a measure of activity. It's like the old days of PR measurement when hits were the only thing that mattered.
Even how much money you raise (while still vitally important) is just a measure of activity. The true way to impact change is to have NGOs and charitable organizations report on the tangible results. What did the money do?
In the end, the session was thought provoking and a great start to SxSW. It reminds us as communicators and interested parties that if we keep doing the same thing and just use new channels, we will have same challenges in new channels. We need to think differently and make sure we are solving causes, not just serving them.
Tots100, publisher of the British Mummy and Daddy blogger index, has just released the Tots100 parent blogging benchmark study 2011. Parent - particularly mummy - blogging has become a massive phenomenon in the States and its popularity is growing quickly here in the UK. This study is not only a great snapshot of who is blogging and why, but how this community of bloggers are interacting with PR people.
Late last year I wrote in our Technology PR Predictions: 2011 ebook, "Consumer brands in the UK are beginning to recognise the potential of mum blogs as a communications channel and, likewise, mums are learning how to commercialise their blogs." This study underscores the trend: today nearly half of parent bloggers receive three to four PR pitches a week and more than a quarter receive over five. In the Tots100 study, the vast majority of bloggers reported seeing an increase in PR pitches over last year, with more than half calling it "a lot more."
UK parent bloggers start blogging to record their lives or for the friendship and networking blogging faciiliates, but many enjoy the perks. In the study, bloggers responded that what they like most about working with PRs is that they get to try new products and their children have new experiences.
The blogger-PR relationship should be mutually beneficial and when done right can generate loads of positive coverage for a brand while giving bloggers and their families the enjoyable experiences they are looking for. Last year Toys R Us launched the UK's first brand-sponsored mum blogger community with its Toys R US Toyologist programme which involved many well-respected mummy bloggers writing reviews of toys with their kids. Google it - there has been plenty of coverage.
As a PR person who has worked extensively with parent bloggers in the US as the head of coupon website RetailMeNot.com's PR team for three years as well as an occasional mummy blogger at VoucherMum.com, I've been on both sides of the PR/blogger relationship. Here are a few tips for brands that want to bring parent blogger relations into the marketing mix:
*Make it relevant - Mummy blogs are personal, so a blogger is telling you all you need to know about how to approach her. Is she receptive to PR? How old are her kids? What part of the country does she live in? What is her real name? Spend a little time on a mum's blog and you'll be able to get these answers and create a pitch that is more personalised and effective. Remember, a blogger's biggest pet peeve is to receive an irrelevant pitch.
*Make it worth her time - Bloggers are busy and parent blogging not a full time job. The top thing parent bloggers look for in a pitch is if it will drive traffic, so think about what you can offer in exchange for coverage. Asking a blogger to mention your new website or study is basically asking her to use her personal time to promote your brand out of the goodness of her heart. If you're not throwing in an incentive, like a free product or a giveaway that will boost her traffic, she'll probably find her time is better spent playing with her kids.
*Build a relationship - The most fun I had working with bloggers was during BlogHer while running RetailMeNot.com's BlogHer Delegate Programme. We sponsored bloggers to attend the conference and took them out to dinner so we could get to know them. As a result, we created relationships that were far more valuable than the conference fees. Following the conference, the bloggers in our programme were not only more receptive to covering our news, they were happy to provide feedback and insight into our future campaigns.
*Make your terms clear - If you want a blogger to review a product, can she keep it? Give it away on her blog? Sell it on eBay? If you're sending her on a holiday, how many posts are you expecting her to write? More and more mummy bloggers are commercialising their content in one way or another and it is reasonable for you to lay out your expectations so that everyone feels they are getting a benefit out of the relationship.
The full Tots100 parent blogging benchmark study 2011 follows:
Recently, I wrote about a social media event I attended looking at the future of social media. One of the main predictions was Facebook would become a site people looked to for news updates. Well, the future wasn’t that far off, because the Rockville Central, a community newspaper near Washington, DC, moved all of its operations and news coverage to the paper’s Facebook page effective March 1.
Both Twitter and Facebook have been utilized by media and companies alike – one side looking for sources, the other looking to be “sourced” but this looks to be the first time an organization has moved its complete operations from a traditional platform to the social space. What does this mean though, when Facebook becomes less of a journalistic tool and more a subscriber destination?
Other outlets have attempted this model, on varying scales, and seem to be faring well. Many organizations have touted the ability to “stay in the know” via news alerts, but these were meant to drive traffic back to the original content hub. Boston.com has taken this a step further, creating a Facebook application “Your Boston” that functions as a news site within Facebook. In addition to driving community interaction, the page generates its own ad revenue, a huge issue among news organizations, regardless of where they host their content.
While still in its infancy, it will be interesting to follow the Rockville Central and its inevitable successors as they drive to create a true “News” feed on Facebook.
Last week, popchips and Ashton Kutcher, its president of pop culture, announced that it is looking for a vice president of pop culture. The position will pay $50,000 for a one-year term; and, the person selected for the job will help to oversee social media for popchips, creating digital content and serving as popchips’ on-location reporter at top pop culture events around the U.S.
As stated by the popchips press release on Wednesday, applicants for the position must apply by submitting a short video on the popchips Facebook page that shows their ability to creatively connect social media and pop culture. Fans will then have the opportunity to vote for the applicant they think will be the best vice president of pop culture.
There are several interesting trends coming into play, here:
Brand Ambassadors Emerge in Existing Customers: More and more consumer-oriented brands are empowering customers to become brand ambassadors by creating platforms for them share their thoughts and experiences via existing social media channels. And, since most people trust their friends more than they trust a press release, word is spreading like wildfire.
Employees Become Extensions of the Brand: Employees are becoming more engaged as company influencers. Although many are not as high-profile as Ashton Kutcher, they are the “stars” of their own social graphs -- and smart, well-thought-out campaigns created by their companies are prompting them to proactively engage their online network and drive customer advocacy.
Democratization Yields Participation: Organizations are using social media to attract more brand ambassadors than ever before. By empowering contest or campaign participants to choose their favorites and “have a say” in highly publicized decisions, popchips and other companies are increasing not only engagement, but transparency. A great example of this is Australia’s tourism campaign for the “Best Job in the World,” which would award a lucky winner with $150,000 and a job as a caretaker on an island.
Ultimately, Ashton Kutcher and popchips will decide who the new vice president of pop culture will be by March 14, 2011 -- possibly making a great deal of progress in the popchips social media crusade.
But, I suppose this begs the question: Even if you do get to work with Ashton Kutcher, is $50,000 really a fair salary for this position? (According to Schwartz client SimplyHired.com, the answer is no! The salary should be around $117,000.)
Many of us here are at Schwartz Communications and the Schwartz Research Group are huge fans of American Idol. Some of us for the singing, some for the drama and some for the pure joy of social media analysis and water cooler talk.
Every year, as the season unfolds, Ryan Seacrest talks about how many votes are cast…but anyone who has worked in politics or public affairs knows that in order to get out the vote, you need good connections. The two keys to winning American Idol are great performances and a great fan base.
Now that the Top 24 are known and the voting will be open to the American public beginning on Tuesday night, the Schwartz Research Group decided to look at which contestants are already using social media to reach out to their fans, and who has an engaged, grassroots campaign already underway. With the introduction of Facebook voting, social media will be even more important this year.
Like Seacrest likes to say, the results were...surprising.
While Twitter is a great way to carry on conversations and engage one on one, it is still dwarfed by Facebook when it comes to the most popular way for fans to relate to American Idol contestants.
100% of the contestants had some Facebook presence (even if it was just 43 fans). Much fewer – 66% - had a Twitter presence (and 50% of the Twitter feeds were fan, and not contestant feeds).
If social media determined the Idol champ…today…it would be: Scotty McCreery (but frankly, the Research Group handicappers have him finishing 6th at best). McCreery also happens to be in the lead in VoteForTheWorst Fan voting…
The Bottom Three—When examining the 24, contestants Tatynisa Wilson, Rachel Zevita and Clint Jun Gamboa have the least overall social media fan engagement. With Tatynisa’s relative lack of air time, it will be interesting to see if and how that changes.
There is a definite gap between many of the contestants and it shows that some of them are already quite savvy in how they use social media. It will be interesting to see which gaps close and which expand.
What do you think about the contestants and their social media engagement?
Note: Photos courtesy of Fox. Followers and fan were determined on 2/25. Also, the Schwartz Research group does not believe it is just followers that matter. The intensity of their passion is also something that would need to be tracked over the coming weeks. Those contestants with the largest and most impassioned base are most likely to generate a high number of votes.
Every now and then, we all see a video or flier or stunt on the street that makes us go “What were they thinking?” In the quest to push the envelope and think outside the box, drum up some PR, try to get consumers talking and create that elusive “buzz”, sometimes things get taken too far. But as you brainstorm ideas and content for your company, how do you know what’s acceptable and what will help you lose major dollars off of your market value?
To be sure, there is no one set rule or litmus test. Take for example some of last weekend’s Super Bowl ads. Discount buying website GroupOn took heat for a spot making light of the situation in Tibet, but the company didn’t have a problem with it even after a backlash from some of the public (and as Mark McClennan points out, less than a week later, the topic is starting to die down.) My mother found a SafeAuto insurance commercial where a man is kicked in his privates repeatedly appalling and offensive, but go ask my 20-something year old brothers and they will tell you how funny the ad is. At Schwartz, especially in our consumer health practice where we often work with life threatening conditions and illnesses, we feel it is important to have our finger on the pulse of sensitivity and plan for various reactions that could potentially result from our creative campaigns.
Certainly, there are tools designed to help navigate these waters: focus groups, crowd sourcing, etc. My general rule is what one of my first mentors described as the “ick” factor. How does the idea really feel in your gut? More than what would your grandmother/brother/spouse/best friends’ think, if there is anything in you that says, “Maybe this isn’t a good idea,” listen to it. Kind of like that voice from when you were a kid that told you that you would be in trouble for <insert childhood prank here.> At the very least, by listening to that voice, you’ll be able to prepare yourself for what may come in the aftermath.
Earlier this week, I wrote about where the VW/Darth Vader SuperBowl ad failed (great ad, great for VW, little mention of the Passat). That caused me to ask myself about the long term social media impact of the SuperBowl ads. Thousands of people were tweeting about the #brandbowl, but after the game, social media discussion turned to identity fraud and other topics. Were these ads a $3 million one-time deal, or did they engender a longer discussion?
To check this, the Schwartz Research Group charted the conversation paths of 11 of the most popular ads according to BrandBowl and USA Today's AdMeter. The results were:
A larger version is available by clicking View image.
Looking at the discussion trends over time, only Chrysler, Groupon and Darth Vader/VW had any sort of notable discussion volume after the first day. All the ads had a slight bump the next morning as the social media world (and the marketing media) discussed what they liked and didn't like. Each of the three commercials had its own notable reasons for the way it performed.
Volkswagen - Notice the discussion around the ad started before the SuperBowl and it was still one of the most discussed commercials during the game. It was widely considered one of the best and has showed the most staying power.
Chrysler - While there are undoubtedly a few false positives in the chart, the Chrysler commercials received critical acclaim (and some pans) and were much discussed - particularly the 60 second Eminem/Detroit commercial.
Groupon - The negative reaction to the Groupon Tibet ad explains its initial spike and why the discussion has continued for so long - although it appears to be finally dying down.
So in the end, the best ads engendered discussion for at least a few days after the SuperBowl. But for most, the tweets and blog posts last just a little bit longer than the game itself.
For many people, the Super Bowl is as much about the ads as it is the game. USA Today has its ad meter, the Boston Globe was highlighting Brand Bowl and numerous pundits and bloggers rank the ads.
My favorite commercial of the night was the Volkswagen Passat Darth Vader commercial, which my six year old son had us watch three times (and led to a bedtime wish for that Darth Vader outfit). Volkswagen broke conventional wisdom with the ad - they put it on YouTube days before the game.
I was also monitoring Super Bowl ad discussions, and one chart the Schwartz Research Group created really jumped out at me.
One of my concerns with Super Bowl ads is the possibility of the brand being lost as people latch on to the gimmick. In this case it definitely didn't happen. VW was mentioned 94.8 percent of the time along with Darth Vader during the largest discussion spike across all major social media channels.
Yet, the ad was for the new 2012 Passat. The Passat was mentioned just 15.9 percent of the time at the biggest spike in discussion and in just 14.7 percent of the discussions overall.
While this was a great ad for Volkswagen and created brand resonance, the Passat was overshadowed. That is always the danger when you are trying to communicate a number of messages. Which messages will the consumers latch onto? In this case, it wasn't that there is a new Passat coming.
This could also have been titled "When Surveys Go Bad."
Surveys are one of the most popular research tools in a public relations executive's quiver. Too often though surveys are abused, twisted and the methodology is tortured until it screams in pursuit of a compelling headline. Too many surveys don't use random sampling, or extrapolate from too small a sample size.
One of the most coveted placements for research for coverage is the USA Today "Snapshots" section. The editors there have high standards and typically require solid methodology, and an interesting angle.
Which is why I am scratching my head over today's (January 18, 2011) snapshot in USA Today's LIFE section.
Take a minute, click here and then on the LIFT tab and see if you can figure out what is wrong with the survey...
What struck me is the question: "Which utility or communication service is most important" (emphasis mine).
When you look at the results, they total 332%. Not 100%. You can't have more than one MOST important thing. That's the very definition of "most important." There should have been a forced ranking, or consumers should have been only able to choose one option.
Now don't get me wrong, I could have a lot of fun and see some interesting insight from the data. More than 1 in 3 Americans (More than 70 million over 18) would chose the Internet over water, heat or electricity (would they really)?
Cells phones are valued as much as the Internet.
The only way I can make this infographic make sense is if the question was "Do you agree with the following statement: X is the most important utility.") Where people could answer yes to more than one question.
The first day of the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show is over, and according to the exhibitors with whom I spoke, traffic has increased year-over-year and booth staffs are pleased with the type of attendee on the show floor.
While last year was dominated by the introduction of 3-D TVs, this year there are quite a number of sub-themes.
3-D is still strong, with many companies introducing second generation 3-D sets, and others showing off high quality sets that do not require glasses. But it is not only the TVs that are going 3-D. When I was over at the Venetian, talking to a number of the high-end audio manufacturers, 3-D audio was a common buzzword. This goes beyond the surround sound to which we are all used to by now by adding much more discrete segmenting. The old school PR pro in me wants to dub this Surround Sound 2.0, though.
eReaders are out in force this year, with more companies introducing larger, lighter, or higher resolution eReaders. Schwartz client, Hanvon, also showed of its color E Ink (client) based eReader. The technology I saw was impressive, but what was more impressive was the large number of eReaders I saw in the airports on the way to the show. The pricepoints are becoming more attractive, and the content is amazing, and the discussion around ease-of-use has always revolved around business travelers, not the general consumer. Most consumers don’t have to worry about making two trips to Asia a month…
From a PR and marketers point of view, though, this just reinforces the importance of creating content and eBooks for the eReader. The market is out there and it is a great way to communicate your message to a senior-level business audience.
Overall, though, according to other bloggers, tablets are the theme of the show. Dozens are being introduced and companies are betting big on the technology. I love the iPad I use, but it will be interesting to see how things evolve. When I was watching reporter interviews, if they used a mobile device for reporting, it was most frequently and iPhone or other smartphone. When I looked at folks relaxing and browsing the Web at CES, it was primarily via smartphone.
Tablets are definitely on the rise, but for now it is still a mobile world. With 4G and new innovations (LG introduced a dual core processor-powered mobile phone), I expect it to remain that way for some time to come.
The Schwartz Communications Research Group decided the best way to look ahead was to look back…specifically to look back at the lifecycle of the tech acronyms and buzzwords we have all grown to love (or hate).
This also gave us a chance to try Google Labs' new Ngram research tool. The search tool lets users examine the content of every book in the Google Books database, from 1800 to 2008, and determine how frequently a word appears. While this is by no means a comprehensive search, the database is large enough to identify some interesting trends.
For example this chart, which looks at some of the popular acronyms of the past few decades such as WYSIWYG and Y2K.
The new 2010 U.S. census data that is starting to be released today will have a profound impact on our economy. From shifting the balance of political power, to insights into changing American demographics, much of the data will take quite some time to digest.
Yet there are some practical concerns that public relations professionals should start incorporating starting today. Most importantly, the base numbers PR pros use when extrapolating from large, random-sample telephone surveys needs to change.
For the past 10 years of so, the more conservative approach has been to use the following data:
Number of Americans (total): 281,421,908 - It's actually the resident population as citizenship is not factored in to the number.
Number of Americans (over 18): 209.1 million
Number of households : 105.5 million
While we have to wait for many of the new numbers to come out, the main number is:
Number of Americans: (total): 308,745,538
Hopefully in February 2011 we will have updated information on how many Americans are over 18 and how many households there are.
While the Schwartz Communications Research Group typically uses the over 18 number for extrapolation, the overall number is important to note. If a survey found 5% of Americans engaged in an activity, this has shifted from 14 million to 15.4 million.
Note: Public relations professionals need to be careful when extrapolating data to be sure that it truly was a random sample, the sample size was large enough and they are following proper survey methodology.
The other element to stand out for me was the budget for the U.S. Census. It was more than $7 billion. (Although they should be applauded for coming in more than $1.8 billion under budget). Now who else would love a research budget like that?
What other information is striking you based on the Census report?
When Steve Jobs announced Apple's new iTunes service “Ping” he described it as the vehicle for “discovery.” With the noise of the web increasing, Apple is not the only company touting the benefits of discovery. Big players such as Microsoft’s Bing have made the case for relevant results for a few years now. Upstarts such as Genieo provide free services that use your browsing history to develop custom, personalized web experiences, bringing forth news, products and social updates that you will actually care about. Like your best friend, these services understand you and your interests . . . if they were your spouse they would get you the perfect gift for your birthday.
With the ability to filter nearly everything, consumers are becoming more accustomed to personal touch. In 2011 CMOs and marketing leaders should adjust their approach to cater to this expectation. As a PR professional, I have always made it a principal practice to personalize my outreach to reporters, it takes longer but has a better success rate. And yet, we all still receive massive amounts of email blasts that vary only in the way it is addressed, "Dear <insert name>, please buy our services at the upcoming CES trade show." "No thanks!"
With all of the tools out there revealing personal details, it is becoming easier to uncover someone’s likes and dislikes, and therefore, if they are a target audience for a company, should be approached accordingly. Let me give you an example. The president of our company, Bryan Scanlon, was impressed recently when a vendor trying to get his attention sent him a comic book with a personal note – via snail mail! – after discovering some references on his twitter feed to his affinity for old school comic series’. Bryan accepted that first meeting. Foot in the door.
If companies don’t know who that target audience is, they can use services such as Klout.com to identify the influencers in their market, and narrow their list down quickly. Everyone wants to know they matter, it’s a well-documented human desire, so if you want their business, show them you hear and understand them. They didn’t post all of that stuff on their blog/twitter/facebook/linkedIn profile to go unnoticed.
To reach consumers in 2011, get up close and personal!
News release headlines are meant to convey information, draw a reader in, and aid SEO. But have public relations pros fallen victim to buzzword abuse in news release headlines?
Thankfully, the answer is no.
Earlier this month the Schwartz Communications’ Research Group released a brief that examined news release headlines and SEO. After analyzing more than 16,000 news release headlines from Business Wire, we found that more than 86% of news release headlines do not contain any of the top 20 buzzwords. Of course, that also means that 14% (or about 2200 releases/month) do contain a top 20 buzzword in the headline.
"Top" was the most overused buzzword, and it was used in only 1.9% of releases. This was followed by "solution" (1.83%). Following is the full chart.
The point here isn’t to say that you must avoid using these buzzwords at all costs, but it’s much more important to use the keywords being used in searches by your company’s target audience.
If you are interested in more information on this or other news release SEO topics, such as
Good writing should convey excitement, without the help of punctuation. A number of editors with whom we have spoken have a simple rule: you are allowed to use no more than three exclamation points in your writing your entire adult life.
While the Schwartz Research Group brief released this week looked at serious issues such as:
What are the most overused words in release headlines?
We also examined a few lighter issues. For example. The Schwartz Research Group analyzed the more than 16,000 releases issued over Business Wire in a 30 day period, and the good news is, only 0.5% of all releases contain “!”s in the headline. (Note, Schwartz excluded Yahoo! from the analysis, for that would skew the data).
Only 10 release headlines contained multiple exclamation points. For those who are curious, the Schwartz Research Group also found that only 0.4% of releases contained a question mark.
If you would like the full whitepaper, you can request it here.
The two most important elements for optimizing a news release headline are keyword inclusion and brevity. A company’s top keywords should be included in the headline when possible and should be placed early in the headline. In terms of brevity, a full release headline must be 65 characters or fewer to be fully displayed in Google.
Many search engine optimization (SEO) experts, including our experts here at Schwartz, advise that companies try to keep the characters in the headline under 70 characters. Anything beyond that will be less effective in supporting a company’s SEO.
The Schwartz Communications Research Group, with invaluable help from Business Wire, analyzed the headlines of more than 16,000 news releases issued over Business Wire in a 31 day period (July 26, 2010 to August 25, 2010). Since Schwartz cannot know the keywords that thousands of companies are hoping to use to optimize their content and releases, the Schwartz Research Group focused on headline length as a success factor . The findings of this analysis were that the vast majority of PR practitioners are still not fully optimizing their headlines. (I am sure Schwartz is guilty of that as well from time to time.) Our analysis showed that only 18.4% of all releases have headlines with 65 characters or fewer.
While the majority of releases are under 150 characters, we did see some examples that were much longer than the recommended length. The most egregious cases were the 2% of releases with headlines in excess of 300 characters, with one headline that was over 1,000 characters. The shortest headline we found was 18 characters, which is also probably not ideal for SEO as it’s unlikely that enough of the company’s keywords were included. Overall, the analysis found the average headline length to be 123 characters.
This shows that many companies still have room to improve their press releases (even the social media releases).
The Schwartz Communications Research Group has written a Research Brief that takes a more in-depth look at this topic. If you would like additional analysis, including buzzword usage, a geographic analysis of effective headline writing and other headline analysis, you can download it here
Some of the brightest minds in public relations research and measurement today gathered for the first day of the Institute for Public Relations’ North American Summit on Measurement. They are here to share their best practices on research and measurement, and to discuss the future of PR measurement.
It was great to hear so many research professionals recommending the types of benchmarking that the Schwartz Research Group does as a matter of course our clients.
The summit began with @kdpaine and Dr. Don Stacks reviewing a number of core measurement best practices. Some of the things that jumped out at me were that:
• 66% of time if people say will do something, they will • PR campaigns that address and engage values can make a seismic shift when it comes to behavior • Research without proper analysis is just pretty charts • You must benchmark at the beginning of an engagement to identify if you met your campaign goals and objectives
While much of this was common sense, there were also very engaging discussions on the evolution of online surveys and best practices for increasing response rates and avoiding accidental bias; seven steps to measurement perfection; and new ways of measuring social media engagement.
To me, the highlight of the afternoon was the opportunity for us to speak with Dr. James and Larissa Grunig, two of the deans of PR measurement. I remember learning about Grunig’s two way symmetric communications model more than 20 years ago, and it is great to see how social media is causing the death of other models, and driving more companies to engage in true dialog (what Dr James Grunig has advocated for decades).
Grunig rightly pointed out many of the growing pain social media is going through, but is confident of its continued evolution and ability to drive deeper connections. He made a point that I have been evangelizing for a while – the core principles of good public relations have not been changed by social media. It has made symmetry, strategy, and engagement even more crucial.
One of the key themes that came across during the discussion was the role PR needs to play in corporate social responsibility and sustainability. While CSR has been a core element of public relations for quite a while, Grunig is seeing some of the largest companies internationally start to want to measure not just at the program level, but at the societal level.
Grunig opined that companies need to beware the CSR trap. CSR does not equal publicity for charitable giving. True corporate social responsibility projects align with the needs of the organization and will positively benefit all stakeholders. Some companies Grunig spoke with in Brazil are starting to consider both the environment and the next two generations of humans, animals and plants as stakeholders.
Overall, an excellent start to the summit. Tomorrow will look at global digital communications measurement, measuring influence and other topics.
Follow updates throughout the day at @mcclennan or #iprmeasure.
This morning a crack member of the Schwartz Research team (Bill Bode) brought the recent Mike Wise kerfuffle to my attention. Basically, Mike Wise, a reporter for the Washington Post, was suspended for one month because he made up a story about Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and tweeted it out. Some media outlets ran the story and some people retweeted it.
According to the Huffington Post, he claimed he did it to
See which news outlets would pick up his report, and
Show the inaccuracy of social media reporting.
Wise is missing one key thing. As a proven sports columnist for the Washington Post he has both authority and experience. For years, people have believed what Mike Wise wrote. People also put their trust in the Washington Post.
What he truly showed is how if a credible source wants to spread disinformation, they can have some success the first time, but will then destroy their reputation. This isn’t limited to social media. If an analyst put out a false report, people would use the data, until the analyst was exposed.
This problem goes back to well before the dawn of social media. Remember Janet Cooke (also of the Washington Post) who had her Pulitzer Prize winning story “Jimmy’s World” exposed as fabrication? This was also showcased on WKRP in Cincinnati with Bailey Quarters and Les Nessman in the “Dear Liar” episode in Season four.
If I tweeted about Ben Roethlisberger and cited an inside source I knew at the NFL, no one would retweet it. Why?
I am not a sports reporter or blogger, and
Schwartz has great experience with technology, healthcare and green companies, but our football experience deals primarily with luminescent paper for championship game tickets – not with NFL headquarters.
So yes, Wise showed things can spread on Twitter and some folks don’t check their sources. But he is in actuality a better poster child for how someone with respect and authority can abuse their power, be caught and damage their reputation.
My post last week that highlighted the most overused words in a press releases was very well received. Since so many of you liked it, I decided to take it a step further and turn the top 25 buzzwords into Buzzword Bingo cards. I didn’t want to slight anyone, so I created one card based on Sherk’s recent post, and the other card based on David Meerman Scott’s post from last year.
Here they are for your viewing and reading pleasure. May you never complete a bingo!
By Martin Gleissner and Anna Vaverka, Stockholm, Sweden
It is no longer a question of if but rather of how companies will extend their products, their brands and their messages to the digital universe.
One prime example of this is the National Hockey League (NHL), which continually develops digital products and services with which to shorten the distance between the League and its fans.
One of the major trends right now is that of iPhone Apps. What the NHL had already successfully accomplished on the web – delivering the best content, particularly video, to consumers online − it extended to one of the world’s most highly used mobile devices through NHL Ice Time 2010, the League’s official iPhone app. The app makes content from the web readily available on iPhones and is the latest product in NHL’s rapidly expanding digital portfolio, designed to meet the content demands of the most tech-savvy fans in pro sports fans.
NHL Ice Time 2010 gives time-shifted trans-Atlantic fans (NHL games are typically played in North America while Europeans are sleeping) the ability to see live scores and statistics, video clips and highlights.
For the launch of NHL Ice Time 2010, the NHL had a highly specific business goal: to drive downloads of the app among those countries already proven to be the top consumers of NHL hockey (based on NHL.com Web traffic), including Finland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
In order to launch NHL Ice Time 2010 in Europe, the NHL turned to Schwartz Communications. From our Stockholm office we rolled out an extensive media outreach in these European hockey hotbeds. Besides traditional media, we paid much attention to bloggers, especially covering sport and mobile technology.
Turning strategy into the message
Beyond the cool features of the app itself, Schwartz immediately identified and amplified the launch as indicative of how organizations can and must adjust to consumer demand for digital access. And the interest that we generated from media was strong in terms of volume and tone. To reach media outside of the sport and tech area, Schwartz uniquely tailored and told the story of the NHL’s efforts in leveraging digital media as a means of serving the evolving demands of fans, alongside the evolution of digital and mobile media.
The launch was highly successful and already in the first week, the app sailed into the top five most downloaded sports apps on iTunes in Europe. Additionally, the NHL experienced hundreds of thousands of downloads in just eight weeks and the end results included more than 70 media stories in more than 10 countries.
The NHL iPhone campaign is an excellent example of how companies and organizations should integrate emerging technology trends into their product development strategy marketing and communication strategy. Schwartz encourages others to embrace the diverse possibilities of digital media as the ways that we consume information are continually evolving.
We are not saying that each and every new media trend is worth investment. But to ensure that your company is at the forefront of communicating with consumers, one should evaluate which of the tools out there could be the right ones for you.
I remember a time when everything was a robust, scalable, enterprise-wide, mission-critical, client/server, WYSIWYG, CORBA development solution with OLE.
Well, maybe not quite that bad, but there are definitely words that have been overused when it comes to press releases. In some cases, these words have been so overused, their meaning is completely devalued to the point the eye skips over them.
Recently one my clients sent me a link to a great post from Adam Sherk on The Most Overused Buzzwords and Marketing Speak in Press Releases. He did some great analysis of words overused in press releases for the past year. His post also reminded me of a David Meerman Scottpost on the topic from last year.
The lists are useful, but different people learn in different ways.
I decided to take Sherk’s list and turn it into a word cloud of the most overused words in PR. I weighted everything based on the actual frequency of appearance. To me the word cloud really drives home how some words are so overused they lose their meaning completely, even more than a list of the words.
So without further ado, the word cloud of the most overused words in press releases.
I applauded the effort, but didn't blog about it at the time, because it just seemed like common sense and the way Schwartz has been conducting public relations on behalf of our clients for years. As the Schwartz Communications Research Group continues to grow, though, I did want take a minute to chime in.
Some of the principles have always been the essential foundation of what we do as an agency and as responsible practitioners.
Measure results not activity
Quantify business impact when you can
Social media should be measured
AVEs (ad value equivalencies) don't measure PR
I was a bit surprised by the ordering of some of the other Principles as I have found more clients focus on message delivery/inclusion and would put that above tone. Typically, I would want to segment by message and then tone rather than the reverse.
These principles are essential for showing the true impact of public relations. Many practitioners talk about wanting a seat at the table. At Schwartz I have found we get our seat at the table by providing strategic counsel; showing the business impact of PR; understanding business drivers and challenges; and presenting creative ideas that support the business objectives.
I was recently speaking with a young man heading off to college to study engineering. I reminded him there are two key things every engineer needs to remember:
1) F=ma 2) You can’t push on a rope
I wish PR had a formula as easy as F=ma for calculating impact. But then I realized engineers don’t either.
For them impact is calculated: P=(Fimpact2L/2AE)=(m2σ2gh/LAE)=(m2gh/LAρ)=mgh
Just like there is no one measurement formula for impact, there is no one solution for PR measurement. What measurement is right for your company depends on your business objectives. Align measurement at the start of every engagement and measure results and you are off to a good start.
More companies are turning to Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels every day for customer service. When it is done well it creates engagement and a deeper bond with a dissatisfied customer. It can also help publicly turn a dissatisfied customer into an advocate. It also saves money compared to call center operations.
These are all good reasons for using social media for customer service. By the key phrase in the above paragraph is “when it is done well.” Too often companies are not following through on their promises or not creating useful feedback. Paul Gillin wrote about it recently here.
I have my own story to share. It is with the Sheraton Hotel and Marina in San Diego and Starwood Hotels. I was at the hotel last week and was grabbing breakfast before a client meeting. The dining room was less than half full. My colleague and I ordered eggs. Thirty minutes later we were still waiting. We really needed to leave then to make the client meeting on time, but we figured if we drove fast, we would still be OK.
We saw the waiter and asked “Excuse me, do you know if our breakfast will be coming soon?” The waiters helpful reply “I don’t know, if you care so much, why don’t you go in the kitchen and ask the chef.”
To say I was displeased with the response (and the service) is an understatement. I tweeted it out, and within an hour had a response from @StarwoodBuzz “@McClennan Sorry to hear about breakfast. If you DM us your stay details, we can follow up with the hotel for you.”
This was a perfect, textbook response and I was quite pleased. I shared the details with Starwood. They respond and asked me to follow them so they can DM back – even though no sensitive information is being shared, and if they lead with @McClennan, likely only I can see it.
The next day, I get a DM response “Thank you. I'm sending off your comments to the hotel so this can be improved 4 future guests. Pls DM if you wish to include your email add.”
There are a number of things wrong with that.
First, in business communications, there is no need to use “4”. We are engaged in a professional discourse. Second, it sounded from the first message that they were going to “follow up with the hotel for me” (i.e. do something about the situation). The personal message basically says, we will let the hotel know there is a complaint. Thanks. Bye.
I don’t need them to do that. I know how to call a manager, tweet and blog myself. Starwood Hotels failed by not providing a meaningful discussion once they engaged. I provided my email as requested, it’s been a week and I have not yet received a response from the hotel.
The end result? 1) A positive social media engagement turned sour and 2) The next time I am in San Diego, I will be staying in a Hilton.
What lessons can marketers, consumer and services public relations professionals take from this?
It is essential to listen to all social media channels, so you can address negative situations.
Listening isn’t enough – If you engage, you need to provide meaningful resolutions or you can do more harm than good.
Use DMs appropriately. Financial institutions and other regulated industries should use DMs. Hotels should not use DMs for form responses.
Over the weekend, I finished reading Gallipoli by Alan Moorehead. It was an engrossing, powerful read. For those not familiar with Gallipoli, it was a major campaign in World War I involving the British, French, and ANZAC invading a Turkish peninsula. It is a defining moment in Turkish history. In total more than 130,000 people died and there were more than 500,000 casualties. It was also a campaign fraught with missed opportunities.
As I was reading it, I could not help but draw comparisons to some common public relations mistakes that are still being made today. While I know there are perils of adopting military campaigns to business, there are a few lessons that I thought would be good to share.
Don’t be blinded by the new way of doing things—New technology is great, but it rarely completely replaces proven systems. In the case of Gallipoli, some British Generals took the new lessons learned in France and made them the only way to do things, without adapting them to the local setting. They refused to advance without strong artillery (which they didn’t have) even though there were no trenches and few opposing forces. As a result, they gave the Turkish Army time to dig trenches and bring in more forces.
The same can be applied to communications. Social media is empowering. It is an essential component of great communications in the modern communications era. Without it, companies are missing great opportunities and their campaigns won’t be as powerful. But traditional media, influencers, mavens, messaging and listening still apply. Don’t be blinded and only pay attention to the shiny object, or you will miss opportunities. Make sure your communications campaign is designed for your specific needs, and not a cookie-cutter “Social Media Scenario #1.”
If you wait for every “i” to be dotted, you will lose – Careful planning and strategy is essential to any communications campaign (particularly consumer PR), but planning at the expense of decisive action is a recipe for failure. The same applies to communications. Careful research and strategy is essential. But there is always one more question that can be asked. There is the temptation to wait for the perfect opportunity (brand name customer reference, analyst data, etc.,) but those situations are few and far between. You need to find ways to communicate effectively without having everything you need.
Don’t be dissuaded by setbacks and changes– The British were dissuaded a number of times when they could have had decisive victory by a minor setback or something not going exactly to plan. We do not operate in a static world, and plans will change. As communications professionals, we need to adapt to those changes and continue forward. Don’t overreact to minor announcements from competitors or allow them to change your overall strategy. Focus on your goal and keep driving to it. You win by moving forward, not by retreating or moving laterally. The same applies to communications and public relations campaigns.
Trust your people – There were times in the invasion when the senior managers were well removed from the front and couldn’t react to a changing and fluid situation. Even more telling, the junior officers were trained not to move without command from superiors. As a result, there were numerous examples of when the British opened an unopposed new front, but did not advance, because the staff on the ground waited for orders. The opportunities were lost.
The same holds true in communications. Managers need to avoid becoming logjams. Trust your staff and encourage them to seize any opportunity they see. If you train them well, you will avoid the careless mistakes. But if every small decision must be centrally approved, you will miss many great opportunities.
Earlier this week, the Publicity Club of New England recognized the best public relations and social media campaigns and tactics of the past year. The Bell Ringer judges were senior practitioners from Chicago and Boston.
Schwartz is proud that we have continued the tradition of being recognized with more Bell Ringer Awards for work we have done with our clients than any other PR Agency in New England.
Most gratifying to us this year is that we won 10 Gold Bells for our clients, and that Schwartz was recognized for having the two best campaigns of the year, winning both Gold and Silver Bells, for its work in the business-to-business, healthcare and high-tech public relations categories.
When asked by many, how do we continue to win so many awards, we believe it is based on two key elements:
1) As a strategic communications firm, we understand that we don’t succeed by ourselves. Schwartz works closely with our clients to make sure our communications, content and public relations activities help them realize their business objectives. It is this close relationship, senior level involvement and comprehensive approach - including social media, content marketing and inbound marketing services - that help our programs succeed.
2) We don’t expect our clients (or Bell Ringer judges) to measure our work based on the “thud factor”, or in social media Thud 2.0. Our work, and our award entries, are judged on how we helped public relations close the loop with sales, patient recruitment or other business objectives.
For the 2010 Bell Ringer Awards, this ranged from driving qualified leads from trade articles to creating enough demand to crash one client’s servers. It included driving hundreds of patient inquiries to cutting consumer misperceptions in half. It is based on helping drive hundreds of thousands in product sales to opening new channels with key prospects.
We are proud of the work of our employees and our clients. If you have any questions about how we can help your company, let us know.
Today is a big day in the for consumer technology professionals…Steve Jobs’ keynote at the Apple WWDC. It is mostly showing off upcoming technology and putting the stake in the ground for competitors to try to beat. While there were a few hiccups with his demos, the content more than made up for it.
This was one of his best keynotes in years.
I will leave the roundup to the news sites, but there are a few things that were said today that I thought might be interesting quick takes for our clients and consumer technology and mobile developers:
Apple claims that third-party developers have now generated $1 billion in revenue for themselves through the Apps store, even with Apple’s cut. There have been 5 billion total downloads.
Apple shared a Nielsen report that states the iPhone now has 28% market share for mobile devices. RIM is still in the lead with 35%, Windows 19%, Android 9%. I expect the number of software applications developed for the device to continue to explode.
There are more than 15,000 Apps submitted each week. Companies need to keep this in mind. If you build it, they may not come, for they won’t be able to find you. A successful iPhone app launch can be supported by a strong public relations, social media and inbound marketing campaign. By combining these three elements, consumer tech companies can help their apps stand out from the crowd.
Apple has added a gyroscope, which will make the iPhone and even better gaming platform and open up new opportunities for developers
Apple is introducing the iAd platform, which enables developers to embed banner ads and open a new revenue stream. I need more details to see how well received this will be. It is telling that Jobs states it is to help developers keep costs down, but then he only lists the largest brands as signing on to start and no mention of developer controls. He claims there will be $60m in iAds, which will make it a sizeable percentage of the mobile ad market.
It appears the new iPhone will be a significant upgrade and I am excited. Apple’s new Retina Display really caught my eye (no pun intended). At Schwartz we have worked with quote a few online photo and photo-based social networking companies and the crispness that is possible with Retina Display is outstanding. I can see companies in markets ranging from radiology to photo editing really digging in to this potential.
In the bad days of PR measurement, some PR professionals would try to impress clients (or bosses) with the ‘Thud factor’ how big and heavy a clip book could they drop on a desk. It was all about volume, circulation and hits. But as KD Paine says, HITS stands for “How Idiots Track Success.” This lead some to focus on quantity rather than quality and to some inflated circulation and reach figures that didn't tie back in to core business objectives.
At Schwartz, and at many other firms and organizations, we focus on measuring outcomes and results. Impact and Influence are core. What business impact did our PR programs have?
Yes, we use measures such as share of voice and key message penetration. We look at conversion, change in consumer perception, increase in Web traffic, increase in searches and other metrics. These are elements of good PR measurement that have a tie back to business results. Many of these have a direct correlation.
But now I am seeing the poor measurement of yesterday rearing its ugly head in the social media world of today.
I call it Thud 2.0.
Instead of ‘hits’ the new Thud factor is “How many followers/fans” do you have. The bigger the better. People are flexing their social media muscle and getting out the measuring tape.
Of course, they are measuring the wrong thing.
At the Social Media Club Boston meeting Thursday last night, EMC, Vico Software, IDG and other companies showed us how they are measuring the right thing. Most impressive was Holly Allison. She handles public relations and marketing for Vico Software ( a company that makes software for commercial construction). She was showing how her efforts worked throughout the sales funnel and how they translated directly into sales. Yet she seemed apologetic for having such small followers or visits. She is selling to a much smaller B2B universe. The business results were impressive, so it doesn’t matter how big the bicep is…
The SMC session was an interesting contrast to a talk by Paul Gillin with the Mass Technology Leadership Council the day before. He exposed how many B2B executives with whom he speaks are still just looking at the Thud factor when it comes to social media. (Aside from a few that are showing a direct tie to more effective recruiting).
I plan to be writing much more on measurement in the coming months, but I wanted to start it off with a simple call to action. Resist Thud 2.0.
Make sure your social media efforts are tied to business results. Don’t become obsessed with followers. Look at how engaged they are. Do they click through to your Web site? Respond to tweets? Praise you to others? Purchase products?
The goal of social media for business should not be trying to see if you can be the most popular kid in school.
Today in advance of its Chirp Conference, stories appeared about how Twitter was going to start offering promoted tweets in 2010. People are commenting - What does this mean? Has Twitter flown the coop? Will fan backlash cause it to soon be singing in the Choir Invisible?
I for one am glad to see at least one way in which Twitter is monetizing its service. Despite what some companies have done, you can only go so far without positive cash flow. What does this mean to the average user?
Probably not that much.
A random, I mean highly targeted, Tweet will be inserted into a user's Twitter stream (not sure what that will do to my multiple TweetDeck stream). Initially they will only appear as a result of Twitter search. Ads/sponsored tweets will be removed if they don’t generate much engagement.
For those that follow a lot of people (like I do), that sponsored tweet may fly right by. For those that follow a few folks (which appears to be the majority of people not in marketing, PR or social media) it might be an unexpected interruption. But people will gloss over it quickly.
Reports have it that only one ad will appear at a time. This may make it difficult for the niche marketers. While I have a passion for personal financial management software, I also love soda and coffee, and expect Starbucks to trump any PFM vendor in terms of volume and response, relegating the PFM ads, I mean sponsored tweets, to much less frequent appearance.
What are some key takeaways for consumer technology, green and B2B marketers and PR professionals.
This is a new and intriguing way to leverage the Twitter channel to drive some short-term engagement and customer response.
Sponsored tweets are not a replacement for authentic, two-way conversations. They may help attract a new audience in a flock, but the audience will not necessarily be loyal, remain engaged or start to follow you. The only way to do that is through interaction and providing value beyond a deal of the day.
The sponsored tweets could be a good complement to existing initiatives and crisis communications campaigns. (I can foresee a day when Toyota uses a sponsored Tweet in the future to spread the word about its response to customer concerns).
This will benefit the brands that have an established Twitter presence. Do not think of this as a solution for building a long-term, loyal, base. You need to reach out to folks to do that, not expect them to reach out to you.
I recently came across a new survey from the folks at the Pew Internet and American Life Project. They asked Americans how they get their news. Most get it from multiple channels - no surprise there. The channel results surprised me though.
The top three sources:
78% of Americans say they get news from a local TV station.
73% say they get news from a national network such as CBS or cable TV station such as CNN or FoxNews.
61% say they get some kind of news online.
At Schwartz we are one of the many who understand the sea change of social media. But it is good to take a step back and remind ourselves that just because we may be living on blogs, Twitter and Foursquare; and just because we read about declining broadcast ratings; local and national television news still have great power to inform and educate. Communicators should not ignore these channels.
When I learned about this week's launch of a new review site for people, Unvarnished, I was reminded of squatters who reserved domain names for popular brands years ago, patiently waiting to cash in when companies paid to take ownership of domain names that some would argue should have naturally been theirs to claim in the first place.
The new website Unvarnished, which is being called the "Yelp for LinkedIn," allows anyone to create a profile and post an anonymous review about whoever they want. This has several implications, the first of which is how easily you could lose control of your own online identity and reputation if you don't put a stake in the ground by creating your own profile on websites like Unvarnished. The second concerns privacy; people who do not wish to have their information and profiles on social networks could then end up with an unsolicited or unwanted online profile -- positive or negative.
While reviews sites are nothing new, at first blush, Unvarnished appears to be more personal and spotlights the growing need for everyone to have their own personal PR plan that enables them to manage their online reputation much in the same way they manage their credit score and protect against identity theft. One company that identified this trend early and got an early start at helping consumers protect their only identity and persona is ReputationDefender. On the topic of Unvarnished, ReputationDefender founder Michael Fertik asserted last night on CBS news that "You have to take your online reputation seriously," something not a lot of people do. This notion is supported by a recent Microsoft study examining the hiring habits of HR Managers and the weight they place on job candidate's online activities and profiles.
In addition to an emerging market for tools that help you manage your online presence (including establishing a Google Alerts for your own name - something I would recommend for anyone in professional services ), there is also room for someone, or some company, to start educating people on responsible web posting. I am very curious to watch and see who takes the lead in this advocacy ...
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending the PR News Measurement Summit in Washington D.C. It was a gathering of a few hundred PR professionals interested in advancing PR measurement and sharing best practices for tying public relations to business results. The topics would be of interest to anyone in consumer, technology or cleantech public relations.
There were a half-dozen sessions, but there were a few themes that ran throughout them.
1) The Fallacy of AVE. Last year, the IPR and other professional PR organizations condemned ad value equivalency as a faulty measure of public relations success (and I cheered them on). It was a handy crutch in the past, but not something that measured the right results and did not have a good correlation to an organization's business results. I swear the room was never more energized than when people were criticizing this flawed metric that uses one industry's benchmarks to try to justify something completely different.
One of the presenters at the conference introduced a relatively new metric "Weighted Media Costs" I applaud the work the creators of this metric have done, but I still see it as AVE wearing a tuxedo. I have yet to be convinced otherwise. Anytime you use ad space cost, but remove the dollar signs so as to differentiate yourself from AVE, you are already starting down a very slippery slope.
2) Social media has permeated B2B, B2C and the government. Almost every presentation showcased how companies were engaging and measuring social media. From a personal point of view, it also validated the approach we take at Schwartz. The focus on tying PR to business results was used by all presenters- from the largest agencies to large multinationals. While there was some discussion of tactics and tools (Legistalker, Socialmention and Twiangulate seemed to be the most popular free tools) the focus was on getting meaningful measurement without breaking the bank.
3) Government and public affairs have embraced social media. While many of us know that at some level, and it was definitely proven in the latest Massachusetts Senate race, some of the metrics are telling:
64% of Congressional staff say “blogs are more useful than mainstream media for identifying future national political problems and debates.” (PR Week)
Congress has embraced multiple platforms:
96% have Facebook pages 79% have YouTube channels 41% have Twitter accounts
The key takeaway from the whole conference? One I have been championing for years. For public relations to continue to grow and be an essential element of an organization's business strategy, PR professionals need to relate their activities to business results.
There was a lot that went on today at SxSW, but it all seemed to revolve around Twitter. From @Ev’s keynote introducing @anywhere to panels, hallway discussions and hordes of techies tweeting while dancing and singing at TechKaraoke.
Twitter does a good job of explaining the new service, but basically it allows any site to tag content to Twitter that let’ people follow feeds from the site (or people mentioned on the site) without leaving the site. It looks cool, but it did not blow the audience away. I see any savvy consumer technology or B2B public relations professional who is creating content making use of it eventually in the content they create for their brands.
The panel after the keynote was moderated by Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki) and had a number of opinionated, passionate and interesting social media personalities, including @scobleizer and @pistachio.
They basically highlighted their favorite Twitter tools. I thought some of them might be of interest to our readers, so I wanted to highlight a few.
Oneforty.com – Basically, @pistachio’s Twitter App Store, complete with rankings and reviews. Spend time there if you haven’t already.
The most interesting panel of the entire show (for me at least) happened at 5:00 p.m. in a remote hotel. During the 90 minutes, Citibank revealed the process and procedures they used to secure approval for social media engagement in a heavily regulated environment. I will write more on it later, for it is worth a blog post on its own.
Today was my last day at SxSW. It lived up to the promise. Great sessions, good people and thought provoking ideas. The dominant themes of the conference were mobility, connectivity and crowdsourcing (with a very focused financial services minor). Over the next few weeks I will share additional insights on this blog. There is a lot that I didn’t cover, but hopefully the snapshots over the past few days will give our readers some useful insight. I will be digesting what I learned at the show in the weeks to come.
The day started off with a great Social Media Breakfast Austin/SxSW where I had a chance to hang out with a few hundred other social media professionals. I saw some old friends and met a few new people with some really interesting companies. I ended up reconnecting with many of them at the Microsoft party later in the evening.
Compared to the first two days of the SxSW, the panels were interesting, but not as strong.
The first panel I attended took a look at the use of applications for extending the brand. The main takeaways were the iPhone is now the dominant brand platform, eclipsing Facebook (for the company has more control). The general consensus from the audience and panel ties into the theme I raised yesterday in my banking recap: The future is mobile. They also emphasized the brand needs to take a backseat in the application or consumers won’t stay engaged.
One if the most interesting points in the session was the debate over the use of apps for engaging consumers. The general consensus is one most consumer technology marketing people have heard for years “The days of brands doing traditional marketing are gone. They need to engage customers in social dialogue and provide utility, or they won’t have lasting relationship.”
A strong counterargument that was advanced speaks for itself “I like toothpaste, but don’t want to have a two way conversation with it.”
That being said, what Charmin has done with mothers rating bathrooms shows the type of discussions one can have for common household items.
The second panel I attended was hosted by Scott Kirsner and dealt with effective ways to build a cult (or Facebook and Twitter followers…your choice). While there was little earth-shattering about the discussion, it reinforced that building a community usually takes time, it requires constantly refreshed new content and it has to *be* a community. Talking to customers does not draw a crowd. Talking *with* customers draws a crowd. The filmmaker he interviewed advocated letting fans be part of the process. Engage them. They them use your content, have fun with it and create new things. They will help promote your movie (or software) much more if they feel a sense of some ownership. The final important point was that if your content isn’t embeddable, it’s like you are leaving on a roadtrip without any gas.
Finally I attended a session with Peter Molyneux, one of the most influential game designers of the past 30 years. I went both because I have worked with many game companies and because the topic intrigued me – How can videogames speak to the heart? I thought there are lessons that could be applied to public relations and marketing. To my surprise, I think I was the only non-filmmaker or game designer in the room.
The first thing Molyneux said tied back to the first panel on mobile apps and the theme that emerged today. Movies can never engage like games. Movies want flaccid robots. Think about that in terms of traditional public relations or marketing, and now how PR has evolved. By making consumers’ voices heard, knowing they have a stake in your brand, companies can create an emotional connection they could never create through shouting.
So the question is, how are we as public relations professionals working to create that connection every day?
Were there other panels I missed? Let me know what you think about SxSW.
SxSW today for me was all about something near and dear to my heart (and many of my clients) banking and payments. I managed to carve out enough time to attend three banking sessions. The sessions ran the gamut from tips for personal finance to the future of banking and the role of geeks in finance.
There a few lessons any financial services technology company should carve in stone, but these rules also apply to consumer technology and other markets.
Consumers are dead. (or at least dying). They are evolving into active participants. They don’t want to pick from a menu, or be given one choice, they want to be empowered. Smart banks and financial technology companies are empowering consumers and giving them actionable advice and data.
Financial services UI (user interfaces) need a revamp. I know Mint.com has done it, as has my client Fiserv. Both are putting great emphasis on this. I see it as another variation on death by PowerPoint. Having tons of data can be great, but you need quick, actionable intelligence to make the right decision.
At first the second session was being bit too anti-bank. Banks serve a role, and all agree banks are essential. The challenge is many FIs are risking being disintermediated by third-party developers that don’t work with the bank. That’s what all the panelists in the second session we championing, so banks should pay attention and work on innovation within their services and offerings.
Mint.com has been very successful to date, and its executives were featured on two panels. There were a few key points I thought were of interest:
Mint.com built its following by hanging out where the consumers are, rather than creating their own community. They find it more effective. I believe both have their place, but it ties back into the fundamental premise of successful social media engagement – strategy before social.
Mint also does not buy PPC, they have found creating short videos and making them widely available to be most effective. Their consumers prefer that type of activity, and it lets them provide a richer (no pun intended), more detailed experience.
The consensus in multiple panels was the future of banking is mobile. But mobile information is just the first step, financial institutions need to focus on transactional capabilities, as well as advice and counsel. Getting tailored advice on your cell phone is much more valuable. That’s a message every good marketer knows – tailored, relevant and useful information engenders more loyalty.
Consumers need to pay attention as well. According to the speaker in the first session, Ramit Sethi, consumers are fundamentally delusional when it comes to money: 20% of people polled think they will get rich via the lottery and 3% though an insurance settlement.
While yesterday was all about the human network, Day 2 of SxSW was about the evolving financial network. There are a lot of interesting things on the horizon. As a final note, if you haven’t checked out CreditKarma yet, you should. A very interesting site that brings a lot of value to helping consumers improve their credit score.
It’s a good thing I am a morning person and registered early, as this line demonstrates. Many of the folks in the line missed the first sessions. (This is the line to get into the exhibit hall to register)
The first session at SxSW dealt with social media marketing, and while it covered many thing I already knew, there were a number of interesting insights to take from it. One of the points the speakers (Chris Winfield and Tony Adam) made is one I have been making for years – Web 1.0 (forums) still matter. The power of niche social media sites and networks can trump the power of Digg, Facebook and others. You eliminate much of the chaff and keep just the wheat.
Two key things I was reminded of in the session that I thought might be of interest to technology public relations pros:
When trying to find the most popular niche boards, http://rankings.big-boards.com/ is a good place to start.
Being engaged (without spamming) on Yahoo! Answers can also advance thought leadership campaigns.
The second session, with Brian Solis talking about the themes in his new book, Engage, was a great session packed with good advice. A lot of it was a positive reaffirmation of what many companies engaging in social media are already doing, but there were some new ways of thinking about things that he drove home. He seems to have taken the Tipping Point categories and expanded on them to identify the types of people that you tend to interact with on social networks, and how you can impact their hearts and minds. This has some intriguing implications and is with thinking about much more than most people do.
He also reinforced a point from the first session. The networks don’t matter, the channels will change, it’s the human network that we are all a part of that is truly driving and advancing the social media change and the impact it is having on business. Companies that enter the network in the right way can have a significant impact. Those that do not, may do OK, but will never excel.
He also drove home a point Schwartz’s president, Bryan Scanlon, has been making quite a bit recently - listening and talking aren’t enough. You need content to drive the discussion. Every company is now its own CNN, and they need to promote what they do, listen, and interact. They can’t rely on the media to give them pre-made programs (articles) anymore. There is much more to the channel than their ever was and technology, consumer, green, and healthcare PR pros need to pay attention.
Some other elements on which I will expound in more detail in later posts include:
Most social networks are matriarchies
The social compass is a good guide to developing a coherent and effective social media strategy
Social media engagement fails if there is not a human in some way associated with the brand
B2B Tech companies were the first to adopt social media with developer forums. There are benefits many B2B tech companies are overlooking.
Banks and other location based venues should look at foursquare. Now 1500 venues are giving rewards to their mayors and driving traffic and deeper relationships.
Check back tomorrow for more highlights from SxSW.
If you are reading this and at the conference, what were some of the best lessons you learned today?
SxSW starts today, and there will be five days full of panels, discussions and debates of interest to technology and consumer technology companies, social media and public relations professionals. I checked in this morning, and found out SxSW is not really a morning crowd...
I will be live tweeting and blogging regularly from some of the most interesting panels and sessions. What struck me as I was perusing the program is the amount of attention being given to online banking and the future of finance. There are about a half dozen programs on the topic.
So check in at the Crossroads throughout the weekend for my updates and thoughts on this dynamic gathering.
This week's issue of PRWeek describes a holiday Twitter campaign that Schwartz designed and executed for Australian client RetailMeNot.com.
RetailMeNot is an online discount and coupon site. They're a current Schwartz client, but this article focuses on a push made around the 2009 holiday shopping season to reach RetailMeNot's target demographic of women between the ages of 18 and 39 with messages about new merchants, discounts and other offers to help drive website traffic.
Check out PRWeek for a description of Twitter tactics. The result was a 70 percent increase in referral traffic to RetailMeNot.com and continued strong traffic after the conclusion of this particular campaign. Pretty nice for a campaign that lasted just over a month.
He describes how the agency, which serves established and entrepreneurial businesses in industries that include healthcare, technology, cleantech and professional services, performed over the past year and notes that our diversification across industries, lack of reliance of a handful of big clients for revenue, and ability to span social and traditional media at a time when many agencies push one over the other were sources of strength in 2009.
Bryan also answers questions about agency and client PR workloads in 2010 and notes that the recession has forced both ends of the PR team to focus on the highest value activities--those that help bring sales leads, drive website visits and close sales.
Macworld is in full swing and going strong this week in San Francisco (Note: Schwartz does PR for the event, but I am not on the team). It was interesting to see the transformation of Macworld over the years. iPhone apps and mobile technology seemed to be the hottest apps at the show and drew some of the greatest buzz.
In speaking with exhibitors and attendees they report attendance appears to be up this year and the quality was high. About all you can ask for in a trade show.
To me, what really stood out were the range of iPhone apps and the ways in which to improve them. One company I spoke with claimed to have put $500 of IP into a $0.99 iPhone app. This shows that more sophisticated tools are constantly coming to the iPhone. The Hypermac folks were drawing some of the biggest crowds at the show with their batteries that help significantly prolong the life of iPhones, iPods and Macbooks. People were primarily talking about the iPhone. I heard very little about the iPad, but that may well have been the company I kept.
Macworld continues to have a much different vibe than CES. For one thing, you can actually see all the exhibitors. For another, the Macworld exhibitors were quite willing to get into discussions and debates with the Mac faithful. I know I took part in a few debates on topics ranging from PR measurement to open source. It was a vibrant and energized crowd.
The session that intrigued me the most featured Scott Kurtz, the author of one of my favorite Web comics (PVPOnline). He had two of the most telling comments of the show, both of which I paraphrase just a bit below.
1) Keep an open mind for retail channels. By giving away his Webcomics for free, he creates merchandise slaves (my words). It's not always about ad revenue, once you have the eyeballs and engagement, revenue opportunities open up. Just keep looking for them.
2) If newspapers die we are all in trouble - Basically, there will always be a need for hyperlocal coverage and the newspapers for non-urban areas still provide excellent value. He also decried the type of stories the reporters cover today, but that is a different post.
Overall, it was an enjoyable show, with some real diamonds of undiscovered technology. What did you think of the show?
Rumor has it they are going to be making some big announcement on Wendesday...Like many other tech executives and PR folks, I will be watching the news conference to find out that latest surprise from Steve Jobs.
It looks like some of the data leaked out inadvertantly due to a CNBC interview with a McGraw-Hill executive, as reported here by Erica Ogg of news.com
The buzz has really started to rise. I just did a quick audit of Twitter volume for Apple using trendistic,
As you can see, the volume of the discussion is on a hypergrowth trajectory. Currently more than half a percent of all tweets are about Apple. With more than 27 million tweets a day, that translates into more than 162,000 tweets today. It will be interesting to see what it looks like tomorrow. I feel confident in projecting four of the key hashtags will be #apple #tablet #jobs and #(insert new product name)
Update (1/27 2:45 p.m) I just ran the chart again, and Apple is dominating with 6% of overall Twitter share of voice. That translates into a run-rate of 1.6 million tweets today. Impressive. More interesing will be the tonality analysis.
This shows the power of social media, when combined with some traditional PR approaches.
When it comes to CES in 2010, I am already noticing a dominant theme start to emerge in consumer technology at the show this year. This year isn’t about smaller devices and form factors- it’s all about if you are fat or thin. Size doesn’t seem to matter as much as width.
Fat is beautiful (or in this case metaphorical depth) The hottest tech (by far) the first day of CES was 3D television. Navigating through the Central Hall today was a matter of threading your way through a jam packed crowd hoping to see the TVs in action. A number of consumer technology companies were displaying 3D TVs, but Samsung’s were the most accessible. Seeing sports on them is definitely an interesting (and great) experience. And the glasses look nothing like the ones I wore as a kid…
I was speaking with one of my colleagues (Dara Sklar) about this technology and she believes the true barrier that will potentially slow adoption of the 3D television is going to be the content. The TV manufacturers need to convince the filmmakers and production companies to invest in the new filming and editing equipment. But this is a challenge developers have faced many times before and I am convinced they will address this issue in the coming year.
I definitely see 3D TV as the future, but I am not yet convinced it is as transformative as HDTV was. When you first saw HDTV, the reaction was “Holy Cow!” The crispness was something a consumer had never seen before. Watching a football game in HDTV on a 60” TV makes you cry when you go home to a 32” regular TV. I don’t get that same feeling when I watch 3D TV. People have seen 3D movies before. It is amazing technology, but it is not quite as transformative as HDTV was in my humble opinion. For the end consumer though – it’s all good news.
Thin is in – The other key thing I am seeing is people going for ever thinner TVs, displays, with LG announcing one just 7 mm thick. Other manufacturers are also showcasing their thin formfactor, I love the technology – but as an end consumer, the sharpness, contrast and color depth and the Quad Pixel technology are more compelling features for me.
The other theme I noticed today was the explosion of safe driving technologies. Most focused on hands free technology, but approached the issue from different angles. Some looked at it from a business/fleet owner perspective, while others added parental controls for teenage drivers. All in all, I expect speech technology to become an integral part of car audio systems in the next few years. The most exciting technology I saw was a company that has the technology that enables you to speak and hear text messages (I know that sounds ironic) but I plan to try it out in the next few weeks.
Traffic was down (except in the Central Hall), but many of the exhibitors indicated that quality and the number of meetings they had were up.
What trends did you see? Do you agree with the relative impact of HDTV vs. 3D TV?
Next week the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) takes place in Las Vegas, the venue which vendors debut the latest in the technology gadgets of the future. With so many new products entering the market, inevitably products that utilize older technology slowly reach end-of-life status. Along those lines Smartmoney.com has issued a list of "10 Things Not to Buy" with their predictions for the products where innovation will cease in 2010 and consumers should avoid purchasing in these categories. Next week on the CES show floor I will be very curious to see how vendors with these technologies are positioning (or repositioning) products that fall under these umbrellas.
Given some of Schwartz Communications' work in our growing Green PR practice, a couple of the items from the list that drew my attention include Gas-guzzling cars and Energy inefficient homes. As a consumer PR professional, number 6 on the list, newspaper subscriptions as an obsolete purchase, is disheartening, as I have always felt that sitting down with a cup of coffee and a newspaper is the best way to be thoughtful about the news we read.
Click here to view the full list, see you in Vegas!
While the trade show landscape has changed many times over the decades, with the pendulum swinging from big shows to focused, niche gatherings, there have always been a few shows that remind one of COMDEX in the mid 90s (and have the same unbearably long cab lines).
One of these is CES - the premier consumer technology tradeshow. Schwartz and our clients will be there in force this year. At the end of each day, we plan to highlight some of the most exciting and innovative technologies we encounter on the show floor. If you don't want to wait for the end of the day, we will be tweeting key updates at www.twitter.com/mcclennan.
Over the past week, we have had two of the biggest consumer shopping events of the past year - Black Friday and CyberMonday. The media buzz about each of these artificial shopping holidays has been enormous. That caused me to ask - who won the shopping PR war, Black Friday or Cyber Monday? (Note: Schwartz has some clients that capitalized on one or both of these shopping events).
While it seemed obvious to me that Black Friday would dominate traditional media (who can resist a live shot of the lines at 3 a.m., pushing and shoving?) - what would be the case in the social media world, where there was likely a bias towards online shopping?
Last night, I used Radian 6 to conduct a quick audit. The results were surprising. Black Friday crushed CyberMonday when it came to the amount of discussion in the social media world (blogs, Twitter, etc.). The chart below tells the story:
Overall social media coverage volumes for Black Friday were much greater than CyberMonday (and the spike around the actual day was much higher as well). Aggregating data, Black Friday has 84% of the overall share of voice, with CyberMonday securing 16% (482,000 to 95,000).
That is interesting and shows that Black Friday dominated the discussion. But how did it do with key message penetration?
When it comes to promoting deals and discounts, retailers were more effective overall with CyberMonday compared to Black Friday.
Overall, 45% of CyberMonday coverage highlighted deals or discounts, while just 31% of the coverage of Black Friday highlighted deals or discounts. Much of the rest of the coverage was around opening times, lines, etc.
The channels used to communicate the deals were interesting.
Fully one in four deals were communicated via Twitter. With 52% of Black Friday Deals and 64% of Cyber Monday deals communicated on blogs.
What conclusions can we take from this?
1) Both Cyber Monday and Black Friday are very successful when it comes to generating discussion in the social media space, although Black Friday coverage was overwhelmingly dominant.
2) Retailers do a relatively good job communicating deals around both events, although as a percentage, retailers do a better job around CyberMonday.
3) Traditional and social/online work well together in retail, just like they do in public relations.
Note: For my fellow measurement purists. Variant spellings of both BlackFriday and Cyber Monday were used to catch as much as possible.
Marketers and PR professionals have to be living under a rock if they have not heard about Twitter and its power to connect companies, consumers and anyone that wants to share. It is a way for companies to connect with their customers, it is free business intelligence, it is a brand-building complement, it is a low cost focus group, it is what you make of it.
One of the currencies of Twitter is “Retweeting.” Basically, if you see something you like, agree with, find insightful or interesting, many people pass it along with a RT: (and then the original tweet).
Most of the time this can be good. Although there is such a thing as retweet overload. Sometimes, though it can go a bit too far.
For example, last week, I was a victim of Retweet gone horribly wrong.
Like most disasters it started out simply enough.
I was flying cross country on American Airlines and found out they had in-flight wireless. I immediately purchased it and started doing emails and work for as long as my laptop battery would last. In flight wireless let me get some time sensitive things done and to say I was psyched would be an understatement. This has convinced me to give priority to carriers like American, Virgin America, etc., that offer the service.
A few minutes later I see the following tweet: @GogoInflight And we <3 you too! RT @McClennan: I love gogo inflight internet from American Airlines
Disclosure: GogoInflight and American Airlines are not Schwartz clients, and after this may not be in the future. (Even though I do applaud them for being engaged).
Communications lesson #1: I may be a minority among business travelers, but seeing <3 (heart) struck me as odd and inappropriate. Responding to your customers is great, but make sure you use the same language they do. Emoticons are not part of my daily business vocabulary.
If that was it, this would be an interesting conversation point about the appropriate use of <3s and other emoticons. But, wait, there’s more….
A few minutes later, @AAirwaves (the official twitter channel of American Airlines) retweets @Gogoinflight’s tweet. Spreading the strange emoticon heart-love to its more than 11,000 followers.
Right after that I see another 7-10 retweets from those affiliated with the airline industry (and one golf event). I am sure all their followers were just dying to know that I loved GoGo Inflight. One of them was so moved, they retweeted it four times. Think of how happy their followers were. I bet it filled the cockles of their <3s.
Communication lesson #2: Use your retweet capital wisely. You should share things of interest, but if you share too much, you will drown out your valuable content with meaningless noise. Basically ask yourself – is this retweet adding value?
I assure you, while I value my opinion, if my post influenced anyone in the aviation industry’s purchasing decision, there is a problem there.
My counsel would have been to consider:
1) Direct messaging me to let me know you appreciate my feedback 2) If GoGo wanted to be public, aggregate the “Tweets of Praise” it receives each day and say something along the lines of “75 more people shared how much they like the new service, (custom URL).” If someone very influential does tweet about you, sure, consider a one off “thanks. Glad you like our service.”
Instead, 14,000+ people now received a tweet (or 10) letting them know I love the service.
Communications lesson #3: Doing it right: For an example of an organization that did it right, I can point to PBS. I blogged about it earlier here. In a nutshell, I complained about some of their coverage. They responded with a personalized response “@mcClennan sorry for the delay in replying, but what was your wife unhappy about?” and I have been singing their praises ever since.
In all seriousness, I appreciate the retweet and the response. I am just charging companies to drive for even more strategic communications.
The mobile industry is in a conundrum. Companies from Apple to Blackberry to Nokia to Qualcomm are all pushing to make the mobile phone the ubiquitous computing device, wherever ever you are, whatever you are doing. With the growth of data-capable phones doubling since 2005 and now representing 88% of phones on the market in the US according to CTIA, they are succeeding. We are addicted to Crackberries and forbidden fruit.
But is it healthy? Recent Federal studies have demonstrated that driving while texting is bad for you and anyone near your car. It is even worse than drinking and driving; at least you are trying to concentrate when you are drunk. Excessive texting is even changing the political makeup of State legislatures. New York billionaire and wanna be Governor Tom Golisano threw a fit when New York State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith spent a meeting with Golisano playing with his Blackberry. Golisano consequently convinced several Democratic representatives to switch to the Republican Party. And GigaOM just published a story that warns of the harms to relationships and overall health from being too connected.
Given this growing backlash, how can mobile companies market their products and services without perpetuating the problems of the 24 X 7 man? Do iPods and Blackberries now have to come with labels like cigarettes that warn that too much usage could cause harm? Should phone companies invest in medical and psychological research to convince the public that they understand that further evidence is needed to understand the issues? Are we far from a book called “Thanks for texting?”
In an ultracompetitive industry of huge gizmo launches and Tweets that chronicle the minutia of daily life, the marketing pros in the mobile industry have to figure out how to promote the value and cool factor of their devices. They can’t be seen as driving destructive behavior that is no longer funny or annoying but can kill. Otherwise the cute songs in the iPod ads could go the way of Joe Camel.
One of the most common questions I hear from people at events and seminars is "What are the best practices for making a viral video? I want to make something viral."
I quickly reply that the PR and marketing folks do not make something viral - Users, customers and fans do. What we can do is create compelling content and make it easy to share. But setting out to catch lighting in the bottle usually leaves you with an empty bottle.
I started thinking along these lines again when I heard a Bud Light "Real Men of Genius" commercial on the radio recently. Yes, this is an ad campaign that has its own, legitimate Wikipedia entry. I remembered these commercial fondly. Commercials such as "Mr. Giant Taco Salad Inventor" need to be remembered.
I also remember back around 2001, before social networking first took off, wanting to listen to a few of these (yes, the commercials were so good I actually sought them out). This is the hallmark of great content. I finally found a site that had them, but when I visited the site again, they had stopped carrying the commercials after Bud Light had contacted them and told them to take them down (according to the site). Talk about killing any viral nature of your content.
When I heard another Real Men of Genius commercial today (Mr. T-shirt Launcher Inventor) , I decided to check back and see if they were available. They now seem to be on a few sites, and when I checked YouTube they are up there. The 10th most popular video in the series has 200,000 views, 668 ratings and more than 280 comments. Talk about engagement!
I applaud the company for letting customers share its advertisements. The additional visibility it is receiving is off the charts. Yet there are still some missed opportunities that any consumer and consumer technology company can learn from.
1) Make it easy for an engaged audience to share your content
2) Go where your fans are. There are 200+ groups on Facebook dedicated to this commercial series, yet I do not see Bud Light's engagement anywhere. (apologies if I missed it) If you have a group of fans - Reach out to them. Let them know you are there and listening and you gain brand ambassadors. The top group also has close to 2,000 members.
3) Give people a place to go. On YouTube there are a number of channels for the Bud Light commercials. Yet none of them are sponsored. We are talking 10 million plus views that could have been driven to a Bud Light channel. The same goes for the company's Website. I couldn't find this campaign on it - forcing folks to go to third party sights.
4) Think of ways to capitalize on passion - People that like these commercials really like them. I have heard them discussed in meetings, around the coffee machine, you name it. If you create content that is that compelling, it behooves a company to find additional ways to capitalize on the passion. I for one would be willing to give my name and demographic information in return for getting the latest commercials pushed to me. And I am confident I am not alone.
So what does this mean? Consumer brands that create compelling content will be rewarded. I rarely see "Real Men of Genius" without Bud Light. But to maximize its potential, the brands need to make this content easy to share and accessible on multiple channels.
Last night it was announced that the Philadelphia Eagles have signed Michael Vick. Every brand in the NFL is a consumer brand, and for the most part they try to give off a family friendly image. In one fell swoop the Eagles went from this:
For sports fans, this means the Eagles may have a better team this year. Operationally it may make sense for the organization. But it will be interesting to see how this plays out over the long term. I will be most interested to see how the Eagles handle this PR challenge and the role the Eagles PR team played both internally and externally. It is the role of the PR counselor to stand up and point out when business decisions may have a deleterious effect on a company's brand.
I would be surprised if the Eagles PR staff did not do so.
In my opinion, the Eagles brand has been tarnished. The goodwill the team has built up over the years (and the great community and PR work done by Donovan McNabb and his mother) has taken a short term hit.
What lessons can PR professionals take from the Eagles/Vick signing?
1) When presented with a choice like this in your company, remember you are the voice of the brand and the public with whom the company interacts. You need to make sure executives look at the potential negatives of any business decision.
2) Practice, practice, practice - Make sure everyone is on board with the same message. Judging by today's media coverage, the Eagles appear to have done a phenomenal job with Andy Reid, Donovan, Tony Dungee and Vick. It you are going to do something that may negatively impact your brand, do it quickly and have a uniform message. Make sure you keep the lines of dialogue open to those that may have concerns.
3) Monitor and respond - The Eagles (not surprisingly) seem to be doing a great job responding to inquiries on all fronts. If a consumer brand is doing something its core customers may not like, it should not limit itself to just the "friendly" channels.
Be sure to monitor and engage social media and provide people the information they need. The Eagles Website has videos from the press conference and stories. The blog has some good content. I would have counseled them to take it a step further and have a fact sheet and easy access to official quotes (and audio) so any blogger/reporter can use them. I did a quick search and couldn't find an official Eagles presence on Twitter, and this is currently one of the top Twitter topics. This is something they should consider for the future. Not because it is the hot social media channel, but because their fans are there and actively engaged.
While President Obama doesn't like the term, last night's meeting feet from the Oval Office was aptly called "the beer summit."
Just like the Academy Awards ceremony spotlights who's wearing what, the sit-down for the President with Cambridge (Mass.) Police Sargent James Crowley, Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, and late-addition Vice President Joe Biden highlighted who was drinking what.
I mean no disrespect at all to the seriousness of the topics that were discussed at the meeting, but there were certainly PR ramifications from the event, given how high-profile it was. The brews chosen by each person are highlights in the news coverage.
For the record, here was the beer menu:
President Obama: Bud Light
Vice President Biden: Buckler Beer
Sgt. Crowley: Blue Moon
Professor Gates: Sam Adams Light
I already had one friend respond to a Tweet I posted this morning on the topic, joking that he would not have voted for a Bud Light drinker had he known the President's preference in November.
The PR winner following the meeting? My guess is millions of people are doing what I did this morning-- They are searching online for "Buckler Beer."
The third result to a Google search for the variety brings back an epinions link that reads: "Buckler is Perhaps the Best NA (Non-Alcoholic) Beer On the Market."
No doubt numerous weekend beer drinkers this weekend will ask for the Vice President's choice.
As a side note, I am curious if the White House actually has Sam Adams Light as part of its regular selection. The choice is hard to find. They do serve it in the Boston area, where I live.
Maybe we will soon hear what type of pretzels were served?
As many Americans know right now, the government Cash for Clunkers program is kicking off. Auto dealers and manufacturers are making a big push behind it - and here in Mass. the push is even greater with the sales tax increasing by 25% shortly.
What stuck me interesting is PR Week's take on the situation. Its Breakfast Briefing newsletter was all about "Automakers are kicking off an advertising blitz to coincide with the federal government's "cash-for-clunkers" program...Among the participants, Toyota began running national and regional ads late last week for the program, which goes until November 1. GM and Chrysler ran full-page print ads as part of the effort."
That's great and advertising is part of the communications mix, but I would be interested in learning more about the full PR effort - not just the advertising push. There are 1,900 videos on the topic on YouTube alone. How are manufacturers looking to stand out from the pack? (Note: Kelly Blue Books video here caught my eye) - but I am not sure the manufacturers want their message communicated in that way. Twitter is also abuzz.
It's an interesting program and many stakeholders are keen to educate consumers and communicate their own key messages. This is a topic all communications professionals should watch over the coming week. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
For me, while I have a "clunker" as defined by the government. I plan to keep it for now. The one message that never seems to get out is that when you trade it in and get a new car - you also get car payments...
The Amazon/Zappos acquisition/deal news today has the blogosphere, tech media and Twittersphere abuzz. There are so many interesting nuances to this story that I expect this buzz to continue over the next few months. (Note: Schwartz does not represent any of the companies directly involved in this deal. I have represented companies that have partnered with Amazon and I am sure many of the companies with whom we work sell to them.)
I am most intrigued by what this will do to the communications culture at the two organizations.
Amazon was a trail blazer when it comes to personalization, @Zappos is the poster-child for senior executive engagement in social media. I am intrigued by what could happen by blending the two and think the gestalt could be greater than the individual parts.
The letter from Zappos' CEO Tony was very well done, and he has made it open to the public - here - no better way to show transparency.
The good news for entrepreneurial consumer technology and retail companies is that innovation, a customer-focus and excellent communications are still being rewarded. Most entrepreneurs I know and work with have never doubted this, but it is good to occasionally see it reinforced.
While some claim the summer months are a time when business slows down, anyone involved in retailing and consumer PR knows that it is when holiday planning swings into high-gear.
To help companies maximize their social media efforts (particularly around the holiday shopping season), the team at Schwartz Communications will be hosting a Webinar on July 22 at 1:00 p.m. ET.
The Webinar: "Groups, Handles and Widgets—Social Media Best Practices and Case Studies for Online Retailers," will explore how companies can leverage the latest online tools, measurement practices and social networks to maximize their communications impact.
Led by Mark W. McClennan, APR (BillMeLater, CheckFree) and Jason Morris (RetailMeNot, BeatMyPrice), vice presidents in Schwartz’s Consumer Practice Group, attendees will learn social media best practices and be presented with case studies of award-winning social media campaigns that drove business results.
These past few weeks have brought news of quite a few passings, but the one that touched me most was the one I heard of last night - the passing of Oscar Mayer. Compared to the coverage given to some of those who passed recently, coverage of his death was a blip, yet his legacy and his company's consumer marketing savvy have had a profound impact on American culture.
For full disclosure, back in the early 90s, I can *this* close to becoming a "Hotdogger" and driving the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile. There are thousands of applicants each year, and I made it to the round of 36 that are flown to Madison, but I didn't quite cut the mustard and was not one of the 12 chosen to drive the 32 foot long hot dog.
What impressed me then, and what impresses me still today is how Oscar Mayer has the pulse on its brand identity and what its brand means to consumers. The Weinermobiles have become iconic, but they also represent 12 full-time brand ambassadors who are getting the pulse of the consumer in ad hoc focus groups every day, reinforcing the brand identity and helping keep it prominent. If you asked, I bet the jingle could still be sung by hundreds of millions of people today.
Luckily, for consumer and consumer technology companies today, they don't need to spend millions to interact with their customers. Social media is allowing them to have deeper, more direct and greater interactions with their customers. For companies without the budget enjoyed by the Weinermobile, this is a very good thing.
But for just a minute, I would like to observe a moment of silence, for a co-founder of one of the leading, innovative consumer brands. RIP, Oscar Mayer.
As July 4th approaches, more and more people in the United States take time to reflect on their country, patriotism, the struggles of our founding fathers, and the courage shown by 300 average citizens in Lexington and Concord, just a few miles from Schwartz's headquarters. Americans think of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, the Constitution and those that gave the last full measure of devotion.
Like many, I believe the Declaration of Independence to be one of the most powerful pieces of prose ever written in the English language.
In honor of the upcoming holiday, we created a word cloud of the Declaration of Independence and decided to look at it from a communications standpoint.
The good news? Not only is it powerful prose, but it is "on message." The key themes shine right through - laws and people are equally balanced. Rights are a close third. Repeated usurpations (a key complaint of the colonists), assent, free and government come through as well. People looking at the word cloud (inserted in this post below) can see the key messages. It is very effective and resonates still today.
If you haven't re-read the Declaration in a while, take the time with your family this holiday weekend to do so. And from all of us at Schwartz, we wish those in the United States, and Americans abroad, a safe and happy holiday weekend.
For a full-sized version of the world cloud, click here.
I recently received a news brief from Jane's Defense in my email inbox. The headline intrigued me: "USJFCOM explores network-free warfighting."
I read some more and the tease - “US Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) has conducted a comprehensive wargame that, among other things, evaluated the military's ability to fight without networks” - reminded me of something important:
As communications professionals, we are living in an ever increasingly-networked world. Laptops, e-mail, IM, Twitter, IP phones and the Web have replaced the typewriter, letters, faxes, delivery services and press conferences. But what happens if we experience disruption? Blackouts, solar flares, or other events can shut us down for hours or weeks. But most likely the world outside continues moving.
While our challenges would never be as severe as those faced by the U.S. military, we can take lessons from the foresight the military is showing. Many of my financial services clients and I have these discussion as part of our crisis planning during any engagement.
I remember doing a lot of this a decade ago as the Y2K crisis approached. I was one of many communications professions for which New Year’s Eve 2000 was a day of work, not a night of celebration.
Following are three tips to keep in mind.
1) Plan for the worst – You do not need to be a manufacturer, an airline or a healthcare company to have a crisis. Part of your communications planning process should be spent thinking about what are the challenges you may face, and how will you respond to them? You won’t get them all, but if you identify the five most likely issues, you won’t be scrambling to make up responses on the fly.
2) Rehearse – The USJFCOM didn’t just think about these issues. They practiced them. Companies should have crisis drills where they practice their response. This year’s Best of Silver Anvil Award winner, Northern Illinois University, received the Anvil for the work they did during a crisis. They credit the skills of their response to the drills they ran.
3) Make sure “everyone gets the word.” Crisis planning should not be limited to just the communications and public relations department. Give guidelines to everyone and make sure people know where the plans are in case you are unavailable. It’s the little things. How are you going to get the message out, monitor the discussion, change the Web site and keep the company informed?
Last weekend I spent a few days with 140 colleagues and competitors at the PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference. From there I went to the Silver Anvil Awards. It was a great time and I learned a number of new things. Most of the topics would bore our loyal readers, but there were a few items that I thought might be of interest.
You can listen to my thoughts on why now is the time to ramp up the PR and marketing investment; how measurement drives results; and learn about a free research and analysis tool by clicking here.
In the consumer product and consumer technology world, companies inevitably want to keep things 'fresh' and 'new'. There is a long history over why this is a good thing and how it helps sales. I am a firm believer that in the consumer space you always need to be willing to try and do fresh and new things, but you don't have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
I experienced this on a personal level recently with the change to the Pepsi logo and packaging. There was a great hubbub about this in the blogosphere a while ago, so I won't rehash it, but Pepsi changed its logo and its coloring. I am a committed Diet Pepsi drinker, but the change to silver confused me and I have to think before making a purchase (Diet Pepsi would sometimes be white, but now white is Caffeine Free).
Giving consumers a chance to pause before making a purchasing decision is rarely a good thing.
To exacerbate the situation, Pepsi has introduced Diet Pepsi Vanilla. Same packaging, but a vertical 'Vanilla' in small red lettering.
Needless to say, I didn't see the small lettering and bought one accidentally recently. I took a sip, expecting regular Diet Pepsi, and was surprised and unhappy with the new flavor. My resolution - avoid the confusion and conscious analysis I would have to make and just buy Sprite (my 2nd favorite drink) in the store in the future. Since Sprite is a Coke product, I am not sure Pepsi will like it.
There are valid reasons for Pepsi making the choice it did, and they can afford to lose my business temporarily. But smaller, entrepreneurial consumer companies need to look at all aspects of change. What will this do to our base? Will it energize them or cause cogitative dissonance. Is the dissonance so great we don't want to move forward? This doesn't apply to just packaging, but to social media campaigns, changes in the Website and all other content creation. Companies invest heavily in building brands. Consumers make the brands their own and come to expect certain things.
Change is great. It's the only way innovation happens. But be sure to always allow time to plan out the different scenarios. It’s the only way to truly identify the best change and the right time for change.
Today, many Americans were anxiously awaiting the California Supreme Court's Decision on Prop 8. With offices in California and Massachusetts this is something I have been following.
As the buildup was happening to the 10:00 a.m. PT ruling on Proposition 8, I was wondering which communications channel people would turn to for the news. Would it be Google News? CNN? Drudge? Twitter? So I asked on Twitter...One person commented that the most effective channel is the one that is open - and that is an important lesson for communicators to remember.
Yes, you want broad reach when disseminating your message. But if you have timely news, you want to reach the channel in which your customers and prospects are engaged. It doesn't matter if one channel reaches two million and the other three million, if the one reaching 300,000 has 250,000 engaged and interested parties - that may be the best.
For the record, I found the news out first on Drudge, then Twitter and then CNN. The site refreshed more quickly than my Twitter stream. But I could gauge reaction to the ruling much more quickly on Twitter than any of the other channels. Which brings up another key point to remember - the best channel for communicating the message is not necessarily the channel that will energize your base. Once the message is out there, it will take on a life of its own. Communicators need to be aware of these nuances and incorporate them into their plans.
Not sure if I am supposed to give props to a competing agency on this space, but the Social Media Press Release (SMPR) invented by Shift Communications a few years back was a novel idea.
Today, the SMPR means different things to different people:
-- Originally, an SMPR meant content organized online so that it is easily digested by the media. Features are presented in bullets; it's easy to click from content to supporting quotes; and graphics and other content are easy to find to support a story.
-- Some services today describe an SMPR as a press release that is formatted and presented so it is easy to share. A newer example is Pitch Engine, where one finds readily available tools for sharing a release on Facebook, posting a release on Twitter, or using other social media platforms.
-- Certain news distribution services, such as PR Newswire or Business Wire, describe a SMPR as a release that is augmented by multimedia content, including videos or pictures, and a release that includes hyperlinks within the body of the release.
-- Some describe an SMPR as any combination of the above.
The reality is that press releases serve a far greater audience than just the press. Anyone who visits the web can end up reading a press release. Furthermore, since press releases are syndicated by distribution services and are often modified slightly and presented on news web sites, they can have significant SEO value.
The topic of the SMPR was front and center this week, mainly because of a webcast produced by Hubspot that noted how old fashioned press releases, without fancy graphics and presented as just plain text-- are more likely to be syndicated than any form of a SMPR. In addition, Hubspot postulated that the old fashioned releases were better for SEO, since links were more likely carried in the syndicated releases.
The report prompted some debate since Hubspot tried to find away to measure an instrument used in PR-- a marketing function that itself is very hard to measure.
Internally here at Schwartz, we have been debating SMPRs, press release distribution services and the role of a press release for some time. Here are a few points related to the conventional wisdom internally and the discussions this week:
-- Adding visuals or videos to a press release makes the press release more attractive to media and any other audience that views it,
-- For companies especially interested in SEO or web traffic, it's a better course to host visuals, video, graphics, etc. on the company's website, and then link back to the website from the press release,
-- Making the release easier to share is important, and the best press rooms today are those that incorporate tools for sharing content right in the press room,
There is no clear-cut guidance on this issue, and we're experimenting with a number of press release distribution options and press release formats here at Schwartz. If you are interested, keep reading this blog or drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Newsweek just completed a live interview of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on its Facebook page. In the PR world, we spend a lot of time thinking about the convergence of social and traditional media. This interview marks one of the boldest moves to date by traditional media to bridge these worlds.
This interview also exemplifies the continuing march of consumer technology into the news making process. We’ve all heard about the Twitter reports that were the first wave of “news” from the Mumbai bombings and “Miracle on the Hudson” flight. The iReports from CNN have given virtual media credentials to thousands of citizen journalists and their video phones. Companies post their own news in via YouTube videos and iTunes downloads.
What’s interesting to watch is the way these technologies have moved from the periphery to the epicenter of the news process. It began when new technologies started giving voice to viewers, listeners and readers. Soon a wave of simple consumer friendly applications began turning people into self publishers able to share the news and events that matter to them. Reporters and publications have increasingly adopted such tools to spread the reach of their coverage and to nurture contacts and find ideas for future stories. Newsweek is taking that next step in this process, co-opting a third-party consumer channel for its own news reporting.
Media companies are in innovation mode, trying to come up with new content and attract new audiences while managing costs and headcount. If Newsweek, with its readership of over 2.7 million, can find new readers to engage with via Facebook, then the floodgates will open and consumer technology will move one degree deeper into the inner sanctum of news making.
It was clear at Digital Hollywood’s “Content Rights and Technology Solutions” and “Monetizing Digital Content” sessions that the DRM debate has shifted from how to control usage to how to engage consumers and embed more value in legitimate content. The panel of tech vendors encouraged content providers to listen to consumer demands for universal access to purchased content. Anti-piracy remained a hot topic, but with the belief that satisfied consumers are less likely to stray and may in fact be willing to pay more for high quality, legitimate content.
Mark Isherwood, director and co-founder of Rightscom Ltd, explains how content access and protection is changing in the following clip.
Over at Journalistics, Jeremy Porter considers a timely and under-appreciated topic: "The Impact of Dying Newspapers on Older Readers." He notes, "While many media companies work to preserve their future with digital strategies aimed at younger audiences, they are simultaneously alienating themselves from their older (and often most loyal) readers." It's worth a look.
A parallel trend that we're seeing is a decline in local TV affiliates' ability to cover healthcare news. ("Local programs" that medical or healthcare PR agencies run are designed to reach target audiences, including patients, through their town's newspapers, radio programs or TV news.) Many affiliates don't have the budget anymore to cover medical news more than a few times a month. One Boston TV station isn't sending camera crews out anymore to gather healthcare stories. A sad statement if you consider how important medical research is to Boston's economy, not to mention the individuals who live here.
I'm sure that some older people are comfortable getting their news online and that more will follow. I do hope, though, that it's not all WebMD and stories created for national audiences. Hopefully it'll still be available in most towns written by local journalists who know the community and medical centers and have the professionalism (guess I haven't seen any hyperlocal sites covering healthcare news) required to work with patients and their families.
While Digital Hollywood attendees were the usual thirty-something mix of suits, anecdotes of mobile addicted tweens and toddlers frequently invited laughter and nodding heads throughout numerous panel discussions. The promise of an insatiable appetite for new applications and content led tech vendors and marketers to describe the desires and habits of the newest generation of consumers.
Move over pacifiers, parents are using mobile devices to distract their children. Katharine Linke, director of multi-platform programming at Disney said the channel was surprised at the popularity of its pre-school programming after parents said that they wouldn’t let toddlers play with their $400 phones. Well, they are! Mickey Mouse ClubHouse was watched as much as Hannah Montana on mobile phones and one panelist confessed to using the SpongeBob Tickler for iPhone application to keep his infant happy in the car.
Mobile has been deemed “the 3rd screen”, but it’s the primary and most-loved screen of adolescents. One panelist said his fifteen year-old daughter sends and receives 1,600-2,000 texts a month. Also, unlike the average mobile viewer who watches 25 minutes a day according to FloTV, pre-teens are watching long form content, like movies, on their phones too.
While adolescents might not think twice about downloading a bootleg song or movie, they are also creating an entire new economy by embracing virtual goods. They see value in buying an icon, like an image of a birthday cake, and are happy to pay $1.99 for applications like putting a friends’ photo in a Jonas Brothers’ music video.
Next-gen consumers are less concerned with “owning” content as much as anytime/anywhere access across their many devices. New business models will focus on usage-based activity with clear implications for cloud computing, access control, usage analytics and targeted marketing opportunities.
Creating compelling content for smart consumers was top of mind as Digital Hollywood kicked off with packed sessions, prestigious speakers and conversations that often returned to how to best engage online consumer audiences who are spread out across many, many sites. Everyone agreed that the entertainment industry maxim "content is king" is critical to reaching today’s empowered consumers who pick and choose what they read and watch and for the most part bypass advertisements.
As the role of marketing and public relations increasingly becomes that of content creator, buzz builders can learn from the playbooks of Hollywood marketers. Monday’s session "Strategizing the Campaign; Selling Movies, TV and Video on the Web" revealed tips from top brass at Comcast /Fandango, Microsoft, Fox, Paramount who have kept box office ticket thriving this spring through their creativity, tenacity and innovation
Know your target audience so that you can personalize the online experience to their individual tastes. Survey your customers to determine their interests. You may find some surprising results that can become a part of your online brand experience.
Be experimental, but integrate too. Online allows marketers to try something new and get immediate feedback. Develop your digital marketing strategy in tandem with traditional marketing to create a single multi-faceted campaign.
Budget time and money for "clever" content. Don’t let content be an after thought. Consumers expect free, unique compelling content that intelligently starts a conversation that they can participate in.
Provide depth for online audiences to dig deeper into content, get involved and be "in the know." Make your biggest fans feel special with exclusive content (like WATCHMENS’ multiple trailers and WOLVERINE’s contest for the red carpet premiere) or prizes (swag, anyone?)
iPhone apps are hot - but then you knew that. Fandango had a WAP platform for years, but had little traction until it launched an iPhone app 6 weeks ago with basic functionality to buy tickets on-the-go. Half a million downloads later, consumers are now watching mobile trailers too.
Listen to consumers, and respond - Fast! The beauty of instant online feedback is also a responsibility. Consumer’s told Fandago they wanted to be able to log into their accounts on their iPhones rather than enter credit card info to buy tickets. Fandango listened and built in the functionality within 2 weeks.
Enlist Viral Armies - Every marketing campaign should include an "Alpha Fan Strategy" to engage a Digital Street Team to be your online ambassadors. First you need to get to know your #1 fanboys -- the 10-15% of your audience that wants more than to consume or share content. Give them the tools to create a mash-up, design a T-shirt, build an add-on widget to extend your brand experience.
Don’t Stop the Feed - Keep evaluating engagement measurements to determine what’s working, what’s not and what to do next. Most importantly, keep giving fans more of what they loved, but with innovations. You’ve got their attention - now you need to keep it by getting even more creative.
Congratulations to Schwartz and its long-time client partner CheckFree (now Fiserv). We are a finalist in this year’s PRSA Silver Anvil awards, which are pretty much one of the most prestigious awards in the PR industry. The nomination, in the "Marketing Consumer Services Technology" category, highlights our work promoting green living and fighting fraud with online bill payment. This is a testiment to a great client who is committed to research and creative campaigns, and a close, long-term working relationship.
Schwartz and CheckFree (Fiserv) secured more than 1,500 articles and on average the majority of articles contained at least two key messages and/or statistics. Green coverage for the campaigns ranged from key blogs and regional papers to the Sierra Club magazine. Working closely with CheckFree, partner banks and the industry, the company offered various promotions, including an offer to plant a tree for each E-bill activated. This generated more than 125,000 new users and planted that many trees. If you are interested in finding out more, visit ebillplace.
The identity fraud campaign was just as successful, and generated more than 1,000 total articles, blog posts and TV stories. More than 60% of the articles contained at least two of the top messages including paying bills online is safer than mailing them.
A client for ten years, the CheckFree (now Fiserv) and the Schwartz team partnership is no stranger to awards. It's the fourth time in seven years that the CheckFree/Schwartz team is a finalist---and we took home the gold for two of those.
I wonder if we have a Meryl Streep thing going here?
As pointed out on Mashable this morning, Ashton Kutcher and, now, Oprah get Twitter but, surpringly, most of CNN's audience doesn't. The CNN vs Ashton race and CNN's breaking news alert when Kutcher reached the million followers mark might help bring the CNN audience along. Regardless, no one can deny Twitter's impact as a channel for reaching consumers and even driving behavior. Witness the 111,000 and climbing followers Oprah has amassed since her first post this morning.
Amazon has been on a PR rollercoaster ride since Sunday when gay-themed books began disappearing from the sales rankings and search algorithms. The Twitterverse immediately swung into action claiming a new anti-gay policy and AmazonFail soon eclipsed Easter as a hot topic. Although the sales rankings are returning to normal, the story rolls on with coverage of why and how the site changed and even a claim of responsibility from a hacker.
This turn of events clearly demonstrates how social media compresses the timeline for managing a crisis. It also illustrates an important rule of PR: Either proactively manage your brand or the Twitterverse and other online communities will do it for you.
With that motto in mind, here a few general tips to create and protect consumer brands in today’s communications landscape.
1) People on Twitter are typing what others are thinking. Don’t discount the opinions expressed on Twitter or any other online channel as the “vocal” minority. Vocal yes. Minority, probably not.
2) Don’t let the conversation be one sided. The mantra of social media is – “Join the conversation.” Listen just as much (if not more) than you talk online. The good news is that, by establishing a rapport, you have the ear of the community when you need it.
3) Use the rapport. Do not walk away from the conversation when it matters most. The Amazon Twitter feed’s last update was on April 9, the Friday before this all broke. The Amazon corporate feed primarily features tweets about the Amazon Daily blog. Even though the Twitter feed stopped, the Amazon Daily rolled on. The Amazon Daily on Monday (day 2 of the situation) featured a number of book and product reviews. There was more timely content too: reports on the Obama’s new dog and Phil Spector’s guilty verdict. The CTO of Amazon kept on Tweeting, just not about the controversy.
4) What happens in the Twitterverse doesn’t stay in the Twitterverse. Obviously, the mainstream media follows what happened at Amazon but many smaller events cross over every day. In fact, most reporters are actively using Twitter to track trends, find resources and hunt for story ideas.
5) Brand management in the social media realm is an ongoing process. Just ask Southwest Airlines, which furthers its reputation as a customer centric brand every day by using its Twitter feed as a very public demonstration of fast, effective customer service in action.