"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!
Thunderstruck, ACDC's awesome track, was the background to a video of Boston in it's glory with sunny skies and a fancy helicopter winding through the neighborhoods below. Flash to Darmesh and Brian (HubSpot co-founders) wearing track suits and aviators enjoying the ride. Finally, after lots of lead up- they "landed" at the conference and gave a funny and formal welcome to #Inbound2012.
1. First up was a discussion about horizontal content. This is content thats broad and thin that people will find when searching broad market category search words. He's a music lover and the example was typing in "indie music concerts" where results span from live music in a particular city to worldwide festivals and bands.
2. After this broad discussion, he explained vertical content that is much more specific and deep. This is content to help drive people into very specific search terms and where you may type in the actual band name in the search like "sts9 tour" bringing you right to the exact content you are looking for. (sound tribe sector 9, yeah, I've seen them!)
3. Last, and most important is Real Time content: discussions and content about whats going on right this moment. This instant. RIGHT NOW! Using a #bostonlivemusic as a search explains what's happening right now.
Lessons learned: Is one of our clients doing something cool today? We CANNOT operate in campaign mode, we have to unlearn this "planning" mode and go live! Discuss current content and keep the conversation relevant!
Did I forget to mention that he brought Cyndi Lauper up and she sang some blues to kick us off?
5 Steps to Becoming an inbound Ninja- Everyone Watch Out!
This discussion was led by Mark Kilens, manager of customer training, HubSpot @markkilens
1. Goal setting- setting smart monthly goals for traffic and leads is a great way to get started on your inbound plans.
2. Traffic generation- Be social. Be fun. And always be creating content! Mark straggly stated, "Live by the 50/50 rule: 50% of your own content 50% other peoples content"
3. Conversion- Create lead generation content (white papers, ebooks, guides, webinars) where the commitment to read that content is a little higher. From there, create a call to action- landing page- and most importantly a thank you page with next steps.
4. Nurturing- nurture leads into becoming customers through both the lead generating content and the social content. Create smart lists: all of the leads that downloaded an ebook and are 4 weeks old and are b2b. Narrow the list and send them a relative blog through EMAIL MARKETING. Build trust by sending relevant info at the right time.
5. Analyze - Measure the views and make sure calls to action are several pages. From there, look at Clicks to determine how many people are actually clicking on the call to action. Finally, analyze the submission rate of that call to action
Keynote Rand Fishkin, @SEOMOZ @randfish "Choose Short Men & Tall Women"
To get the talk going, Rand creatively showed us two graphs:
1. Male Messaging & Female Attractiveness Graph (men think all women are attractive and will talk to everyone)
2. Female Messaging & Male Attractiveness Graph (women think nobody is attractive and will talk to only a very few that could possibly be attractive)
Digging deeper, we saw that women say they will only look at men above 5'9 and it's just completely irrational!
Removal of a single, irrational bias may yield remarkable results!
From there, Rand discussed 12 bias's that we marketers have about SEO. For example, the # bias was listed as: Ranking Position is all That Matters. This is simply untrue. The CTR (click through rate) is influenced by more than position. Sometimes, it's the authors photo listed third in the search results or possibly a link with amazon ratings that's fifth on the list that is more important to viewers etc. It can even be the date of publication that is enticing moreso than the first positioned link!
For a deeper review of this talk and many more, including Social Media 3.0 -a review of the relationship between individuals and brands, stay tuned to for more news from #INBOUND12!
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.
Today was my last full day at SxSW and it was once again filled with great discussions. For once I decided to forgo payments panels, and spent more of my time in panels that discussed B2B social media as well as a panel on brand journalism, and yes, one on the future of money.
The brand journalism panel and B2B panels were filled with a lot of insight and tips that will be of interest to our B2B clients and to B2B communications professionals.
First, it is clear that B2B companies are embracing content marketing. According to a survey from Marketing Profs, 49% of companies plan to increase their content marketing spending in the next 12 months. The two biggest content challenges these companies face are: 41% their content is not engaging enough and 20% have trouble producing enough content. As trusted advisors, communications professionals need to find ways to help our clients overcome both of these challenges.
This brand journalism panel, and a solo presentation from Tim Washer, Cisco’s Senior Manager of Social Media, hit on a key issue: B2B companies need to remember to talk to people in a human way.
B2B purchasing decisions are made both on facts and emotions. If you sell on just speeds and feeds in a competitive market, you are at a competitive disadvantage. Communicators need to keep this in mind and call out the human elements inherent in any story.
Following are four other key insights it took from the panels today:
Gamification is everywhere and is starting to be used to drive B2B engagement. When people hear about gamification they tend to think of consumer brands, Foursquare badges or Scvngr. But Cisco has added badges to at least some of its blogs. Now visitors can receive badges for visiting the blogs, leaving their first comment, leaving 10 comments, Tweeting the blog post, etc. This is a great step. It is an easy and focused incentive to drive the business outcomes a company desires (engagement and awareness). IBM and Xerox also spoke about how they are using gamification, with IBM using it internally to drive activity and identify those most passionate about social media.
Re-examine how you gather registration information. Cisco and other B2B companies are using Facebook and OpenID to enable social login. Why does this matter? Since Cisco implemented it, they have seen a 40 percent reduction in cost and 20 percent increase in registration.
B2B Needs to embrace video – If your B2B company is not yet using video as part of its communications strategy you are missing great opportunities. Here is a great video from Cisco about how it is helping in Africa. It does a great job humanizing the story and moving it beyond the basics.
Look at humor. This one is near and dear to my heart as I do standup comedy in my spare time, and understand the power of humor in business. Humor in B2B can engage your prospects and customers. It is a positive emotion, humanizes the brand, builds goodwill and cuts through the noise. If you don’t have the budget, go to a film school and ask the professor for his best seniors. Offer them an internship and $1000 if you end up using their final product. One example of humor in action comes from this Cisco Valentine’s video. It has almost 200,000 views and drove coverage in the New York Times, Network World, Light Reading and other outlets. See it here.
If B2B communicators start doing just one of these things that they may not be doing today, they will help their brand prosper and their communications programs deliver greater ROI.
The five most quotable observations from Monday at SxSW:
Content is the new black
Your B2B story may not be good enough for TV, but it is good enough for YouTube, your clients and prospects
Information without analysis in the information age is as valuable as stone in the stone age
We make things complex because frequently we are too insecure to be simple. But look at Apple. Simplicity sells.
Question conventional wisdom. For Trulia, blogs about sports figures drove 3x the traffic as those about celebrities
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.
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.
CareerGuide recently published a list of the "10 Most Stressful Jobs of 2010" and stuck PR officer at number two, behind commercial airline pilot. Obviously, this is hilarious. PR can be stressful, but normally no one dies or is maimed. ("Bruised ego" and "thick skin" don't count as injuries.)
No matter--we're told it's rough to be in PR today. At least we can take consolation in the fact that our industry is growing far faster than most, according to The New York Times.
What's the problem with PR, you ask? Professional communicators love to talk, but maybe we don't want to reveal much about the stress inherent in our profession because we can't stop worrying about image. Never let them see you sweat, right? Or perhaps we know that much of the worry comes from the people who we need the most. Clients, reporters, analysts, physicians, bloggers, etc. are generally a pleasure, but isn't there always one that's a handful?
I for one think we're in control of much of our own angst. To that end, I wanted to offer 10 suggestions to my fellow PR pros.
Media relations: Tell a great story
1. Unless we're representing Pfizer, IBM or the like, reporters are not obligated to cover our clients. Giving them a reason to want to is our job, but we need to set aside our indignation at being left out of stories if we didn't contact reporters in the first place. We ought not to accept it when we hear grumbles like, "they have to pay attention to us or they're bad journalists." Feel your blood pressure return to normal when you accept responsibility and refuse to be angry.
2. The opposite is also true: the fact that a reporter covered a topic doesn't mean she will do so again. Nothing is more thankless than going to a reporter essentially to ask her to rewrite the story she just filed. When we're asked to contact a journalist with a loser of a message like "we do that, too," we should work to develop a more thoughtful response that will make us feel confident in our contribution and present clients in a more favorable light.
3. Take guidelines on how to work with reporters with a grain of salt. When journalists describe how they want to be approached, the real message is often "accept the status quo" because many would like to be left to cover the same big companies repeatedly. They say they track the whole industry and they'll call us if they want to talk with our ankle-biter. Sorry, but no--we need to package our client's story and take it to reporters. So no delusional statements like "he'll keep the information on file."
4. Kissing up to reporters is bad for our self-esteem and with a few exceptions, unproductive. Most of them have shown time and again that they want insight into trends, information that's not obvious or intuitive, news that's really news, and so on. They don't need vacuous comments like "great post" from us on their blogs.
Client relations: Be honest
5. Is anything more stressful than overpromising and, as a result, underdelivering? We owe it to clients to tell them in clear terms what we think is achievable for their budget or situation. When they're excited to talk with us about a big media tour that their VP of sales suggested and we know those haven't worked for at least five years, let's not tell them we're going to fill the day and then go back to our desks and stress.
6. Remember that companies hire agencies to gain outside perspective. It's tough not to buy into groupthink, but clients are working with us and not just internal staff because they want to benefit from the agency's collective experience. They'll be disappointed, not pleased, if all we do is validate ideas they've already considered.
7. If you're trying something new, say so. Much of PR today is an experiment, so even if you've been working in this industry for years, you're probably giving new ideas a go. If you don't know whether something will work, that's okay. But don't relay a false sense of confidence.
8. Help clients gauge how media, analysts and others really respond to what they're hearing. We hurt ourselves when we imply excitement that isn't there because we're setting our clients up to be let down. A reporter hearing us out doesn't translate into "they're interested." They took a briefing doesn't mean "they're excited about the news." We should have the confidence to not manufacture emotion.
Don't doubt your own knowledge
9. We shouldn't let the fact that we've done this 500 times keep us from trying new things. It's not so much that we'll become obsolete, because we're all aware of that threat. It's more, I'd suggest, that we'll render ourselves irrelevant if we fail to appreciate that sometimes just jumping on an idea and quickly executing is what it takes to show results. It might even be fun.
10. We can do math. PR people undercut ourselves all the time by saying we don't get numbers. Is that supposed to be impressive? We all know that metrics are critical in PR. If we haven't figured out a way to quantify results, we need to take the time to learn about the topic. If we can't read earnings statements, we need to take a class on investor relations basics for PR people.
What do you think--can we aim to make PR number three on that list next year?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
Sometimes when you analyze data, something jumps out at you that makes you really take notice. This morning, I was analyzing the social media volume and tone of the Charlie Baker and Deval Patrick campaign for Governor in Massachusetts. I had not paid much attention to it as Schwartz (and I) am not involved with either campaign.
Earlier this year, we analyzed the discussion around Brown vs. Coakley, and the data showed how Scott Brown clearly won the social media war (particularly among Twitter users).
When we analyzed social media conversations involving Patrick and Baker over the past 30 days, we found the following:
Overall, the conversation was relatively equal, with Patrick getting a bit more. But Gov. Patrick had a very significant spike on October 15 (which equaled 10% of all conversations involving Deval Patrick this month). The reason? President Obama came to Massachusetts to campaign for Gov. Patrick.
This really drives home the power of the presidency (and the power of personalities, influencers and mavens) to drive the conversation. There is nothing earth-shattering in the data, but it was interesting.
Some practical advice for all PR pros:
1) Look for influencers to help you move the needle on conversations.
2) Just because someone can generate discussion, doesn't make them influential. More in-depth analysis is required to determine if they just generate noise, or can shape the discussion and move opinion.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
When talking about social media, the truism is that people need to try it for themselves to truly understand it. That much learning comes from trial and error.
Over the weekend, I was reading Dreadnought, by Robert K. Massie. The book focuses on naval developments and politics of the later Victorian Age, leading up to World War I. One of the passages in the book struck a strange (and unexpected) chord with me.
Robert Cecil, Third Marquess of Salisbury (and three times Prime Minister of Great Britain) was one of the key political figures of the time.
He was a quintessential early adopter – having some of the first telephone lines and electric lights in all of England. Yet his approach to child rearing is what struck me.
Lord Salisbury believed in letting his children explore on their own to develop a passion for learning. Most notably he left one of his sons alone for a few days, and (as he wrote) “Having tried all the weapons in the gun-cupboard in succession – some in the riding room and some, he tells me, in his own room – and having failed to blow his fingers off, he has been driven to reading Sydney Smith’s Essays and studying Hogarth’s pictures.”
It’s an amusing, and slightly scary, anecdote to read. Now, to me any gun going off is a warning sign, let alone firearms being discharged in my house. Yet unfortunately, it too well describes the way many companies approach social media. Powerful guns (social media tools) are available to every corporate communications department. They think to truly engage in it you need to let people play with the guns first, and if nothing too bad happens, they can get down to the serious business of learning and fix things for the second attempt.
Schwartz is a strong advocate of everyone being engaged. But instead of seeing if people blow their fingers off, Schwartz is a proponent of rigorous training and guided engagement. Social media needs to be integrated at all levels of a company. Not something less experienced people play with and see what happens, hoping not to blow anything up too much. Experienced, senior level people need to be guiding the discussion and plans. That is how you will get the best results. If your agency or your company does not have senior level resources dedicated to social media engagement, training and strategy, you need to take a step back before any fingers get blown off.
I am not saying anything revolutionary here, but I was just stuck that the same philosophies that were used more than 100 years ago, are unfortunately all too prevalent today when it comes to social media.
Last Friday The New York Times ran an illuminating feature on women in the technology world. "Out of the Loop in Silicon Valley" describes a tech and VC community that's perhaps not been overly welcoming to women. An excerpt:
"Tech communities in Silicon Valley and in other hubs -- like New York, Austin, Tex., and Boston ... -- pride themselves on operating as raw meritocracies ready to embrace anyone with a good idea, regardless of education, age or station in life.
"For women, though, that narrative often unfolds differently."
I'll pause right there and note that I almost didn't read this article because I figured I already knew what it would say. It's not that I think the issue must be avoided or that there is, in fact, no issue at all. It's just that I already know that men are well represented in the tech world and I don't need the Times to confirm it for me. I've long felt that I'm here to do a particular job and if I'm doing it for companies comprised mostly of men, marketing to people who are mostly men, so be it.
For example, I've never been one to attend women's networking events or to seek out interaction with people just because they're women. There's always a group of junior coworkers who I'm paying extra attention to at any given time and trying to help in some way, but I know I've not tried to "mentor" more women than men. Call me naive, but I'd rather not get too caught up in whether the person I'm working with is male or female--there's a finite number of hours in the day and I'd prefer to put my focus on the collaboration at hand.
So I don't think I'm particularly obtuse, but I just didn't feel like reading the Times article on women in high tech. I relented only because I felt I should read it simply to be informed, the same way I should be informed about the Google security breach or IBM's earnings. Here's what struck me:
- 35 percent of database administrators ARE women.
- 22 percent of network administrators ARE women.
- 20 percent of programmers and software engineers ARE women.
Those numbers are dismal, you're thinking. And in the grand scheme of things, they are. But to me they were eye-opening because I've had companies that market products to these people--to DBAs, to network or system administrators, to developers--tell me, literally, that these people are essentially all men. (Of course I know they're not all men. But I'd have believed that the numbers would've been similar to the figure below for women in hardware engineering, for example, at about eight percent.)
Acknowledging that a small but still significant percentage of potential customers are women--discontinuing the practice of assuming the prospects are just about all men--seems like a smart move for marketers of business technology.
So what does this mean in practical terms? My most basic observation is that as they move money from traditional advertising toward more personal interactions via social media and social networks, tech marketers have got to be in a better position to reach potential customers, partners and employees who are women. (Advertising from IT companies, when it exists, features images of guys in suits jumping over stuff, guys in suits shaking hands or stoic-looking guys keeping watch over servers, or it makes something of an attempt to be gender-neutral by showing the product or an abstract image.)
When it comes to PR, I think about tactics like arranging for clients speak to local groups of Java developers, for example, or Oracle database administrators. Those meetings have been successful vehicles for clients to make connections with potential customers. But knowing that people who have children are less likely to attend networking events in the evening than people who don't, and understanding that most women with children who work outside the home don't have stay-at-home husbands, one might assume that evening networking events may not draw as many women as, say, mid-day events.
I wonder whether this shift away from one-to-many toward one-to-one allows tech marketers to start targeting a small but still meaningful percentage of their potential customers in a more thoughtful, and successful, manner.
Oracle announced today that it's going to acquire Waltham, Mass.-based Phase Forward. The company makes software that helps pharmaceutical firms manage information associated with clinical trials, and they're Schwartz Communications' immediate neighbor.
Across Route 128 we've got the lovely new Adobe building and Symantec. Up the way, we pass Novell and IBM to get to Autodesk's spiffy outpost. Keep going and smile when we arrive at Oracle, which I swear moved up 128 a few years ago so it could be directly next door to SAP.
Of course the only one of these companies that grew up locally is Phase Forward and now it's being vacuumed up by a Silicon Valley company. Xconomy's Wade Roush notes that this "fits a now-familiar pattern in which Massachusetts high-tech companies grow to the sub-billion-dollar stage, and are then scooped up by West Coast giants with deeper pockets."
When I saw the news, my first reaction wasn't so much "there goes the neighborhood" as "I hope Oracle won't cut jobs at Phase Forward." Job preservation and creation is of course on everyone's mind.
Recently some coworkers and I attended the Mass Technology Leadership Council's annual meeting, where the overriding theme was jobs and, specifically, the organization's goal of supporting the creation of 100,000 IT jobs in Massachusetts over the next 10 years. They note, in a useful presentation that's available here, that IT is the second largest employer in the state with 178,000 workers. What's more, there's a ripple effect and each IT job creates 1.63 "incremental jobs."
At that event, Michael Mandel, editor in chief of Visible Economy and former chief economist for BusinessWeek, talked, in what I found to be a fascinating presentation called "The Road to Optimism," about his belief that communications technologies will lead the next economic boom.
Internet publishing, broadcasting and search; computer systems; and wireless technologies are the areas he sees helping lead the economic recovery. He says it "would be nice to have a boost from the life sciences." (A helpful summary of Mr. Mandel's presentation and his optimism about communications and perhaps biotech is on the Foley Hoag "Emerging Enterprise Center Blog.")
Then there was The Wall Street Journal's piece yesterday, "Tech Sector in Hiring Drive." It doesn't talk about geographic hot spots, but instead highlights things like growth of social media when it comes to IT job creation.
Consulting the job growth barometer nearest to me--the Schwartz HR department--I know the agency is hiring. Perhaps Massachusetts tech companies really are, after a year and a half of a tough economy, gearing up for growth.
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.
The Pulitzer Prizes were announced this afternoon and, the New York Times reports, "... ProPublica became the first of the new breed of online, non-profit news organizations ..." to win one of the awards. One of ProPublica's reporters won a Pulitzer for investigative reporting for a story on what happened in a New Orleans hospital shortly after Hurricane Katrina. The piece ran in the New York Times Magazine and on ProPublica's website.
As communications people, Schwartzers have had a close look over the last several years at some dramatic changes in the world of "traditional" journalism. Even the most established media outlets have been under tremendous financial pressure due to the plunge in ad revenues. From the trades to the biggest of the big business and national outlets, it seems they've all been affected.
Blogs get most of the attention for supplanting traditional media. For some types of stories, blogs do a good or even great job. I've wondered for some time, though, about the type of story for which ProPublica was just recognized--investigative journalism. Specifically, I've worried that it'll no longer be funded by publishers who consider it too expensive. And if they don't do it, who will?
Taking a look at ProPublica, it's clear that it's not someone's hobby--it's run by some very experienced editors who come from "mainstream media" outlets. Still, their business model is different than those of the big publications and the organization has been in existence for just two years.
I'm heartened to see that a group of journalists who stepped out of the world of traditional media have had the same impact you'd expect from a big, prestigious publication, but in a small non-profit. Congratulations to them on their achievement.
Ten years ago today (April 7), iStockphoto launched. The site is one of the world's largest repositories on stock images (6.5 million stock photos).
Possibly no site has done more to help and to hinder corporate presentations. As such I wanted to give them a tip of the cap.
Seriously, iStockphoto (and its competitors) are a great resource for any marketing or public relations professional who has to create PowerPoint presentations, marketing collateral or a Website. They even have a pretty interesting 10 year celebration page (which they obviously spent more time on than many companies celebrating their 10th).
I also wanted to take a minute to share four iStock warnings.
1) Beware iStock overload - Not every slide needs a stock photo. Sometimes a small amount of standalone text on a slide works wonders.
2) "Downloads" is not your friend - The default search for iStock is "Best Match." But in talking to many communications professionals they immediately resort by "Downloads." Why? Sure it can get you an appropriate image that meets your criteria, but it is am image that often hundreds of thousands of people have used (Two hands shaking in front of a globe, anyone?). It gets you an image that has generic appeal, just like vanilla ice cream.
You want to use stock photo to enhance your presentation. Not repeat the same stuff as everyone else and dilute the value the image can bring. Spend the time to find the right photo for you needs. Find the outlier. That is how you can differentiate your presentation from the thousands of others people have sat through.
3) Don't settle - Sometimes even with 6.5 million stock photos you can't find what you need. When that happens, search elsewhere. If it is important enough, commission your own shoot. Powerful images can capture the attention of jaded executives who have suffered through years of PowerPoint Heck.
4) Downloading the photo isn’t the end – Once you have the photo, modify it to fit your needs. Schwartz’s designers have done simple edits of iStock images (changing a color here or there, or editing out a background) to make an image pop.
Stock photos are a boon. But they are the clay from which you can either mold a great presentation or create a river of mud.
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.
There's no standard definition of public relations--it generally includes things like internal communications, media relations, investor relations, community relations, crisis communications and a several other marketing subdisciplines. But one near constant in PR is the need to communicate through someone else--a reporter, an analyst, a blogger, an employee who you'd like to be an ambassador of sorts to other people.
Over the past few years, the media relations world has had to adjust the way it reaches audiences or constituents because the media itself is under such pressure. As advertising revenues have dropped, magazines, newspapers and broadcast outlets have laid off journalists and pushed assignments out to cheaper freelancers, offered more syndicated content than original material or folded altogether.
[Two great and very different resources that can help you keep abreast of these changes are Paul Gillin's Newspaper Death Watch blog ("Chronicling the Decline of Newspapers and the Rebirth of Journalism") and, on Twitter, themediaisdying.]
The media is, as people who are good at commiserating often say, "going through a tough time." As a result, companies can't rely on reporters covering them the way they could in the past, particularly if they're using old tactics to communicate.
So how are forward-looking companies dealing with this bump in the road? Largely by understanding that success in media relations today means ability to create smart, oftentimes visually appealing content that journalists can use. This tends not to be a press release about your latest product upgrade; rather, it's insight about trends, timely expert commentary, a willingness to be controversial, graphics and video, and articles or blog posts that require minimal editing.
Companies, even their marketers, often don't have a feel for what, of all the things they could say or do, is going to capture the most media attention. It's the PR person's responsibility to advise on topics like this.
It's also the PR person's job to help produce content. When companies know they're going to want a lot of it, though--a blog created and constantly updated, extensive white papers written and so on--many healthy mid-sized and large businesses have turned over the past few years to that pool of journalists who have been laid off or chosen to leave their publications for more stable environments.
In a podcast with Fresh Ground, Steve Wildstrom, who covered technology for BusinessWeek for years and is one of the most widely known tech correspondents, talks about how some reporters have become "journalists in residence" blogging for companies, not about products, but about topics of "intense interest" to those companies. He happens to be blogging for NVIDIA. Other examples abound--check out my colleague Tim Whitman's recent run-down of who's employing some very prominent security industry journalists, including Ryan Naraine, Dennis Fisher, Rob Lemos, Brian Fonseca and Joris Evers.
Mr. Wildstrom said that he thought his work might meet with some resistance from former colleagues, but that's not been the case.
I was also reminded of the primacy of good content when I checked out the DK Books video on "The Future of Publishing" that's been making the rounds through March. "Content is more important than packaging," they say. DK is talking about the book industry, but when I look at the changes in tech and business journalism, I think DK's assessment is equally apt.
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.
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?
Most technology innovators are eager for positive, on-message media coverage to build their brands, drive sales leads or support other business goals. But unless you're already a tech industry behemoth, getting consistent, repeated media coverage across a variety of publications and channels takes some creativity, a fair amount of knowledge of what makes a good story and a ton of persistence.
When a technology company has before it an opportunity to work with a journalist, blogger or other influential individual, they're going to want to make that interaction as perfect as possible. Right?
You'd think so, but technology companies torpedo their chances of securing media coverage by doing, or by failing to do, some pretty elemental things. These mistakes have nothing to do with faulty communications strategy or going to the wrong journalist with the wrong story. They're more basic and they're pervasive in some companies' PR programs. Maybe the belief that the problems are small makes some people underappreciate their impact, but they kill coverage all the time.
The good news, then, is that they're fully within the tech company's control and doing this stuff right can make a huge difference in PR results. If the PR team detects these problems as they're occurring, they're remiss if they don't point them out, but ultimately only the tech company can fully correct these media relations errors.
1. Fail to provide a spokesperson. Your PR person has possibly just walked through walls to get a journalist to agree to talk with your company's expert. That reporter wants to hear from one of your smart people and if your industry is driven by breaking news, he needs to hear from that person minutes from now. In some cases, we may have the luxury of a couple of hours or days to provide an expert source. In either case, any small to mid-sized tech firm should be able to get an informed spokesperson on the phone quickly.
2. Neglect to prepare for the conversation. Your PR team will give you information about the blogger or journalist before your interview and tell you what she's been covering lately. You want to look at this information before, not during, the conversation. And there's no substitute for spending a little time reading the reporter's recent articles yourself. You'll feel more confident during the interview and be in a good position to give the journalist information that she'll find useful.
3. Miss scheduled briefings. Everyone's busy. Everyone also has a mobile device that allows them to contact their PR team before missing a briefing. Journalists are as stretched as anyone and we have to respect their time. Along those lines, we need to plan ahead to conduct the interview from an area with a decent cell connection and low background noise. Anything else will guarantee that the reporter will get off the phone with us at the earliest possible moment.
4. Respond on your own timetable. Media relations success is largely about being in the right place at the right time. A big part of that is understanding that reporters work on deadlines that are anything but leisurely; we have to conform to deadlines or forfeit coverage. It's hard for everyone involved, but if options are "I'm in the story" and "my competitor is in the story," priorities become a little clearer.
5. Decline to provide photos or graphics. Technology media are increasingly interested in telling stories that have a visual component. Your PR team should work with you to anticipate these needs, but when requests come for something we don't have on hand, know that providing it can mean the difference between coverage and exclusion from the story. Particularly when all that's required is a photo of the new executive, there's no reason for not being able to quickly provide one. Grab your camera and get it done.
6. Refuse to discuss pricing. Everyone who works in the B2B technology industry understands that there's no set price for anything and that stuff tends to be pretty expensive. And you didn't invent volume discounts--journalists understand the concept. So we need to have an answer to the elemental question, "how much does this cost?" Some journalists can't or won't cover our story without being able to say "pricing starts at ...."
7. Talk about confidential material and then ask the reporter not to use it. The #1 rule of media relations is "don't say anything you don't want to see in print." It's unfair to journalists to give them information that you later ask them not to use. They generally don't want to see you get into trouble, but you, in turn, should understand that it's a problem for them to not use material that they consider interesting. Don't put them or yourself into this painful position--if your PR team has asked you not to talk about how that big customer is using your product and about to toss the big vendor out on his ear, don't do it.
8. Decline to discuss competitors. Maybe we truly don't have any, but most tech companies do. We don't need to offer up information about competitors, but if asked, we do need a coherent answer. Your PR team will work with you to think through how to answer this question, but flat-out refusing to address it makes it hard for the reporter to cover you because he needs to be able to place your company, particularly if it's small, into some larger context. Really, we should view questions about competitors as opportunities to talk about who we're challenging.
9. Ask to review the article prior to publication. Some journalists will allow you to take a peek at quotes, but most will not. And protests about having been misquoted in the past aren't that convincing, so the key here is to work with your PR team before the interview to think critically about the messages you want to convey and then take care not to go off on a tangent. Normally if we prepare for conversations and stay focused, we will come out of interviews feeling comfortable, not worried about what we said and how it might have been interpreted.
10. Speak in PowerPoint. Reporters and bloggers don't want a canned presentation--they want information that's tailored for them. Your PR people should tell you that using a PPT for media briefings is generally discouraged. Nothing says "I've had this conversation with all your competitors" like reliance on canned information.
11. Be boring, ramble, speak in monotone or otherwise fail to sell. Your PR team will help you understand what the journalist wants to learn about, how much time she has and what messages you need to deliver. It's then on the spokesperson to seal the deal by offering informed and timely conversation. Spokespeople from most companies should adopt the mindset, because it's nearly always true, that they need the journalist more than the journalist needs them and that the interview is not going to be an intellectual give and take. The spokesperson's job is to inform or educate the journalist and to convince her that this subject is worth her time. Make it interesting or expect to hear from your PR team that the reporter will "keep the information on file."
12. Assume the relationship is personal. Journalists value connections to people at tech companies if and only if those connections yield useful information. Perhaps they included us in an article or two, and that's great, but the challenge is to keep coming back with fresh info. If we cease to provide that, we should expect to be left off the short list of companies to include in stories going forward.
Your PR team, whether they're inside your company or with an agency, should be working to keep you on the straight and narrow in all these areas. You can help your technology company eke out every last bit of media coverage if you understand that these little mistakes can have a significant impact on your coverage.
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.
Today the citizens of Massachusetts are electing a new Senator. The race has garnered national headlines, and those of us living in Massachusetts have been deluged with ads, calls and editorials for the past few weeks.
We are not taking a position on the election or either candidate, but wanted to answer a simple question - which candidate is using social media to create the most buzz? This question popped into my head when I noticed Scott Brown was trending on Twitter but Martha Coakley was not.
Looking at overall social media engagement, Scott Brown is creating about 46% greater discussion volume than Martha Coakley over the past week. Although it is interesting to note how the discussion spikes are eerily parallel. No one candidate has created discussion without the other.
When we narrow it to Twitter, Scott Brown and his supporters seem to be using the channel more effectively, with 182% greater volume than Martha Coakley.
I also looked at tonality (quickly) and although the tool was automated (and therefore suspect) both candidates were receiving about 28% positive coverage. Scott Brown was receiving 6% more negative coverage than Coakley.
How will this translate into success at the polls? We will find out tonight at 8:00 p.m.
Is there a more powerful brand than Santa Claus? When it comes to holidays the only brand image that could potentially rival him is Cupid for Valentine's Day.
For the past 100+ years, Santa Claus has dominated the holiday season. He is ubiquitous. From TV specials to in-person appearances, to songs and even NORAD tracking his every move. Parents talk about him, children sing about him, and people wait 30+ minutes to have their children's photos taken with him. When it comes to conventional wisdom it seems no other brand has the "muscle" that Santa Claus has.
Yet this weekend, the power of Santa Claus was exposed. Yes, Virginia, another brand is more powerful than Santa Claus.
I took my sons to the New England Model Train Expo. There were 15+ model train sets on display, ranging from G gauge to N gauge. The show floor was packed. One of the selling points was that children could meet Santa Claus.
Yet at the Expo, Santa sat forlorn and alone. Another brand trumped Santa.
G-gauge Thomas and Percy model trains which were set up on the floor right next to Santa Claus drew hordes of admiring children. While Santa sat alone, with no one to tell him their Christmas wishes.
So based on my (very unscientific) survey of children, it is safe to say that Santa is no longer the most powerful brand at Christmas. Rather it is an unassuming little blue steam engine.
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.
Over this Thanksgiving weekend the Black Friday/CyberMonday news stories were drowned out by a minor story involving a visible and popular celebrity, Tiger Woods. There have already been more than 21,000 stories written on the topic as of this morning.
In today's celebrity and athlete driven news culture this incident was going to garner headlines no matter what, but in my opinion Tiger has made two key communications failures with regards to this incident.
Failure #1: He forgot crisis communication rule #1: Tell the truth, tell it completely and tell it quickly. Do any of us know if what he has said so far is true? No. Only Tiger and Elin do. But he has rescheduled interviews with the local police multiple times. Each time he cancels is another news hook that keeps this story and speculation alive. Have the meeting. Postponing the police interview three times is not putting an issue to bed. Get the unpleasant news out of the way and move on. If you know unpleasant news is going to get out - being proactive shortens the cycle and gives you a chance to shape the agenda instead of ceding the initiative to others.
Failure #2: Response speed: He issued a statement approximately 40+ hours after the crash. This is a long time to wait in today's news cycle and let the rumors he cautions against multiply and spread. Mike McDougall, VP of corporate communications and public affairs at Bausch & Lomb, recently commented to me that the 24 hour news cycle is now the 24 minute, or 24 second news cycle. Advil and other consumer companies have learned you need to respond quickly. Tiger (or his counsel) should have been out in front sooner. While a video podcast on YouTube (a la JetBlue) is probably not the way to go, a quicker response was essential.
To recap, all brands and organizations need to keep in mind key rules for crisis communications: Respond promptly, even if you do not want to. Respond quickly and accurately.
The Butterball Turkey hot line scene from "The West Wing" is one of my all-time favorites.
Talk about a promotion homerun. The President of the United States (albeit fictional) is calling your hotline.
I always thought that the Butterball Turkey hot line was a phenomenal marketing idea. Certainly Butterball is providing a service, but no doubt the return Butterball has received from a branding perspective far outweighs the cost.
I wondered, has Butterball expanded the Turkey hot line concept onto the Web?
With a few clicks, I found a special Turkey Talk-Line(R) website and a unique hotline email address. I also noticed that Butterball provides biographies on each of their hotline experts. That's a nice touch. The hot line seeks to make the Butterball brand more human, and putting faces and bios on the website only accentuates this quality. I do wonder, however, if the hotline experts actually wear their blue aprons when they stand at the ready to answer phones.
I was initially disappointed not to find a special Butterball Talk-Line Twitter account. Butterball has an account, but not the Talk-Line. On reflection, though, Twitter might not be the best channel for fielding Turkey cooking questions. Why would you go to Twitter if you can pick up the phone or write an email?
I also noticed that the Talk-Line does have a mobile strategy. You can text the word "Turkey" to 36888 and get weekly Turkey cooking tips. They even say on the site that there's a maximum of three text messages per week during the peak turkey-cooking period of the year, in case one is worried about their phones buzzing too many times.
Overall, and not surprisingly, Butterball has nicely enhanced its Talk-Line service with the web and emerging social media channels. Would today's "West Wing" episode have the President firing off an email instead of picking up the phone? While I love the option, the original West Wing scene is just too funny to change.
From all of us at Schwartz, we wish you and your family a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!
The Twittersphere, talk radio and the Web is abuzz with a recent comment from President Obama about Kanye West. During an "off the record" part of a CNBC interview, a reporter asked President Obama what he thought about Kanye. Obama called him a jackass.
Now based on a poll on TMZ.com, about 98% of the American public agrees with him. (And I do as well), but it also means that for a few seconds, President Obama forgot rule #1 of media training.
Or to paraphrase Jack Palance in City Slickers "The secret of media training is one thing."
Nothing is off the record.
Rule #2 is a variation on the theme - Don't say or write anything you do not want to see in print.
PR professionals remind our clients about this regularly. And yes, there are times you need to make judgments and share confidential information when speaking to analysts and reporters who agree not to use something or get deep background.
But as I remind my clients, even then, even if you have an NDA, there is still a chance it can and will get out. So be careful what you say.
My favorite example of violating rule #1 occurred about 10 years ago.
A senior executive at one of my clients was being interviewed by a major national magazine for a standalone profile. The interview went great, the key messages were clearly communicated, things were looking great. The reporter closed his notebook, put it in his pocket and as they were walking out the door the reporter asked the client "You know, it seems like you really have fun here and enjoy your work."
A nice, innocuous question.
My client, thinking the 90-minute interview was over (despite our earlier prep) told the reporter. "Yes. It's so much fun here it's like I am smoking pot all day."
Now I fully admit, I did not say "Don't make illegal drug references" as part of media training, but after this was said, all I could see was a pull quote in 36 point type. Luckily, we managed to kill it, but that one, post "formal interview" comment could have had a very negative impact on the entire story.
As for rule #2 - I remember one executive who was a thought leader on financial services and technology. He was regularly quoted in the top trades and national media. During one interview he was commenting negatively on another executive and how he managed to take a top company and ruin it. The comment made great copy and was prominently displayed. But what the executive didn't know was that another division of his company was working on a deal with the company he just insulted. Needless to say, things went poorly.
Which brings me to media training rule #3 - Always think before you speak. Every executive needs to remember and follow those three rules.
I have had a couple of interesting conversations lately about the word "start-up."
When I first started in Boston high-tech PR at Schwartz, every company I worked with wanted to be a start-up. There was a romantic allure to being two guys in a garage (in fact I once helped a company with a name that was an acronym for "Guys in a Garage"). It represented an innovative spirit related to cultivating an idea and getting it to market.
The dot-com collapse in the late 1990's spoiled the idea of being a start-up. Suddenly the conventional wisdom made a start-up a risky bet. Many clients opted to be called "growing" or "emerging," rather than a start-up. There was just too much negative connotation around the concept.
Based on recent conversations I have had, however, there is building momentum for a re-emergence of the "start-up." Given the attention to new innovations, the entire entrepreneurial community is pointing to the start-up culture as a good thing. This is especially true within the clean tech market, and also within new data center technologies that focus on efficiencies.
I noticed more start-ups-- young and growing companies-- on the trade show floor at VMworld last week.
What has been clear to me from my years in PR and marketing is that there is always room for new ideas that lead to good companies. Whether you call yourself a start-up or something else, in reality, probably is not the point.
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.
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.
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...
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.
For the past two weeks, after work, I have been participating in Framingham Town Meeting. Over the course of six nights, we have been privileged to receive no fewer than 35 PowerPoint presentations. Since I also serve on Ways & Means, I have seen a dozen more. Unfortunately, the end is not in sight. It makes me feel like I am on an analyst or VC tour, and I have new sympathy for the VCs who sit though more than I ever will.
Many of these presentations are given by experienced professionals in financial servers and other business services companies. Some have been outstanding. Some have driven me to my BlackBerry and to think about what I like and dislike about the presentations in general. Following are three guidelines that even the most experienced presenter can forget:
Simplify – Most presentations try to do too much. The best thing to do is pick a few points and make them. Adding more detail often creates confusion. Yes the presentation may be your one and only chance to share your views, so the temptation is to throw in the kitchen sink. But an empty kitchen sink works better than one clogged with dishes.
Handouts are a beautiful thing – A presentation should help you tell a story or communicate an idea. Nothing can bring that to a screeching halt like three columns with 20 rows in 12 point font on a single slide. Even if someone is presenting business cases or budget proposals – leave behinds and handouts help communicate the key elements and answer likely questions without detracting from the presentation.
If you read your slides, you have lost already – Your back is to the audience, passion is leeched from your voice and you end not connecting. This also means you don’t need complete sentences on every slide.
These three reminders are common sense. But even the most experienced professionals occasionally stray from the path.
If you are using a PowerPoint to supplement your meting with media and analysts you need to ask yourself three additional questions:
Do I really need a PowerPoint?
Is the PowerPoint a crutch or does the PowerPoint add value?
Am I ready to close the presentation and engage in dynamic discussion and debate? (You better be.)
By asking those three questions and following the three guidelines above, people will be more effective, communicate their ideas more clearly and have more productive meetings. If you would like additional information, consider checking out Presentation Zen and The Back of the Napkin among other books.
So it looks like the Boston Globe lives – for now – and probably will continue for some time. After weeks of brinksmanship and a couple of all-nighters, the Guild, the NY Times Company, the pressmen, the guy who drives that coffee truck with the siren that comes by every morning at 9:30…all the parties agreed to a brutal $20 million of cuts to keep the paper going.
I’ll avoid for now the predictable hand-wringing and solemn pronouncements about the death of mainstream media, disaggregation, social media and all the rest. It’s all been said. But on a more personal note, I’m relieved. A great city should have a great newspaper – preferably several. And although the Globe is certainly not the paper it was 15 years ago, it’s still a good-to-very-good daily paper. Even after endless rounds of layoffs and buy-outs, it still has some great reporters and great columnists. The photography has always been excellent and it still is. It’s impossible to imagine Boston with only the Herald as the region’s newspaper.
Many PR people have mixed feelings about the Globe (to put it mildly). Our local and regional clients all want coverage in the area’s premier paper, yet it’s often a tough pitch. The business section has been shrinking for years. The editorial staff has been shrinking. Many PR people feel the Globe has a subtle anti-business stance and sometimes takes gratuitous shots at companies.
Still, I’ve been reading the Globe every morning for almost 30 years. I love it, I hate it, sometimes it makes me crazy, but I can’t imagine it disappearing. For now, it seems we’ve avoided that. But after years of reductions and this latest round of truly brutal cuts, let’s hope that in a year we’ll see a paper we’ll still care to read.
By now, people have likely read about the Air Force One "Photo Op" in New York City that caused significant panic among some residents of the city and outrage by the mayor.
This reminds me of two truisms:
1) There is always someone who doesn't get the word.
2) If you can think of a way for what you are doing to be interpreted negatively/inappropriately, thousands of people are thinking of it that way.
But in today's connected communications environment, there are more channels than ever for services companies and organizations to get the word out.
I am admittedly playing Monday Morning Quarterback here, but the Air Force is very good when it comes to social media communications. From the blogging decision chart to the Twitter channel they know how to get the word out. I am surprised they did not use those channels to inform people of the event, or respond to criticism.
I am not here to cast blame, but rather look at best practices services, technology, consumer and other companies can use in their PR efforts to avoid events like this.
1) Game out scenarios and prepare response channels - Proper planning is essential. This is Crisis 101. When developing an event, be ready for what can go wrong and have a response plan in place. Even if nothing goes wrong, it is not a wasted effort.
2) Answer questions before they are asked - If a call comes into 911 or the customer service center, it is often already too late. Yes, those people need to be prepped (and NYC did a good job there), but realize there are multiple channels consumers turn to for information. Have your Website updated, Tweet about it, reach out to all stakeholders, prep your sales force and your marketing team. If it is a big enough initiative, make sure everyone in the company is away - for in today's social media environment, everyone is a company spokesperson. Even better, be proactive and post the information prior to an event if possible.
3) Overcommunicate: Include everyone who can be effected - There are times to talk quietly, but when doing a major public event, make sure all key stakeholders have been contacted and are aware of what you are doing and why. This ties back into proper planning, but there is no excuse for companies not to communicate with all stakeholders.
4) Respond quickly and accurately - Changing the story mid-way is not a good response. Give the facts and give them quickly.
By following these four steps, people would have been better informed and much of the criticism would have been muted.
While today many bloggers will be spending the time on April Fool's jokes, I wanted to take a minute to highlight some of the best and most recent entries on other Schwartz blogs. There is more to Schwartz's blogging than just Crossroads, we have blogs for a number of markets.Following are links to three recent entries that stood out to me.
Every once in a while it's nice to get out of the office and head down to the local pub for a beer. It's even better when you can do it with friends.
That's why we'd love our social media peeps to join us at the Skellig in Waltham on April 1st at 6pm for our April Fools Tweetup. Come, hang out, say hi to a few of the Schwartz folks who will be there.
We meet so many people online and don't get a chance to see them in person. Also, if you're not already following a few of us on Twitter cick away. This is by no means a comprehensive list of everyone at Schwartz who is Tweeting, but just a few of us for now.
It wasn’t too long ago that our clients were upset when their stories “didn’t make the print edition.” Now, right before our eyes, the economics of the traditional print model are collapsing. Yesterday, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its last print edition, and will move completely online, letting go most of its staff and pumping out the bytes.
Even though Craig’s List did a number on classifieds and it’s clear that newspapers are in serious fiscal trouble, I don’t mean to go all Chicken Little on you. I don’t believe that newspapers will all crumble and go the way of the telegraph. There are still some powerful entities out there. As Paul Gillin points out this week on Newspaper Deathwatch, the P-I is “choosing to focus on the future.” I have to give the P-I a lot of credit for cutting the cord and moving to a future away from static snapshot reports of the news. It’s clear that many papers will not be “news” papers. The news moves too fast to be captured. It’s now organic, localized, changing and dynamic---like a movie vs. a photograph. It’s about clusters, groups of stories, blogs, video and discussions aggregating together to provide a series of lenses. Some lenses are more accurate than others, but a broader perspective of voices gives a more complete view.
I expect newspapers will continue to be staffed by some of the best and brightest. As my Schwartz colleague Mark McClennan often points out, newspapers will also be hyper-localized. They are going to have to provide context and analysis (the why and how vs. the straight up who, what, where, etc.). Look at TIME Magazine or Businessweek, which provide a lot of analysis on any given topic. And like the Seattle-PI, a reporter will deal in far more than words---actually creating all the content and producing it from start to finish. (The P-I describes this change here). Even Businessweek is now interacting directly with its audience prior to writing stories, and all the reporters are Twittering away. The discussion happens continuously, leading up to, through and beyond the publication of the story.
I’ll be the first to admit that I like the physical paper and smudgy fingers. I am a sucker for all types of journalism movies (ranging from The Mean Season to All the President’s Men). The sources, the race to beat the printing, all of it excites me. There is also something to be said for slowing down and folding the pages, much like reading a good book that grabs you and screams: “Don’t you dare start skimming.” But the electronic world is too loud, too prominent and too important to ignore. Well, at least a paper doesn’t lose its content connection in the middle of the BART tunnel.
Last year, to critical acclaim, we conducted the first ever NCAA Social Media College Basketball Bracket Analysis. 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 may have exhausted themselves with an outstanding Big East Tourney, including a 6OT win.
We 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 last year, 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 network 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. I recorded it all in a handy notebook and used the Microsoft calculator app to do the math.
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.
But now on with the results.
The Final Four: Ohio State vs. Memphis and Tennessee vs. University of Michigan
The Final: Ohio State vs. Tennessee
The Champion: Ohio State. (OH-IO)
Surprising upsets: A #1 seed goes down for the first time in the first round with the socially network-active UT-Chattanooga Mocs upsetting the UConn Huskies (As a loyal son of Orange I am happy with this)
Deep in the Dance: For the second year in a row Cornell goes deep in the social media dance, making it to the Sweet Sixteen before being knocked off by Memphis.
Cleveland State also makes it to the Round of 16, until they are eliminated by the Buckeye Buzzsaw.
Other Cinderellas? - The A&M Aggies get to the Elite 8 (more folks active there than at UT) and Michigan makes it to the Final Four as a 10 seed (the first time that has ever happened).
Tags: ncaa, social media
In a badly damaged and worsening economy most marketing executives aren’t thinking about spending more money. The understandable tendency is to pull back, reduce spending, stop some marketing initiatives and try to ride out uncertainty with caution.
That’s the conventional wisdom in most corporate environments, but it’s wrong. When the economy turns bad and it seems like opportunities are shrinking, the winners will be the ones who face the gut-check, take a deep breath and pour it on in marketing. It’s easy to see why: when your competitors go silent you have a rare opportunity to fill the silence with your message.
The brave marketers – the confident, the bold, the risk-takers – will actually increase their branding and publicity efforts, although they may change their mix of marketing programs. They know their messages will get through more clearly and with wider exposure. They’ll also get more bang for their marketing buck because there’s downward pricing pressure on marketing services. The results may not show up immediately in increased sales – after all, the economy is bad. The short-term win may be to stay even and avoid declining sales. But the confident marketers are planning ahead, positioning their companies and their products to slingshot into the lead at the first signs of a recovery. This approach was discussed in a well-known Management Review article 15 years ago called “Fortune Follows the Brave,” and it holds true today.
I say this is a “gut-check” because truly confident marketing and communications executives face resistance in advocating for increased or stable spending. For example, a MarketingSherpa survey from February, 2008 (before the current disastrous economic problems took hold) showed the problem. In a tough economy, 43% of executive managers said they would cut marketing first, while just 9% said it was a time to invest in marketing. In large companies, 39% said they had seen marketing cuts already, and 21% expected cuts. In September MarketingSherpa updated the numbers and things had taken a turn for the worse. Most of these executives were reporting on advertising spending, which is the part of the communications mix that usually gets slashed during downturns. You have only to pick up your ever-shrinking newspaper to see that this is true.
Still, advertising is just one part of the communications mix. Once you’ve reduced or cut advertising, how do you keep your message in front of customers? As an executive at a PR agency I’ll take a courageous and selfless stand and say this is the time to increase your PR efforts. There’s a marketing saying: “it costs to advertise and it pays to publicize.” We know this from direct experience.
Our agency has been serving innovative technology and healthcare companies for almost 20 years. We started the company in the depths of the 1990-1991 downturn and we served a client based of technology startups when the tech bubble burst from 2000 through 2002. Those were times of severe spending cuts at most companies. We had clients simply stop their advertising and PR efforts. They saved money in the short term and crippled their companies over the long term.
In computing and networking technology – crowded markets with a fast pace of innovation – brand position and image are fragile things. Go into cryogenic suspension and the public will forget about you quickly. The most cost-effective way to keep your message current and to maintain or grow awareness of your products is through credible, disinterested, independent third-party coverage in the media stimulated by PR. That used to mean newspapers, magazines and broadcast. It still does, but even more important is the coverage in online information outlets, blogs, YouTube and all the other types of instant information sources. These actually amplify the impact of your PR budget by spreading coverage far and wide, beyond the original source of the story. People forward articles, but they seldom forward ads.
Some companies spend 100 to 200 times more on advertising than on PR, yet research shows PR to be just as credible a source of information to potential customers. We’ve made our reputation representing smaller, innovative companies. In good times or bad, the companies we represent see gains in awareness, positive brand image and sales leads. Think back to the 2001 downturn when Red Hat became the hottest story in the software industry. They were battling Microsoft. Our client Red Hat spent nothing on advertising; Microsoft spent hundreds of millions. Red Hat did it all through PR and word-of-mouth, and they leveled the playing field in the minds of software users.
The dynamics behind that situation apply in today’s brutal economy. PR costs much less than advertising, tradeshows or other parts of the communications mix. Along with direct marketing, it is the most effective, fastest, flexible and measurable way to communicate to your target audiences. But it takes some courage for communicators to fight against cuts or even to secure more funding during these times. A 2005 study "Turning Adversity Into Advantage: Does Proactive Marketing During a Recession Pay Off?" presented results from a survey of 154 senior marketing executives. I like this quote from the paper:
"Athletes often choose times of stress to mount attacks: strong runners and bicycle racers may increase their pace on hills or under other challenging conditions. In a similar vein, proactive marketing includes both the sensing of the existence of the opportunity (a tough hill and fatigued opponents) and an aggressive response (possessing the necessary strength or nerve) to the opportunity.”
In a gut-check economy, the strong – and the bold – will win.
Like millions of Americans, my wife and I are watching the Democratic National Convention this week. We have settled on C-SPAN as our network of choice, for we want to hear the words and see all the speeches, and not be told by commentators what to think.
I always seem to end up at C-SPAN (it's where I watch State of the Union). But we always give the networks a try.
While I was washing dishes, my wife was listening to a speech by Lilly Ledbetter. She had settled on PBS - for her opinion was their commentators would be the most intelligent and the least intrusive. I suddenly heard her screaming at the TV (words I can not write here and calling PBS anchors a bunch of self-deluding X). This is not a common occurrence.
Basically, they were commenting on the speech as if wage inequality was something of the distant past that still does not occur today. They said - You know, it really did happen. I remember my first newsroom job 30 years ago...
My wife was upset for she knows it is still an issue.
But now for the fun part. I made a semi innocuous post on Twitter "Watching the convention on C-Span. Let me make up my own mind and hear the speakers please. Wife almost strangled PBS commentators last night."
The next morning, PBS' DC office responded: pbsengage @mcClennan sorry for the delay in replying, but what was your wife unhappy about?
I live in the social media world. But I was still floored that PBS took the time to respond. It has given me an even better impression of the network, and I am telling everyone I know about PBS' outstanding response.
There is a lesson here. Finding my post and responding cost them practically nothing (Free RSS search from Summize/Twitter) But the positive goodwill they received will last for quite a while.
If you aren't monitoring Twitter and other social media channels- you need to be. PBS is doing it and doing it right, and I am sure their budget is extremely tight. If they can do a good job, so can your company.
Blogs are a delightful creation, but so many bloggers are a tad big prickly ... evidently looking for ways to skewer someone just a little more effectively than the blogger they just read. We all know this. Maybe it's the next Olympic sport--lobbing insults via blogs. Feel the burn.
It makes me look for multiple meanings in otherwise mundane stuff that I read. Do I "get" what the writer's trying to say? Do I want to?
Into this larger context drops a postcard from our local Coldwell Banker realtor, sent to "postal patrons." There's a nice photo of a meadow on the front. [My town has an abundance of trees. Deer like the woods and ticks like the deer. It's a problem because much of the town seems to get Lyme disease each year.]
The realtors write, "Through the years, we have become aware of the tick population which has led to the discovery of a tool which removes them. This handy gizmo is called 'Ticked-off.' If you would like one, call either of us. The supply is limited, so call soon for your free tick remover. Happy Summer!"
First I rolled my eyes (bad habit), and then I thought ... well, we do have a tick problem. Then I thought a second longer and figured that this is actually a brilliant attempt to turn people off to the town and list their houses with this realtor. Now I don't really care what motivated this post card campaign, but am mystified by my own inability to take at face value what I read and to stop questioning the agenda of the writers.
For this, I don't thank graduate education, living in a "liberal" state or any of the traditional guilty parties. For this, I thank too much time spent with blogs.
It turns out that women work slightly fewer hours than men because they spend more time taking care of their kids. This disparity puts pressure on other doctors--generally male, oftentimes older--who are left to pick up the slack. The study also points out that women often go into underserved areas like primary care or pediatrics, which pay less than other medical specialties, in order to gain scheduling flexibility. Anyone who succeeds in scheduling an appointment with a primary care physician or pediatrician likely benefits from the decisions many women doctors make.
When you need to be seen by a doctor, you need to be seen by a doctor, but the article got me thinking afresh about the value of working in an office building surrounded by coworkers vs. the obvious trend toward electronic communications and remote work. Indeed, I've always wondered what it says about me that my best client relationships are often with the people who I rarely see.
At the same time, I benefit enormously from being able to walk down the hallway and ask 15 other VPs what they think about my PR conundrum of the day. It's hard to say no to collaboration when someone plops themself down in your office, but certainly my colleagues could make their excuses about being busy and I'd clear out.
This is nice, but what I always find interesting is that colleagues working in other cities, whom I've never met in person, are just as willing to help. A little stroll down the digital hallway is just as effective as seeing people face to face.
Of course there's business you can conduct only in person. But when you've got a group of people with common interests, do you have better relationships with those you can see? Is there clear value to being in the office simply to be in the office--to putting in that face time?
My hope, and I'm pretty optimistic that this is really happening, is that social media allows groups of people with similar interests not just to compare pet peeves on Facebook or to post photos of their vacations, but to remove most of the need for face time. It'll probably be of minimal use to the 50 percent of medical students today who are women, but for the rest of us who are looking to "be there" for both our families and our employers, the ability to interact in a way that's increasingly targeted and personal--yet is entirely electronic--sure holds a lot of promise.
Last week I had the pleasure of attending an event featuring Gary Vaynerchuck -- a smart businessman who is changing the wine industry and leveraging social media to do so. He has daily videos where he tastes and evaluates wine, and regularly interacts with fans through every social medium available ... check out his daily videos here.
He has built a strong following -- with people coming to see him from around New England. He managed to pack a room with 200 people and keep us entertained for 90 minutes (and it could have gone longer).
Out of the entire discussion last week, there are three thoughts that I wanted to share with everyone. Specifically, a few of his comments can be applied to social media and public relations in general. I do not think Gary will mind too much, since I am taking the seeds he planted in my mind and growing them into full blown, PR-specific thoughts for you all to taste and evaluate ....
1) The only way to improve your wine palate is to taste wine -- You can read the magazines, watch the movies, read books and visit vineyards; but in the end, what gives you a true appreciation for wine is actually tasting it. The same applies to PR and social media. Theory is essential. You need to have a grounding in the fundamentals ... but in the end you need to execute. You need to practice what you preach. If you aren't engaged -- why not? This leads me to my next point ....
2) The only way to appreciate wine is to stay out of a rut -- try new things. Most people find a few wines and stick to them. They have wine racks full of Yellowtail, Conundrum, Cakebread Chardonnay and Parallel 44. (This gives you an inkling of my tastes). That's great, but it is limiting. Try a new wine frequently. The same applies to PR. It's why a good PR pros are constantly looking for the next new channel, a new approach to doing things. It's a mantra we preach here at Schwartz.
3) Wine is a living thing -- unlike my beloved single malt Scotch, wine can change dramatically from year to year. A wine that was great one year may be horrible (or as Gary says "utter crap") the next year. This holds true for even the best, most proven and time tested wines. Ask any wine connoisseur about 2007 Bordeaux. Too often companies and PR people fall into that trap. It worked last time, we should do it again. As we all know from the financial services commercials -- past performance is not an indicator of future results. Always re-evaluate ... is this likely to work this time? Is there something better I should try? I know my teams ask me that constantly, and as PR pros, we need to be aware of this at all times.
It’s the age old conundrum – should the man pay for dinner, or are you prepared to go Dutch? That was the dilema recently posed by a questionnaire to a female friend who is seeking romance on one of the world’s most successful matchmaking websites. The etiquette of who picks up the tab has long been discussed between the sexes, with the traditional role of the man as bill-payer challenged by the feminist movement of the 1970s and onwards. But in these uncertain times, with the Credit Crunch starting to bite, fuel costs astronomical and growth slowing to a trickle – are you more likely to date somebody who’s good with money, asks the aforementioned survey?
Yet it is not only the perpetual motion of young lovers’ courtship that may be hit by an economic downturn; the impact will surely be felt in the media and communications worlds too. On the face of it the media industry faces a period of sustained hardship. Take, for example, the recent round of layoffs at some of the leading newspapers in the United States, including the 1400 fired in a 10% staff reduction across the McClatchy newspaper group, or the much-discussed elimination of 100 newsroom positions at the New York Times. Couple that with undisclosed lays offs at B2B publishers such as Ziff Davis Enterprises and, in total, some estimates put US media job losses at more than 4,000 in 2008 alone.
There are some more subtle market changes at play of course, other than the global economic downturn. In the McClatchycase, while print advertising revenue had fallen by 15% over the past year, online sales – a smaller segment of group revenue – had grown by just 13%. Indeed, this is a trend that has been prevalent across a number of international publishing groups with journalists increasingly producing copy for online titles, while print magazines become thinner by the month as content continues to chase the advertising dollar.
Changes too have been taking place in major UK media outlets, with journalists at The Independentfighting cost-cutting moves to introduce seven-day working across their daily and Sunday titles. Meanwhile, News International’s subsidiary BSkyB is contemplating job-cuts at its loss-making magazine department. It is telling that most UK print trade titles are now staffed by a vastly reduced editorial team, while national newspapers have increased flexibility by turning to freelance writers.
With consumer spending unlikely to remain as robust in the coming year – and advertising dollars inevitably falling as a result – the question remains, which media titles will best survive? If job cuts are unavoidable in the print world, could streamlined, fast moving online titles benefit from a lower cost base? Moreover, there is an argument to say the seemingly inextricable rise of the blogger – with zero cost self-publishing now an established norm – could become even more prevalent in the recession. There is, after all, no suggestion that the downturn has hit consumers’ insatiable appetite for content.
Perhaps even more important to the emerging tech PR community are the movements in the Venture Capitalist community, with some analyst firms suggesting that US VC spending is slowing. There has even been speculation in some quarters that the world’s local bank is denying social media and mobile tech start-ups a bank account as they are seen as high risk in the present climate. And while fewer companies may find backing in the coming year, there is little evidence – yet – that the mass 2001 dotcom cull is to be repeated.
Venture Capitalism is, of course, not unlike that dating game. Financiers and entrepreneurs circle each other with increasingly amorous glances until one makes a move. The question is, in troubled times, who’ll really be footing the bill?
The view from the Motherland across the clear blue water of the Atlantic Ocean is so often a contrast of differing approaches; two countries divided by a common language, to paraphrase an eminent Irish playwright. So it plays out in both politics and communications. In the past few days Barack Obama has declared himself the winner in the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination, with his rival Hillary Clinton formally endorsing him over the past weekend. The Illinois Senator’s slick yet professorial – and at times fervently hyperbolic – style has wooed large swathes of an American electorate seemingly hungry for change. Such has been Obama’s impact that if polls are to be trusted, then the sanguine politico could well become the first black President of the United States.
Home, and just a stones throw from Schwartz’ London offices, the tormented leader of the Labour party, Gordon Brown, seems to stumble from one self-made communications crisis to another.
Immigration, unpopular tax changes, crime, economic slowdown – pick any one of a dozen issues and Brown has seemingly struggled to control media criticism. The Fife MP may only have been Prime Minister for a little under a year but his demeanour couldn’t be of greater contrast to Obama’s. In a time of financial and political turbulence, the American people – at least those of Democratic persuasion - have turned to a man who voices the promise of hope. Britain, so much of the media would have us believe, is to be led into the same mêlée by a beleaguered and increasingly idea -shorn general.
American elections have always differed in style and tone to those in Britain. The seemingly constant public campaigning and media saturation in the US, contrasts so markedly with the ‘in the shadows’ briefings of the Westminster Village. Indeed, Obama’s campaign team has made judicious use of the internet – turning to social networking sites to raise campaign funds, increase voter registration and project not only a consistent message but an image of an engaged and youthful leader. By contrast, Brown’s recent foray into self-broadcast on the Downing Street YouTube channel was as uncomfortable to watch as it undoubtedly was for the man to film. The media’s rather predictable reaction was to mock Brown as the fish out of water he was.
The contrasting styles between these two much talked about politicians are potentially as much about cultural differences as generational and personality traits. The US culture of immediacy has, after all, given birth to Facebook, YouTube and the rest of the web 2.0 media revolutionaries. Even media friendly Tony Blair was a novice when it came to use of the internet. And just as communication style impacts media and public perception of our politicians, then cultural factors influence the style of communication between the PR community and the press too. This has been the subject of much debate between Schwartz’ US and European offices in recent weeks.
In many ways globalisation has brought our two countries closer together: American TV, music, commerce, brands – and particularly politics – have impacted greatly on the British way of life. The primaries, for example, were covered daily by the nation’s leading newspapers and rolling news stations. Even so, the three thousand miles of water that separate our offices sometimes makes it easy to forget that the US is a young country, with an aggressive, entrepreneurial economy, where short term goals come to the fore.
The pace of life here in London is fast, but the ethic of business – and therefore the media agenda – often differs from our friends across the pond. The UK media, for example, is focused on issues and trends, personalities and opinion, rather than products and services. It’s a fact that calls for international campaign management, for international PR campaigns - proving the old adage that one should always think local, even when acting global. It’s a path that many a President has trodden before.
Last night at the 2008 Bell Ringer Awards, Schwartz Communications was recognized with 27 awards, including 12 Bell Ringer Awards and 15 Awards of Merit. (For those curious, you can find the full list here).
The work spanned numerous categories, including consumer, healthcare and technology. One key standout was that we received both Bell Ringer Awards presented for the Best New Media category.
The award total is impressive (close to our highest ever), but in all honesty it is what is behind the awards that is even more impressive. In speaking with a number of other vice presidents at the ceremony last night - these awards would not have been possible without the extraordinary efforts our team members seem to always give and the great clients with whom we have the pleasure of working every day.
Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz, our co-founders, tell us regularly to take the big swing. Our clients expect it of us. My clients set the bar high, and when we reach it, they move it higher. Only by doing this can we truly realize dramatic business results through public relations.
The Bell Ringer judges obviously agree with Steve and Paula Mae, for they also awarded them the Crystal Bell lifetime achievement award last night for their work in bringing a new approach to high-tech and medical public relations.
So thank you to our teams, our clients and our co-founders for making last night possible.
Last week at a gala event, Schwartz's own Kristina Ebenius was honored by Resume as one "Sweden's 499 best & most powerful" within media and communications.
The publication created the list to honor those executives "who do the unexpected and most creative, those who manage to get new clients without severing ties with old ones and those whose opinion we just must read about and hear. The souls who turn media and communication into Sweden's most fun and vital industry."
Now, I am frankly not sure why they didn't go with 500, but we are proud they put her on the list for "leading a global secret in Sweden."
At Schwartz we all know Kristina is a tireless dynamo who has helped grow our office more rapidly than our most optimistic projections. She has been instrumental in bringing Schwartz's results-oriented, media relations-focused brand of PR to Europe and are glad to see others recognizing her for her efforts.
The Masters just ended and my passion for golf is reignited. Unfortunately, like most people, my ability to write about and talk about golf far exceeds my skill at the game.
Therefore, I decided to share words of PR wisdom as golf analogies. But I need your help. Golf may be one of the two most overused analogies in business, only after military themes and slightly beating out baseball and The Godfather .… So share your own PR/golf lessons in the comments section and I will add the best here.
Following are five to get you started:
Don’t be seduced by the driver—The driver is a great club. When you hit it well, there is nothing like watching the ball fly and hearing the “oohs” and “aahs” from appreciative fans (or members of your foursome). But for most people muscling the driver rarely results in a 300+ yard straight drive off the tee. Sure you will hit that perfect drive once in 20 rounds, but you are much more likely to whiff, hit it in the woods or end up in the sand--raising your score and leading to frustration.
The same goes for media relations. Being on the Today Show, the Wall Street Journal or in Parade is outstanding and usually a reason to celebrate. But too often your outreach there won’t connect, or you will neglect other important elements, and put yourself at a handicap. You should go after these outlets, but if all you do is swing the driver … you will be in trouble. This leads to the next point.
Drive for show, putt for dough—All the creative ideas, the flashy presentations and the red Nike shirts don’t amount to anything if you haven’t mastered the short game. Execute flawlessly. Pay attention to detail.
Why does Tiger Woods hit 1,000 practice balls?—Focus on fundamentals brings success. A PR campaign needs to be built on solid fundamentals--the trades to bring the key messages to prospects and customers is the solid drive off the tee; lay it up onto the green with user testimonials and analysts, and *then* you are in position to go for the deceptively simple putt with the business media (which is never as easy as it looks), to get the birdie. It’s the little things that add up to success.
Pay attention to the course and your environment—In golf, it's good to have a general plan of how you will play the course. But conditions change, your competitors change, even your swing can change in mid-round. You may have planned to hit a hard driver on the 15th hole, but by the time you get there it's raining and windy ... change of club and plan.
Successful golfers plan, but they also adjust and trust their instincts to adapt to the changing circumstances. Successful PR people need to do the same thing to achieve success in the face of changing conditions.
You WILL hit the bunkers—Every golfer hits the sand traps. Hitting them is not the end of the world. The same goes for a PR program. You will hit the rough, the bunkers and even the water. Think about what you will do in those situations and you can recover from it. Have disaster plans in place.
We're all well aware that traditional media have been under strain for years, first due to the web and now as a result of competition from "new media."
Some are handling the challenge as gracefully as they probably can, given the situation, and some are not. CNN.com (U.S. Alexa ranking: 19) splashes down into the latter category.
CNN has always, in my mind, been a mix of fluff and serious reporting. You might disagree, but I think that what CNN does well (e.g., some international reporting), it does better than just about anyone.
So that makes all the more stark the contrast with CNN.com. Mixed in with "American cancels 900 flights" and "China says 35 arrested in Olympics bomb plot," we have "Wedding bed found in polygamist temple" (voyeuristic--is this the most important element of the story out of west Texas?), "I'm a sociopath, hiker's killer tells police," "Witness: beheading victim asked for help," "Woman makes gruesome find after mom dies" and "Principal nabbed with teens, porn, pot."
It's depressing to see CNN.com take events that deserve careful treatment and clearly pander to site visitors' desire to read about and view the sordid, the morbid and the just plain gross.
NYTimes.com (U.S. Alexa ranking: 33) manages to pull in huge traffic without upping its eeew factor, but they're the only general news site giving CNN.com a run for their money.
Perhaps when CNN.com readers have their fill of sludge, they're heading to NYTimes.com for a more serious take on events. One can only hope!
1) The story's prominent placement was likely the work of Managing Editor/News and Page One Editor Caleb Solomon. Solomon visited Schwartz a few months ago and talked elequently about the role of new media in today's newsroom and how he looked to get more business stories on page one.
2) Innovative VCs like Borealis Ventures tap into underserved entrepreneurial communities. Borealis, based in New Hampshire, looks for ideas and talent in northern New England. The Peak Pitch contest is a perfect way to reach their desired audience. All types of companies can learn something about target marketing from events like this one.
Attending any conference or meeting with other PR people is always entertaining, regardless of the advertised topic. At the very least, you know everyone there is addicted to the news and wants to talk about it.
I wasn't sure what to expect from last night's Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Boston session on the military's program for embedding reporters with troops in Iraq, but was optimistic that it would be interesting. It's far afield from what we do here, of course, but from what I can tell from the people I've had the opportunity to meet with or hear speak, the military has more than a few public affairs/PR people who are on top of their game.
The panel included:
Vic Beck, a Navy captain who's serving as chief of media operations in Iraq. Before he was called up, he was a VP with Peter Arnold Associates. Captain Beck dialed in during the middle of his night.
Guy Shields, senior manager of public relations for Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems. Mr. Shields helped design the embedded program in 2003 when he was an Army colonel.
Steven Komarow, senior deputy international editor of the Associated Press. He worked for USA Today when he was embedded with the Army during the invasion of Iraq.
The three covered a range of topics and took many questions. I have to say that it was the most worthwhile PR industry program I've attended in some time.
One of the things I noted was the total focus of the embedded program on the traditional media. Not that it's surprising--it's that this was a great reminder for me (if one was really needed) of the power of the mainstream media.
Schwartzers delight in finding new blogs that drive website traffic and are as happy as anyone to do the Twitter play-by-play. But what we find more often than not when we're able to do a head-to-head comparison of, for example, how many people were reached by similar stories on a website covering tech industry news and a popular blog devoted to the same is that coverage in the traditional media has bigger impact.
(My colleague Jason Morris is our resident expert in these analyses. Maybe he'll give us some of his data at some point.)
Captain Beck explained that last month there were 68 embedded reporters. His team could track to those journalists, in that month alone, 4,924 stories in western media.
What I took out of this was a reinforced belief that as enamored as we get with social media, it's important not to pursue it at the expense of the traditional. I think about the "either/or" topic because sometimes companies are so smitten that they go off the deep end and tell us they don't want to work with reporters--they just want to pursue blogs, online forums, etc.
I'm sure it's human nature to be entertained by the new, especially when the old can be tough to work with some days. Blogs and YouTube videos produced by tech companies--these types of things are integral to more and more PR programs. But you can't argue with 4,924 stories in what appeared to be every major and mid-sized U.S. market.
Clearly we're not the Army, but to me, last night's program was an outstanding reminder to keep it balanced.
I pass a sad sight each time I get on 128 South from our Waltham offices: the all-but empty headquarters of the once-proud Massachusetts institution, Polaroid. The sign covering the windows of the large, empty cafeteria proclaim "Polaroid Now," but Polaroid is mostly in the past. When the company announced recently that it would soon stop making its eponymous film, many cried while many others said "they still make that stuff? Why?"
While my title here at Schwartz includes the line "New Media Strategist," I'm a big fan of older technologies. My camera collection includes a number of film cameras including a 1950s era Kodak Retina IIIc and a medium format twin lens reflex with technology dating back to the 1960s.
Each has its own personality and quirks that makes it worth keeping and using. I pulled out my Colorpack II and loaded it with Fuji instant film to take the shot in this post. Yes, Fuji makes instant film and frankly, it's a lot better than the stuff Polaroid was putting out. In fact, the guys at my favorite camera store believe Fuji will probably pick up the rights to the rest of the Polaroid line.
People peg Polaroid's demise to the digital revolution, but it really began with one-hour photo machines. While Polaroid offered a single instant picture, you could take your standard roll of 12, 24 or 36 picture 35mm film into the local Walgreens, get prints back in an hour and still be able to make copies later. A Polaroid offers only one image.
That said, my kids usually want to see their pictures on the back of my digital camera, but they are amazed by the tactile aspect of the Polaroid. The idea of holding a picture in their hands 2 minutes after taking it blows them away. Also, the uniqueness of that image contrasts with the quick-copy culture that digital provides.
Everyone looks to new technology to supercede the old, but that doesn't mean the old is worthless. One morning while drivng to work I heard a WBUR-FM story about a local shop that repairs and sells manual typewriters (I have a few of these around my house as well). The owner was saying how he gets a lot of teens coming in to buy machines that were once on the cutting edge but are now considered stodgy. As a person whose first professional writing job involved pounding on a manual typewriters, there is something nice about hitting keys that make a *WHAP* sound and have a bit of a reaction. Just as with film, when you type on paper you take more care in your work, since you can't erase by just hitting the "backspace" button.
My office looks out on Route 128 and since last fall, I've been watching the demolition of a building, clearing of the site and now the digging for the foundation of a new office building. They've been blasting and when this is about to happen, state police stop traffic in front of the building across all eight lanes of the highway.
I'm sure that blocking traffic is necessary to keep Massachusetts drivers, rubberneckers all of us, from driving off the road. But it also creates nasty traffic jams during times when travelers would typically expect to get from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time.
Route 128 carries something like 200,000 cars a day and continued development of big office buildings and shopping areas along it affects people who live and work along 128.
Where should those people turn for information about the development? Big regional newspapers? Well, no. The last time the Boston Globe, for example, covered this sort of development was four months ago.
Obviously they can't cover everything repeatedly. But where are 200,000 who wonder what blew up next to Uno's to go?
I keep heading for Wicked Local. I'm so happy that a news outlet recognizes that there's much more to the Boston area than Boston itself. And for those who love the city, a coworker recently pointed me to Universal Hub, a wonderful aggregate of all things local.
Financial constraints and, certainly, assumptions about what the masses want to read have for years impacted regional dailies' coverage of companies that haven't yet reached the size of a Fidelity or EMC. As someone who believes the action is with the smaller companies, I've long been irked by this.
This opening has cleared the decks for the success of an Xconomy, which is more than happy to dive into the growing tech companies (disclosure: this one's a client) that drive much of our local economy.
Without a doubt, major media have done much to successfully rework themselves, but I have to believe that readership of newer sources will keep growing as people like me look to the news outlets in their backyard.
The Big Dance is about to begin and corporate networks are about to slow to a crawl as employees feverishly work to finish their tournament brackets and then stream the games on Thursday and Friday.
I love the Tourney, but since my beloved Orangemen aren't in this year, I decided to take a slightly different approach - what if The Big Dance was a social media tournament? What if the schools had to compete based on their social media prowess, not their hoop skills?
At 3:00 a.m. last night, I decided to make that thought a reality. I 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. I kept the NCAA seeds and let them face off.
How was the ranking determined? It was determined by (# of facebook users in the School network/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..they didn't show up for the game. I recorded it all in a handly notebook and used the Microsoft calculator app to do the math.
The Final Four: Stanford vs. Duke and Notre Dame v. Davidson
The Final: Davidson v. Stanford
The results? No surprise to loyal Valleywag readers - Stanford takes it all with a 2.5 ranking, beating Davidson with a 2.05
Other interesting observations:
UCLA (1.39) was the only #1 seed to make it to the Elite Eight
Two 5 seeds made the Elite 8 - Michigan State (1.41) and Notre Dame (2.01)
Once again a 15-seed was dangerous (I still remember the Richmond Spiders) - American University (1.51) beat Butler (1.37) and University of Oklahoma (1.18) to go to the Elite Eight
Toughest Draw: Cornell. They had a 2.17 ranking, but they were up against Stanford in the first round. If Cornell was in the East or the Midwest, they would have made it to the finals. Next year, they deserve more respect.
Closest game: Kansas State v. Wisconsin in the 2nd round (1.328 v 1.320)
The schools with the lest social media power? Indiana (0.61), Boise State (0.463), Portland State (0.432) Cal State Fullerton (0.414), and Mississippi Valley State (0.14)
Finally, for my beloved Syracuse fans, if they had made it into the tourney, they would have done what they usually did, make it to the Sweet 16 with a Power Ranking of 1.47 and then bowed out...
For the past month, my three year old son has been having me read him the Dr. Seuss classic Horton Hears A Who in preparation for the movie that was released this weekend.
Despite reading the story more than 30 times in 30 days, I still really like it, and that made me wonder whether there are there any lessons from the book that can be applied to social media and PR practitioners. Similar to my “All you needed to know about PR you can learn from Dora the Explorer” essay, Yes, there are. Horton and Dr. Seuss provide companies and professionals engaging social media with some great guidelines.
A person's a person, no matter how small—This is the overarching theme of the book, and is also a central tenet of social media. Companies can no longer afford to ignore the “little guy.” Or as I tell my teams – everyone matters.
Listen—Horton teaches all the other animals in the jungle of Nool something that many companies are still learning. At a minimum they need to listen. If you are not listening, you are missing a world of possibilities. If your ears aren’t open to RSS, Twitter, Facebook and the dozen of other ways in which people are communicating, what are you missing?
Engage others—It was only by working together that all the Whos in Whoville were able to be heard. Don’t go it alone. Find people of similar (and even dissimilar) interests and engage them in conversation and build a relationship. You never know when you might need your friends.
Beware the Wickersham Brothers (and cousins)—A mob can appear out of nowhere and attack you. The important thing to plan is how will you respond? Plan out and ask the tough questions and scenarios. If you don’t take the initiative, do you think anyone else will? Be ready to fight back against the brothers.
The beezlenut oil is simmering—Ignore competitors, dissatisfied customers and bloggers at your peril. There is always a vat of beezlenut oil simmering in cyberspace in which your company, product, reputation, posts and videos can be dunked. Just because you don’t see the pot, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Try to avoid it, but if it spills – work to get out fast. Don’t ignore the oil and get boiled alive.
Ignore tags and technology at your peril—If Horton had tagged his clover with “Who” or “Whoville,” he would have been able to find it, instead of searching three million clovers before finally finding the right clover. Use technology to your advantage. Tag everything you can and search tools are wonderful.
Finally—The power of Yopp—Speak out. Your voice matters. It doesn’t matter if you are not an A-lister blogger, a megacorp or social media guru. If you don’t participate you lose, and even the smallest Yopp, the smallest contribution, can make a significant difference.
A former colleague sent me a postcard from her recent trip to India. I was ridiculously happy to receive it.
Yes, I keep up with her on Facebook and email and all, but a postcard was so much more fun to receive.
I'm sure this is just yet more proof that I need to get out more, but there's something to be said for going old school when it can make a friend stand in the middle of the hallway smiling in a way that Facebook never has.
When Google introduced the Google Alerts service, my first thought was "Great! Now my clients don't need to pay for expensive news searches." Many of them had already pared back their use of such services because they were looking to save every dollar coming out of the tech recession, so they were just happy to find a cheap alternative.
My opinion changed when some clients became obsessed with tracking not only their own coverage, but that of their competitors. I had a number of conversations with people who had a tough time accepting that it's not realistic to expect the agency to stop--literally to prevent--other companies from getting noticed in the media. (Intruding on those companies' coverage--there's the goal.)
I still think it was mostly an emotional reaction to being able to really understand, probably for the first time, where their competitors were appearing in the media.
But now, most clients are way past the emotion. They're deep into their site analytics and are tracking visitors who come from news articles, product reviews and blogs. I love to hear that an article the PR team helped out on brought in a bunch of well-qualified visitors, some of whom went on to download the client's software.
Tech (and increasingly healthcare) companies and PR people talk about what this means for the practice of PR. Certainly, no one wants to feel like they're spending money on faith alone, so they're holding PR up against things like SEO and other marketing tools.
To be sure, measurement can be a wonderful thing. But I wonder if the techniques most in vogue today really capture the cumulative effect of steady-state volume--that stream of Google Alerts that companies love and that helps stack them up nicely to their competition--plus positive (not just okay) reviews, plus getting the Fortune 50 customer (not the no-name) to talk on behalf of the start-up, plus the CEO Q&A that gave him space to talk in depth about his or her corner of the industry ... and so on.
Some of these things have no immediate tangible effect, but does this mean they won't matter in sum six months or a year out for companies trying to establish a new category or go up against a much bigger player?
I'm thinking that PR's real value these days lies in the ability to bring all of these things--some easily measurable, others not so much--together. It's not social media to the exclusion of "traditional," or product PR in lieu of thought leadership campaigns. If I were running a tech company, I'd ask myself how I could have all of these things AND still have money left over for my Google AdWords campaign.
When I was in college, one of my professors had been a field reporter for Voice of America. He told us the story of an influential CEO he interviewed who appeared to be the busiest man in America. He asked the CEO (unfortunately I can't remember his name) when, if ever, time was afforded to simply think. The CEO responded (and I am paraphrasing) that "he used to be able to think on long flights, but now they put those phones on the back of the seats. I never get a break."
It's been a while since I have been on a plane that has phones, but given a New York Times story I read this morning, it looks like very soon we all will have no peace in the skies. A few different Internet start-ups are developing services that allow air passengers to check email and even surf the Web in flight.
I am not surprised that the response from the blog community has been positive. Without a doubt I would pay for this service. Initial reports say JetBlue will be offering it for free for email use. I would pay for that, too. As it is, I spend money each time I get to Logan Airport to sign up for its Wi-Fi service, even though I log on for only thirty minutes or so before boarding a plane.
Another interesting aspect of the in-flight Internet news--JetBlue is one of the early adopters. JetBlue often promotes its technology and its relationships to popular technology companies. That's smart. People want to fly airlines that are technologically advanced, for obvious reasons. Being early to market with Internet access enhances the company's hip aura, in contrast to the dingy relic image I associate with many other airlines. No question Virgin Atlantic is also in the hip Airlines category. As noted in The Times piece, they are also one of the first to offer Internet access, except for them it's through the inflight entertainment systems.
Going back to my college professor's story for a minute, if I'm trying to work or think through some deeper topics, I'd much rather have the person sitting next to me in flight surfing the 'Net than chatting (probably loudly to be heard over the engines) on one of those seat-back phones.
Many clients turn to us when they are about to engage with their first analyst firm and ask for recommendations. The questions we in turn ask: "What are you looking for from your firm? Market sizing data for the next round of funding? Lead generation? Feedback on messaging and market strategy?"
Most of the discussion heads down that path about which firm is the perfect fit based on focus, cost, support and what the competition is doing. Is it Gartner? IDC? Burton?
Unfortunately, this where the client vetting process often stops. Companies often assume that all analysts at a firm are the same and that they, the client, will get the same level of service, expertise and support from every analyst at that firm. This is a bad, bad assumption.
Most of the time when we meet with a prospective client, they request a follow-up meeting with the entire proposed team. Why? Because most savvy marketing people realize that a firm's reputation is important, but that in a services business it is all of the people doing work on the team that matter. That is why repeatability is the single most important element in a successful services business. The comfort of knowing that whenever you go to that restaurant or hotel, fly that airline or work with that law firm, that you can expect a close facsimile of good service that you have experienced in the past.
This extends to analyst firms. The best analyst firms have a repeatable service model and have built a solid reputation by servicing a large percentage of their clients well. That said, I am sure that every company has worked with an analyst in the past who didn't meet the standard of the firm's reputation. This is not an indictment of big firms or brand-name firms, but of poor analysts at any size firm. So what do you do?
Every company should ask their PR firm to arrange a briefing request with the analyst that covers their space. During that initial conversation, the company should actually interview the analyst about their professional experience, past coverage areas, planned research for the coming year, how they support their clients and what they consider to be a successful analyst firm/client relationship. During the conversation or (preferably) in-person meeting, they should also get a feel for the personality and work style of the analyst. Is this someone who will be open to our view of the market? That's important. Are they willing to challenge our views at the risk of offending a prospective client? Even more important. "Yes man" analysts lose their credibility quick and with it, any return you may have gotten from that relationship.
At the end of the day, you have to be confident that you will get a return on investment from that relationship because you work hard to get that budget. The firm name and reputation are important, but a dead weight analyst is dead weight no matter which firm they work for and it can seriously impact ROI.
Bottom line? Find what you want in an analyst and then focus on the firm. Weigh firm name and influence as one of many factors in the decision.
The evolution of social media and technology is constantly causing companies and people to try new approaches and tactics to take advantage of and react to technology advancements.
Sometimes this can cause people to head down some very strange and impractical paths. This isn't unusual. It has happened throughout human history.
For example, I am reading a great book on naval warfare in WWI (Castles of Steel by Robert K. Massie). To deal with the new submarine threat, the British Admiralty tried a number of initiatives.
One that has caused me great amusement was allegedly proposed by Admiral Sir Frederick Inglefield. He not only proposed the idea - he received authorization for it.
The idea was to train seagulls to block the lenses of German periscopes with seagull droppings. (Google it if you don't believe me). Eventually the program was dumped. The admiralty tried a number of ideas before they settled on something more practical...depth charges.
There are a number of lessons to be learned here. The most important one for us as PR and marketing practitioners is to keep our eye on the end goal and not get distracted and pursue something tangential.
We need to embrace and respond to changing technologies. Social media is changing the dynamic just as much as submarines did in World War I. But don't panic over new developments. That will only cause you to react in sub-optimal ways. You don't need to use and react to every social media tool that is created.
Clearly define your goals and then figure out the best way to achieve them. Ask yourself about the desired outcome. Determine the level of engagement and ask if it is sustainable in the long run. Otherwise, you may just end up training seagulls.
I recently attended a conference on PR measurement put on by the Institute for Public Relations. Hearing what’s working for other PR people is always interesting, but this conference was particularly welcome because it brought together people who are doing the deep thinking on probably the hottest topic in PR: evaluating PR’s impact.
Measuring PR is rough for a number of reasons. Just a few include the difficulty of tracking changes in perception of a company or product to editorial coverage (as opposed to advertising, opinions articulated by colleagues, etc.), the sometimes prohibitively high cost associated with measurement itself and, not least, the desire PR people have to defend their budgets.
Conference presenters included a senior director at Microsoft who’s working to represent the effectiveness of PR for that company’s product lines and executives with a single number. There’s an appeal to the simplicity of a single-number score. But I didn’t understand why obliterating the nuance associated with, for example, media reports on Vista, was a good idea. Nevertheless, good to know that Microsoft is playing with the idea of measuring PR with one number.
At Schwartz, we work with entrepreneurial companies that are looking to grow very quickly. In the past, many of them “just knew” when PR was working. They’d report more in-bound calls, greater willingness of potential customers and partners to take meetings, and so on. We liked to hear anecdotal evidence that our programs were working, but it was only partially satisfying.
A few companies found it meaningful (some still do) to look at advertising equivalents. This is okay—if nothing else, it makes the case that PR is cheaper than advertising—but ultimately not that useful.
Here’s what I’m seeing a few small companies do, and do really effectively over the past couple of years. It’s cheap, it gives the PR team instant feedback they can use to tailor the PR program going forward and it doesn’t require that we ask inane questions like “what’s the ad equivalent of an Associated Press article?”
A couple of my clients care only about software downloads. Those companies like their Google Analytics and they track, to the number, visits to their websites stimulated by editorial coverage. I love to get their updates on what’s working. Hearing, for example, that an article in Dark Reading brought nearly 100 highly qualified visitors, but one on another site stimulated maybe 10, helps our team place a premium on the sites that deliver visitors (many of whom then download the software, white paper, etc.).
A while back, a client told us that a cover story in a well-read IT journal barely caused a blip in traffic to their site. They liked the article, they were kind enough to say, but it didn't, well ... do anything for them. I was glad to get that feedback, too, because it told us that the publication barely mattered for the client. The cover story was a nice vanity placement, but not much more than that.
Ability to focus programs—to fine tune them over time based on results and not only focus on what’s working, but discard initiatives that show little return, and all for little to no expenditure on measurement—is something both clients and PR people can be genuinely pleased about.
Here's what I find interesting. Buried in Stephen Adler's Editor's Memo it says, "We'll be opening our doors to an Internet-type model of aggregation--that is, offering other smart perspectives from around the world alongside stories that we develop. In this way, we'll share ideas that we have found worthwhile, even if they weren't invented here."
Now that's quite a statement for arguably the world's top business publication to make. In essence, BusinessWeek is recognizing that a huge part of their value is to be one of the few "must read" resources for busy professionals. If that means cherry picking enough good tidbits from competing publications to assure their readers that they're not missing much, then so be it.
Fits my theory on how the big "traditional" media outlets that figure out how to best integrate "new" media techniques and tools will wind up even more influential than before.
OK, maybe Al Gore didn't actually invent the Internet, but he has certainly demonstrated the effectiveness of combining traditional media with new Internet media. Gore's crusade to combat global warming was recognized last week with the announcement that the former Vice President will share the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the International Panel on Climate Change. Author David Rothkopf told Thomas Friedman, "Gore, even without the presidency, used all the modern tools of communication, the Internet, video and globalization to reach out and galvanize a global movement."
The key phrase is "modern tools of communication." Gore wisely used all the tools at his disposal. Inexplicably, many organizations today are still sitting on the sidelines when it comes to utilizing new forms of digital communication. There are tremendous advantages to be gained by combining traditional and new Internet communication tools. You may not need to spark a global movement, but I'm sure a movement within your market space will do just fine.
Add this to your file on the long-discussed difference between the entrepreneurial climates on the two U.S. coasts. Recently, I traveled on a press tour with a client to meet with business press---reporters and bloggers---in Boston, New York and Washington. My client also went to San Francisco, and we compared notes on all the meetings.
The reporters in San Francisco did not ask any questions related to the client's business model. They were impressed with the technology demonstration. They like gadgets.
The reporters on the east coast generally asked about revenue models in the first five minutes. The common question: "How do you make money?"
Questions about west coast versus east coast have permeated my entire career in PR. My first-hand experience provides clear on-the-ground evidence of the split.
Extra Credit: If you have not seen it yet, you should read an account by Scott Kirsner, who freelances for the Boston Globe, on why Boston lost Facebook. It describes how an idea hatched on the east coast ultimately earned financing out west.
I propose a new theory: You can tell whether a specific market is hot based on the value of the give-aways at that market's tradeshows.
Tradeshows are part of the foundation of any good PR program. Perhaps most importantly, a trade show offers a chance for key players and influencers (including reporters, partners, analysts and end users) to congregate at the same location. The concept of a press tour today is somewhat hard to grasp--reporters, analysts and bloggers tend to live and work all over the place. But they all come to a tradeshow if it represents a market they follow.
So can one base the "hottness" of a technology market by its trade show? Sure. Look at the number of attendees, number of exhibitors, and number of reporters and analysts attending. See if large recognizable vendors are sponsors. And, perhaps, per my theory, take a look at what exhibitors are giving away.
Joan Geoghegan, a senior vice president at Schwartz, recently attended VMworld, the trade show run by VMware, a leader in the virtualization market. Anyone will tell you virtualization is hot. So given that, let's take a look at what certain vendors were calling tchotchkes at the event:
-- EqualLogic: A $40K Harley
-- Wyse: A Mercedes Smart Car
-- Dunes: A hardened PC fully loaded with their software (one a day)
-- Microsoft: A 42-inch flat TV screen (one a day)
There were too many iPods, Nintendo Wii consoles and other "basic" give-aways to count, she notes.
I don't know about you, but if giving away a Wii at a specific show is blase, that show must be very hot.