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Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

In 1983, as a reporter for the Financial Times, I interviewed Steve Jobs. It was one of many such meetings – but one that I have never forgotten.

This was what we would now call a “pre-brief” about the original Macintosh – a breakthrough product that in many ways changed the way we use computers.

Steve was determined to impress me. I was very determined NOT to be impressed! This guy had a reputation for turning journalists’ heads. It was called the “Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field” and many had succumbed to it.

The interview was in his office on Brandley Drive, in Cupertino (close to the Apple HQ but not in it. He had handed over the CEO role at Apple to John Sculley). By then the renegade Macintosh development group was officially sanctioned by Apple PR – but only just! The company’s primary focus was on office computers.

There was a pirate flag flying over the entrance, a Harley Davidson in the lobby, and a grand piano in the central area inside. Steve’s office was furnished in blonde wood…and was quite Spartan. Was this a PR setup or for real, I was asking myself!

I was ready to ding Steve with tough questions, but he began by asking me if I would like something to drink. I fully expected the PR lady (who came to be a good friend over the years) to fetch the drink, but no! I watched as Steve meticulously brewed, poured and served me a cup of tea (with milk, of course). And I knew that he had won this battle of wills even before the interview began.

It was a little thing that made a big impression. A very Steve thing. One of his many talents was to know exactly how to win people over. And he did it to great effect.

Steve was not always charming. I recall being in a meeting with him a few years later and witnessing him ream out a product manager after I asked an awkward question. The guy told me more than ten years later that he had never forgotten the experience.

Steve was incredibly demanding of his people, incredibly egotistic and eccentric at times, incredibly insightful, yet to use his own phrase, “insanely great”.

Another keen memory of Steve was on the day he returned to Apple – not officially, but as a “consultant”. This must have been in 1996. As I recall, it was the Friday before Christmas and Apple called a press conference. The weather and the traffic were terrible. Only Apple could pull this off!
I got there just in time to hear Gil Amelio, then Apple CEO, announce that Apple was acquiring NeXT computer – the company founded by Steve after his 1985 ouster from Apple.

Steve made a surprise appearance, bounding down the steps of the auditorium only to say that he could not take questions because he had been up all night negotiating the deal. That didn’t stop me. “What the hell are you up to?” I asked him. “”Oh Louise, I am not interested in returning to Apple. I have a family now…” he told me. Somebody snapped a photo and sent it to me. On this occasion I was not caught up in the distortion field. I felt sure that Steve was back at Apple.

Fortunately, my instincts were right. Over the past 15 years Steve Jobs has taken Apple Computer to new heights and “changed the world” (as he liked to say) with new generations of personal computers, phones and tablet computers.

The last time I saw Steve was in the lobby of Intel’s HQ in Santa Clara. He was chatting with a group of Intel people and I did not interrupt. He was skinny and gaunt and it was shocking to see how his illness had affected him. I wish that I had been bold enough to say again: “Steve, what the hell are you up to?” I am sure he would have had a great retort.

Louise

Michael Hatcliffe
Managing Director, US Corporate Practice
Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

I spent the latter half of last week in New Orleans for the Reputation Institute’s 15th annual conference, Navigating the Reputation Economy.  It was a fascinating few days and I wanted to share the highlights of the insightful concepts discussed at the conference.

  1. Reputation has never mattered more. Research was presented that suggests 60% of purchase decisions are based on the perception of the enterprise rather than the features of the product. Cisco said that 25 years ago, Chief Reputation Officers did not exist - the stakeholder society and the internet has made reputation a paramount business concept.
  2. Brand and Reputation really are different. I liked what Sprint said: You can create and control your own brand; reputation is what you earn, it’s what you get from others. Cisco had another variation: You own your brand, you earn your reputation.
  3. Reputation is an inside-out process. A regular theme among the most impressive companies (FedEx, Pfizer among them) was that you have to win first with your employees before you can win with customers and external stakeholders. Managing your reputation starts with your most valued asset - your people.
  4. Reputation derives from the character of the company. Great stories from Honeywell, Xerox and Kodak on how they turned their reputations around - and they did so by going back to the heritage and values that had been important when their companies were  being built. It’s also what Toyota is doing to rebuild its Reputation (’The Toyota Way’). Honeywell said there are 5 principles of character-based communications: Integrity, Performance, Relevance, Accessibility and Clarity/Consistency.
  5. Management of reputation does not only happen within Corporate Communications. If management of reputation is seen purely as a PR function, then it is largely ineffective. The companies who treat it seriously have it as a core business mandate, with the CEO personally tracking it (Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told us it is one of his 3 priorities).
  6. Reputation should be a consideration in every business decision. Allstate admitted that it only took reputation seriously after it was hammered post-Hurricane Katrina for the way it handled policy claims. Now they have “Conscious Choice” meetings with all internal stakeholders to explore the ramifications of business decisions on consumers, regulators and other stakeholders.
  7. Sadly, you learn most about your reputation when it’s being attacked. Toyota’s Jim Wiseman gave a fascinating and candid “lessons learned” presentation about its troubles over the past 18 months - “We never considered reputation crucial until the bottom fell out,” he said.  Before the problems, Toyota didn’t even have a way of communicating with all its employees - the many affiliates did their own thing. He had his own Top Ten list of lessons - I liked “Understand Politics and Fight Back” and “Swallow Your Pride and Communicate with Legal”.

A company cannot just start a twitter and/or facebook account without having any competences in this field. Well, (technically) it can. But acting in an unfamiliar but public arena generally bears risks and this is especially true for social media. But what if a company does not have the man power – or the know-how – to professionally run a social media campaign? Fortunately, there are PR agencies that offer professional advice.
But when social media is all about transparency and authenticity how can that be handled through an external PR agency? Ok, this seems to be a no-go and could mean the end of all social media activities in the above mentioned case.

But wait – taking a closer look at the issue, there is an approach to outsource major parts of an enterprise’s social media activity without interfering with the social web’s ethos. Most important thing here: major does not equal all. A successful outsourcing of social media marketing requires active partnering and contribution from both the enterprise and its chosen agency.
At the end, it is much more crucial that the created content sticks to the social web’s rules and expectations than the question of its originator. It is important that a consistent delivery of quality content is guaranteed. And that is a task a social media specialist who is familiar with the company’s business can fulfil even better – if he is not stuck in time-consuming approval processes.

Nearly one third (30 percent) of Americans feel that they need to stay

connected to work 24/7, even during weekends, breaks or holiday,

according to a recent survey by InterCall, (an Ogilvy PR client).

 

While the survey cited a number of other very interesting statistics

related to workforce morale and productivity, I have been thinking

about what this means for PR professionals.

 

If nearly 30 percent of all Americans feel they need to stay

connected, this number must be even higher for PR professionals.  As

one of the major arteries to the heart of a company or client, we are

often asked to “keep our cell phone on” or “check email later” or

“dial into just one meeting while away.”  Knowing the critical role we

play, doesn’t being connected come with the territory? Or sometimes do we

have the right to unplug?

 

What are your thoughts on always being connected? Do you have trouble

unplugging or do you “power down” the first chance you get?

If you’re doing business in Germany, chances are you’ve heard of XING and are probably wondering how to use it for marketing and online reputation management. In Germany alone there are approximately 3.5 million high-level personnel are using the business network XING - the European pendant to LinkedIn - to manage and expand their professional contacts.

This network has proven to be an effective social media channel for B2B communications and reputation management. Why? XING has more than 30,000 topic-related groups where members exchange ideas, thoughts and experiences concerning nearly every branch or every professional field of activity, like “Risk Management”, “Underwriting”, “Corporate Publishing”, “Construction Engineering” etc.

We include XING more and more into our clients’ communication plans. As far as planning and implementation are concerned we recommend following these best practices:

1) Basic identification of relevant groups:

  • Keyword search within the network
  • Analysis of which groups our target persons have subscribed

2) Rate the relevance of a group:

  • To what extent does a group talk about my client’s topics?  
  • How active and “alive/vital” is a group?
  • How many members does the group have?
  • What is the quota of target persons?
  • Who’s the initiator?

3) Develop a content strategy

  • How does the group work?
  • Which approach/topics/formats should be used to
    be noticed and included into conversations?
  • Which topics create the greatest response?

4) Identify and train client employees to represent the company on XING.

5) Work with these employees to develop different and relevant content to be posted within the groups’ discussion forums. Depending on the group that could contain:

  • Short expert articles by
  • Leading and initiating discussions
  • Content syndication to special topics, e.g. linking back on corporate homepage
  • Answering questions of other group members

6) As a last step we recommend founding a branded group on XING. This offers new opportunities like organizing real life group meetings or issuing newsletters. As this requires greater involvement of client employees, we recommend commencing in only after conducting 6 months of XING-relations.

Summing up, one can say that XING has been proven to be a good tool for social media B2B communications. For foreign enterprises coming to Germany it is furthermore a good way to demonstrate market knowledge and integration into German business communities.

The NY Times got me again.  To say that this is a great read for any marketer is an understatement and it may be worth reading more than once. 

At the risk of violating one of the premises of the article, the section that really struck me from a communications standpoint was a concept the article attributes to Cass Sunstein called “cyberbalkanization.”  Essentially this is the ability for anyone to easily use online and social tools (as well as traditional ones) to surround themselves with news, opinions and ideas that are in-line with their own existing ideas, perceptions and beliefs.  This eliminates the need to listen or learn from anyone that has an opinion outside of your own - this part is towards the end of the story.

While I believe much of this has been around for years via traditional media catering to specific consumer, business and political interests, the future is certainly accelerating the opportunity and dropping the barriers to entry while increasing the gap between opposing views.  Instead of paying for subscriptions or content, I can now get almost whatever I want, free and delivered to virtually any screen I want while mashing it up with any other content I wish.  I’m able to create my own happy little news world - surrounding myself with my preferred bloggers and authors (thanks to my RSS feeds, readers) and my own social networks (that , naturally, consist of likeminded ”friends”). It is easy to see how small my world can become and how easy it is to block out the culture, ideas, thoughts and perspectives of those outside of it.

From a technology standpoint, some research groups are working on ways to try and intesect this trend.  Take a look at the Dispute Finder project developed by Intel (Disclosure: Intel is a client) and UC Berkeley - here is a good video of the project as well.  Through a Firefox extension, I’m able to read all the news and views I want, as normal.  But when the Dispute Finder picks up a keyword phrase, I’m presented with the option to hear two perspectives of the story one supporting it and one opposing.

Until this type of technology is available for broad use, we’re faced with the challenge of determining how we speak with people and communicate with them if they’re not even listening or tuning in.  Certainly we need to understand the habits of our target audiences (both online and offline) as well as the technology they use to gather their information - but we also need to be willing to listen to opposing views, learn from them and find ways to apply that knowledge to reaching our audience.  Some of this may be engaging with them in discussion (online or offline) and that it is the beauty and fear of social media.  I also think this is part of the reason we all jump to read the cyclical “PR is Dead” story or the debate about the death of embargoes (search Twitter for #newscartel) or how the media industry is dead (or dying - @themediaisdying).

We should be paying attention, and more importantly, we should be listening and learning.

There is a product here in Australia called Vegemite, which is popular eaten on toast. Like Marmite in the UK, you will either love it or hate it. It’s definitely an acquired taste. Apparently, there is nothing similar in the US.

 

iSnack 2.0

iSnack 2.0

Owned by Kraft, a new recipe of Vegemite was launched a few months back, but without a name. Instead, the name was entrusted to the Australian public as a competition. This week, the winning entry was unveiled and it has been called – iSnack 2.0Yep, can you believe it? How can you give food a name like that. What is going on?

As you would expect, the public is equally puzzled. As is the modern debate, the social media channels have been on fire with opinions on both sides. The mainstream media has also reported heavily, both here in Australia and overseasgiven the iconic status of the Vegemite brand and probably because it’s such an unusual name.

 

Personally, I have to agree with the negative camp. It is one of the most unusual product names in living memory.

What do you think?

Or, is it going to be remembered as a smart PR stunt to simply get people talking about the product? Would we be at all surprised if the product is re-named in a few weeks, due to the weight of negative consumer feedback? We will find out soon enough.

In the meantime, like it’s famous UK counterpart Marmite, you will either love it or hate it (the iSnack 2.0 name I mean).

Update: Kraft has just announced it has dropped the iSnack 2.0 name and will get the Australian public to vote again.

I’ve come across quite a bit of blogger backlash against the PR industry of late, and the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that it’s sometimes really hard to teach an old horse new tricks.

I’ve talked myself hoarse (ok lame pun kinda intended) about how I don’t regard communicating in the digital space as rocket science, but more of an extension of the basics us comms “professionals” should already innately know…just on new platforms. However, a steady chain of #fail examples that have recently been shared with me are now making me rethink what I thunk before.

Fail #1 Spamology

This is when PR people think that blasting everyone and their mother en masse without doing their homework properly is ok. Did I hear you say “blogger list”? While some journalists might still be forgiving of “To-the-editor” pitches mass-sent to 100 BCC email addresses via a wire service (still regularly practiced today by many), for goodness sake, how far do you really think you’re going to get with a one-size-fits-all play these days when there’s so much Google-able information readily available in a split-second search?

Is it really so hard to drop someone a personal note to say “Dear [person's real name], [make reference to reporter's beat/blogger's area of interest and/or a relevant article/post], would you be interested in [give quick summary of what I've got]? I felt it would be of interest to you/your readers because [insert proper reasons here]. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like more information.”

PR101 really.

No reply = no interest (or a crappy/spammy subject line). Learn how to write like a human being.

Fail #2 Communicating isn’t a one-way street

Making sure all those key messages got pushed out from the rostrum may have worked in the oldskool days but now that we’re swimming in a lovely sea of citizen journalists with social media footprints that would put Bigfoot to shame, top-down decrees don’t work so well anymore.

What does your audience want to see/hear? What feedback have they been giving and how have you been answering it (if you’ve bothered to listen at all)? What’s in it for them? Giving a blogger a lame freebie and asking for in-depth “coverage” in return is like giving a journalist a goodie bag and asking for a feature story.

Fail #3 There’s no Cliff’s Notes for being digitally savvy

Sorry Cliff, but there’s no regurgitating theory on this one. Anyone can quote a social media guru but that doesn’t always translate to communication smarts.

Today’s communicator absolutely has to be actively using the new communication platforms out there and participating in conversations with others in the space in order to fully understand how they work and be able to provide solid counsel. And if you’re not, it shows. To sift out the wheat from the chaff, I often ask questions like “so what exactly do you mean by blogger engagement and online community building?”. Just because you build it (a Facebook fan page is all the rage these days), doesn’t mean they’ll come. And who said Facebook was right for the brand anyways?

These days, I’m leaning towards hiring folks who are digital mavens first and schooled in textbook PR second. Why? Because if you’re already active online and have a decent audience, it probably means you’re doing something right in terms of communicating with the people you want to reach. Teaching you how to “angle-shoot”, write a press release or craft an FAQ list sounds like it wouldn’t take much extra.

Granted, good PR folks know how to get at the real story behind the spiel…online or offline…and I work with some of these gems. I just wish there were more all around to bring the meaning of “communicator” back up to where it’s supposed to be.

Savvis has expanded its relationship with Ogilvy PR for global communications support, expanding a U.S. market relationship in place since October 2007.
Read more….

Right about now, the Global Financial Crisis has probably hit most companies marketing budgets, with CEO’s tightening the belt on expenses as their revenue lines come down.  Prudently these chief executives seek to bring costs into line with revenues.

A study by the Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks company, found ‘82% of companies have reallocated their planned marketing spend for 2009 to varying degrees on account of the recession.’

The Aberdeen analyst continues with what would seem to be the bleeding obvious: ‘Companies need to ensure that they’re allocating their limited marketing funds in the most productive ways possible … In other cases, companies are actually investing more aggressively in various types of marketing programs, sensing an opportunity to capitalize on the grim economic headlines.’

So for PR managers across the globe this means that marketers are probably beating a direct path to their doorstep looking to leverage ‘free PR’ to augment their dwindling demand generation dollars. This is good news.

It’s good because like the Marines, PR comes to the rescue and to the forefront of marketers’ consciousness. It’s good because PR executed and managed correctly can do enormous good for awareness, consideration and preference. And finally it’s good because social media is the next black and PR as a discipline is primed and ready to take to this new vehicle with a vengeance.

Smart PR managers will be evaluating and prioritizing their core dollars and then looking to see how they can maximize and deliver results on the incremental dollars that some of the marketing folks will bring to the table. The even smarter ones will start to factor into their PR programs effectiveness metrics and will be able to provide a correlation between the campaign or program spend and execution and whatever pre-determined measures were agreed with the marketing folks. That then provides clear accountability and enables PR to talk the marketing talk and walk it at the same time.

Unlike traditional media, social media metrics provide a fantastic opportunity to highlight PR ROI, if done correctly. Linking back a PR-specific program to traffic, or eyeballs or community conversations can be easier (and cheaper) than the more traditional qual and quant analyses of print and broadcast media. There are powerful online tools that allow you to do this and even automate the reporting.

All in all, now is a great time to be in PR.

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide