Since we’re PR people, we tend to favour words rather than images.
That’s changing thanks to the rise of Social Media and the need to embed rich multimedia in our communications because, in the end, it makes for more effective communications.
However, the idea that images are more powerful than words is an old concept.
I’ll illustrate the old Confucian saying that a picture is worth a thousand words in this post about the changing face of Asia — in this case, specifically China. Visual storytelling at its best, you could say.
This is a 1990 picture of Lujiazui in Shanghai:
Now compare this with the same area in 1996 — a mere six years later than the picture above:
Now take a look at Shanghai in 2010:
As I said said: a picture does tell a thousand words. All of this change in a mere 20 years. Can’t wait for the next 20 years in Asia. It will be very cool.
(Images sourced from here.)
By now, almost all the western world — and a good chunk of Asia and Africa — have all heard of Apple’s latest breakthrough product, the iPad.
The sheer number of impressions this launch has generated is in itself impressive. But what is even more impressive is the use of early adopters and key influentials to drive the story, enthusiasm, excitement and buzz for Apple, not the company itself.
Remember that Apple is not a company that is that into social media, yet check out the Twitter hashtag #ipad and end user blogs to get a sense for the mountain of coverage and interest generated for the iPad.
How does it do this? Good old-fashioned smart PR and a communications strategy that relies on the magnification effect of early adopters and influentials to amplify launch noise via traditional PR, Word of Mouth (WoM) buzz and aspirational excitement.
Here’s some of the ground rules:
1. Carefully pick and choose your hero product(s) for the year and put as much wood behind these arrows as you can. The iPad was THE launch of 2010 for Apple. The company maintains ongoing influencer relations, a thorough reviewer’s program, and ongoing engagement for other products, like their laptops, iPods, etc., but the focus was iPad and later this year iPhone OS version 4.0. That’s it. Laser-like focus, picking and backing your product bets, not spreading the wealth across a wide product range that all cry out for PR support, even though they may be close to end-of-life (EOL) and have reached the downward side of the S-curve. The other products bask in the halo of the hero products. See what the iPod did for Macintosh sales post launch? See what the iPhone has done for iPad sales?
2. Focus on long term influencer and early adopter relations and engagement. These are your natural allies. Cultivate them, let them talk for you because they ultimately carry far more weight and credibility than your own Press Releases, blog posts or advertising. Engage with not just technology influencers, but with business, social and celebrity folk that give you brand cache and style. It’s no accident that Stephen Fry is an Apple fan boy, so is half of Hollywood, thanks to decades of engagement with product placement on set and off set, with the stars themselves. Every episode of Seinfeld has a Macintosh and a small statuette of Superman in the background. Check it out next time re-run comes on. At one point, Jerry Seinfeld had a Mac too (and probably still does even though he did ads with Bill Gates last year).
So how does this translate into the iPad launch? How do these uber-strategies map with launch tactics? Well, here’s a synopsis:
The iPad launched officially on April 1, but embargoes were set for March 31. This means a wave of launch buzz and hype 24 hours prior to people being able to buy one (not counting the rumours and speculation in the prior nine months).
Key influencers were seeded with Product Verification & Testing (PVT) units three to four months out in some cases, depending on when these units were deemed stable enough and of sufficient quality to pass muster for people that will forgive non-production machine foibles because they love the technology and because they consider themselves Apple-insiders. These units went to key Apple business partners/friends (remember Google CEO Eric Schmidt got a pre-production iPhone and not so surreptitiously flashed it at Davos, where it stole the headlines rather than dry economic prognostications?), celebrities, technology gurus, etc. Also note that they all honoured the strict Apple NDAs — no insider wants to be ostracized and get thrown out of the club.
Journos/key bloggers in the US (a very select few, high impact folks) had their iPads under NDA for a week prior to launch, enough for them to play and enjoy, but not enough time for them to be too heavily critical. Launch reviews reflect that and it’s commonsense when you think about it. The shine always rubs off the shiny new toy the longer you have it. This early enthusiasm sets the tone for the launch coverage, providing the initial launch gestalt.
Celebrity Twitter-ers helped fuel the social media buzz. Stephen Fry was on the US West Coast at launch (funny how that happened) and put up video of the un-boxing of his iPad. He openly Tweeted he had one a day prior to the rest of the population. Robert Scoble did the same thing, except for the video of the unboxing (he later went out and bought two more iPads because his family kept hijacking his — and Tweeted about it). Reviews popped up the day before the official launch by Walt Mossberg and David Pogue in the US — two of the most highly respected tech journos in the country. Surgical media placement and engagement for maximum impact rather than a broad ‘hit as many as you can’ approach most companies take.
Foreign (that is, non-US) media got flown to a glitzy New York event and even if there was no pricing for their markets, they got to play with units at launch in salubrious surroundings and with high profile Apple execs. They in turn also had the opportunity if they were keen enough to buy their own units in the US, which judging by the coverage, a good few did, thereby continuing the buzz momentum.
And the result is, as you can see, a wave of initial great coverage that drives WoM, then sales and sets the tone.
More importantly its a self-reinforcing cycle of clever, surgical market engagement that fuels Apple’s mystique as a cult rather than as a technology company.
And the interesting thing is that other companies with ‘insanely’ great products could be doing the same to build their own mystique and stories. Mass communications doesn’t have to be massive, just smart.
Postscript: The iPhone OS 4.0 was announced a few days ago. Only Apple developers are supposed to have the beta code for testing. Stephen Fry, who last time I checked can’t cut a line of code, Tweeted yesterday that he had just installed it on his 3G iPhone. General availability for the masses is not expected until the northern hemisphere summer/autumn (fall).
By that I mean, get a media room.
Nowadays it’s so much easier to have a studio near where your executives or your clients are so you can easily shoot video without taking away a lot of their time. In a time of crisis, this allows for a quick response.
In this post some suggestions on the equipment to buy:
For those of us who spend countless hours a day in front of a computer screen, chances are, we’ve spent some portion of that day on video sharing sites such as YouTube, Blip.TV or AOL Video. According to the web analytics site, Compete.com, YouTube alone had over 76 million unique visitors to the site in May 2009 alone.
With millions of people watching hundreds of millions of videos per day and uploading hundreds of thousands of videos daily-ten hours of video is uploaded every minute according to YouTube-the task of guiding users to your video content, can be quite a challenge!
In June, I provided tips for “Implementing Video in Your PR Campaigns,” and discussed “Best Practices for Creating Video Content.” But once you have begun creating video content and posting to video sharing sites, how can you ensure that your videos will ever be viewed?
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.
Last week I posted on the explosion of online video and how video can be incorporated into your traditional PR campaigns. In the post, I listed a number of “tips” for shooting your first video interview, and preparing company spokespersons and subject matter experts for what oftentimes, is their first foray into video. As a natural extension to that post, I thought I would check in with Ogilvy PR’s Moving Media Group–broadcast arm of our Creative Studio that concepts and creates TV Commercials, Radio, PSAs, B-roll, and Industrial products for both broadcast and non-broadcast purposes–to see if they had any additional guidelines for creating video. Here’s what I found:
I have found that corporate communications briefs for technology companies tend to have one thing in common. “Make people see the amazing innovation we have here” they say. Sometimes that innovation is easy to find, sometimes not. The motivation for wanting that innovation brand association however can be murky but often has an undercurrent of ‘we want our brand to be more respected, valued, get us out of commodity positioning’.
So when real commitment to market- and economy-moving innovation comes along, you have to applaud it.
In this economy, you need to scream your sincere appreciation for it, because it shows a commitment to be stronger tomorrow than you are today.
Example: Intel announcing this week a $7B investment over the next two years as they upgrade their facilities for 32nm technology used for the production of new faster, smaller, energy efficient chips. (Note: Intel is a client).
Intel CEO Paul Otellini said it so well this week on NPR. http://tiny.cc/4FLW7 “New technology is what pulls companies in technology out of recession,” he said.
And when asked what feedback he gave President Obama on the stimulus package, he did not hesitate to support plans to spend on much needed infrastructure investments, with the National Science Foundation, quality of classroom infrastructure, and tackling long-overdue problems that technology can solve, like electronic medical records. “My God,” Otellini said. “How long have we talked about that (Health IT)”?
How long indeed.
And just how long have we applauded brands for ‘innovation’ when there was little substance beyond an island in second life?
Intel has set a bar. And the best thing about that bar is if you really listen to what they are saying, they want more companies to meet and beat that bar. A rising tide raises all ships.
Lets not get amnesia about that bar on innovation when things get better, OK? Who else do you see raising the bar? I’d love to applaud them.
This may be a slightly controversial post with many different opinions floating around. Let me know what you think and whether this is a global trend.
Nick Davies, an investigative journalist of 30 years’ standing who works mainly for England’s Guardian newspaper, has put the spotlight rather savagely on his own industry and questioned what he sees as a deeply disturbing decline in journalistic standards. He also cites PR as a contributor. These assertions were recently aired in a TV interview in Australia on the ABC.
Davies says that journalistic standards are declining the world over as cost cutting and government pressures take toll on the industry. In his book, Flat Earth News, which focuses mainly on the state of UK quality newspapers, he argues that the combination of manipulation by government and the PR industry on a media industry under endless cost-cutting pressures and an expanding workload is a pattern repeated the world over. An irony of timing with big staff cuts just announced at Australia’s oldest newspaper group, Fairfax Media.
In the interview Davies says, “Big corporations have taken over newspapers, which used to be owned by small family firms, and injected the logic of commercialism into newsrooms and that logic has overwhelmed the logic of journalism.
“The big structural sign of that is that all across the developed world these new corporate owners of the newsrooms have cut editorial staff at the same time as they’ve increased the output of those staff. And the result of that is, crudely put… in the UK we did a big calculation on this, your average Fleet Street reporter now has only a third of the time to spend on each story that he or she used to have 20 years ago. If you take away time from reporters, you are taking away their most important working asset. So they can’t do their jobs properly any more.
“In this commercialised world, you have journalists who instead of being active gatherers of news - going out and finding stories and making contacts and doing funny old-fashioned things like checking facts, they’ve become instead passive processors of second-hand information, stuff that come up on the wire Reuters or AP, stuff that comes from the PR industry. And they churn it out. I use this word “churnalism” instead of journalism.”
Davies clearly feels journalists are led along, particularly by the PR industry. His examples are not so much in the technology sector, although he does talk about the millennium bug, but more mainstream. He also notes a pattern of many journalists who have lost their job moving across to PR.
Davies says the impact of electronic technology is very complex on this whole problem.
Whilst he admits journalists can do more research from the desktop and stories remain online permanently, the second implication is that they’ve lost their deadlines. He says the pressure is immense, always there five minutes ahead of your nose every day. Not only that, but journalists now have to write the story, do an audio version, a vodcast, a podcast, and so it goes on. The end result is the quality of the work is going down even though the amount and the variation of the product is increasing.
And his thoughts on bloggers is also quite depressing.
“I don’t agree with the view that we will be saved by the operation of citizen journalists and bloggers…..an awful lot of what bloggers put out is false, is crazy ideas and crazy facts, to the extent that bloggers have reliable information very often that’s because they’re feeding off the small extent to which the mainstream media are coming up with reliable information. If the mainstream is going to carry on getting weaker, as I fear, then the proportion of reliable information which the bloggers come up with will also decline,” he says.
And his prognosis for TV and radio is no different. “It’s in the same kind of mess that the print media are in. There’s no difference, I’m afraid, because news is expensive and unless we find a new financial model we won’t be able to deliver it and I don’t quite see where that new financial model is coming from and I don’t know any media proprietor who can see it either. They’re all very worried.”
Personally, whilst there are some points in this article that I concur with, I think the accusation of PR being a big contributor to the quality of journalism is a bit of a stretch. Like many industries in this modern era, publishers have to change their business models and this will impact their operations. This is changing the way in which journalists spend their working day. But technology can also help and I don’t think Davies looks at that side much either in this interview. I haven’t read the book, but my hunch is that it will be overlooked.
I think the technology press are adapting well, blending online and print, or dropping print and going totally online. We have seen the size of editorial teams decline and technology journalists are getting younger. But the young ones seem very adaptable, taking content for print, shooting a video and posting fast. Many of them are also generalists rather than specialists. But despite those circumstances, they are smart, savvy people and it is no different trying to get a story up with them now than it was three years ago. In fact, with some smaller books due to the decline in advertising spend, in many instances it is getting harder.