I can’t help but shed some more light on a very interesting article on the cover of the Business section of the NY Times this Sunday titled, “Spinning the Web: PR in Silicon Valley.”
Although it provides a good broad-brush overview of some of the social media work PR practitioners are engaging in, the story is much more about a particular PR professional who is very well connected in the Valley.
Brooke Hammerling is not only noted as a good publicist for her start-up clients, but as someone who is well connected to the tech industry’s elite cognescenti, she does some business development as well. Because of her expansive rolodex of contacts, she can make the right introductions to the right dealmakers on behalf of her clients.
By now, a somewhat loosely defined influencer relations program is part of what most PR firms can offer - but biz dev is a very different beast altogether.
While PR agencies may never truly deliver business development as a distinct offering, a lesson learned here is that all agencies have their own ecosystem of contacts.
Connecting them and proactively making the right introductions within their own ecosystem can be a huge value-add and build customer loyalty.
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.
I moved to the DC area from New York almost five years ago. I’ve taken the Washington Metro almost daily since then. Like most who’ve been paying attention to the news I’ve been deeply saddened by the accident and the horrible loss of life on the metro earlier this week. I’ve also been disappointed, though hardly surprised, by the actions of the metro system leading up to, and in the aftermath of the accident.
What do I mean by this? Reports indicate that the train cars involved were overdue for service and that the NTSB had recommended - years ago - that the type of car involved in the accident be put out of service. After the accident commuters expressed frustration at the Metro’s inability to update them with accurate information. The communication issue isn’t reserved for the Metro system, according to this article in the Washington Post the mayor’s office is coming in for some criticism as well.
The problem at the heart of all this isn’t that Metro employees aren’t doing their jobs, it’s that the system doesn’t have the money, or the operating structure to conduct long term planning and replace aging equipment.
I’m convinced - and have been for some time - that the reason for this stems, in large part, from inadequate communications.
For the past five years I’ve ridden the metro because it’s safer, more cost effective and more efficient than my only other option: driving. I’m what you might describe as a loyal customer. I have a stake in the system.
But every single day I see equipment out of order that goes unexplained or experience delays or random stops and starts that are given a perfunctory and wholly inadequate explanation. On more than one occasion, when the system does post a sign explaining maintenance, I’ve seen the end-date for the maintenance pushed back with no reason given for the obvious lack of progress. It goes without saying that there is no meaningful attempt at rider engagement.
This bothers me. Not because I’m left uniformed but because I want a metro system that doesn’t have budgetary or long term planning problems and because the system doesn’t appear to make any attempt to engage and activate me (and others) to help make that a reality.
In any endeavor, but especially those involving the general public, solutions stem from building a constituency, getting people invested in rectifying a problem, rallying them to take some sort of action.
Accomplishing this takes understanding your constituency; it involves giving them the information they need to be your best and most committed evangelists; it requires being agile and flexible enough to communicate with them on their own terms and through their preferred channels; it necessitates qualities of transparency and empathy, speed and clarity.
It takes a serious approach to listening and talking. It takes a communicator.
The Washington Metro has established a relief fund for the victims but I’m not sure if it’s taking outside contributions. It’s always a good idea to donate to your local Red Cross chapter, however.
Wanted to follow up on a post last week by colleague Ray Rahmati focused on best practices for video content. The following online video styles were developed in conjunction with my fellow colleagues Rohit Bhargava and Emily Goligoski in support of some planning and idea generation we’ve been working on for clients.
There are several video style categories to consider when creating compelling videos for any brand. When developing an online video strategy, in most cases, a good model would be one that embraces a blend different video styles over time that matches your brand — as it helps you reach your audience in new and fresh ways.
Below are several categories, descriptions and an example or two of each style:
Needless to say, it is important to evaluate the views, comments and feedback to drive conversation and improve the quality and relevancy of videos moving forward.
Please feel free to weigh in on other video styles or if you have interesting examples of any of the above! I’m always looking out for new uses and good examples of successful content.
I’ll share more on posting best pactices, tagging, etc. soon.
I recently spoke with a colleague at a well regarded lobbying firm who had been tasked with carrying out some minor PR tasks while her firm waited to engage their next PR agency. Imagine my surprise when, in a passing comment, my colleague mentioned she had been asked to update her client’s Wikipedia page with a number of materials.
As any PR pro will tell you, Wikiscanner first debuted back in 2007, making it much easier to determine the source of an entry or edit in Wikipedia. Wikiscanner exposed that many revisions to Wikipedia entries came from corporate sources, and suddenly, non-objective entries were subject to scorn from the general populace and even deletion by Wikipedia. All in all, Wikiscanner caused more than a few PR disasters as well as general embarrassment among those who were caught red handed. The majority of PR firms immediately changed their “Wikipedia strategies” to no longer edit client pages or pages related to clients. Surely no one was still doing this?
While tempting, we must never assume that non PR professionals—whether they are clients, professional colleagues, or friends—have the same PR expertise we do. What may be common knowledge to those of us in the PR industry can be elusive to others with their own separate area of expertise. Lesson learned? A thorough evaluation of PR activities is a must, lest your client “go rogue” and end up unintentionally creating a PR fiasco. Are your clients attempting to do more in house as they attempt to trim budgets? Make sure the lines of communication are open so you can provide the appropriate counsel.
Wikipedia remains as relevant as ever; Wikipedia entries are often the first result listed in a Google search, and now Wikipedia articles have been integrated into Google News results. For many, Wikipedia remains the first resource to turn to when researching a topic. And Wikipedia contributors are closely monitored; Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee recently blocked editing from sites owned by the Church of Scientology, after hundreds of articles relating to Scientology became embroiled in edit wars with critics.
Fortunately, my colleague spoke with me before editing Wikipedia entries from her lobbying firm’s IP address. And she’ll be sure to run other communications tactics by her next PR firm (or by her helpful colleagues at Ogilvy!) before moving forward. I’m looking forward to hearing from you about this issue—do you consider Wikipedia when crafting a communications strategy?
With tech publications and online media warming to the idea of vendor generated content, the opportunity to garner coverage and increase the visibility of your brand, products and services through channels such as videos, infographics, slideshows and podcasts are on the rise. Although many of these outlets will accept content in the form of bylined articles, guest columns, and white papers, they require significant time commitments from our clients, which can oftentimes be a challenge. Video is quick, easy and requires a relatively low investment in time and resources, all while providing yet another medium for showcasing thought leadership.
Video has seen enormous growth online over the past few years, which can be attributed to increased broadband adoption and the proliferation of video sharing sites such as YouTube, Blip.TV and Yahoo! Video. With these sites attracting hundreds of millions of eyeballs per month, and with tech media and bloggers scrambling for content, the opportunity to broadcast your company’s message can seem just about endless.
Being a Denver Nuggets fan, I was recently reminded that Mark Cuban has said some off the wall things. Having said that, he often provides some very interesting and thought provoking ideas on the world of social media. His recent post in late May “Who Cares What People Write?” is a good example of the latter.
Cuban shares some interesting ideas around “Outties” (content creators that fit into professional “Outties” as well as amateur “Outties”) and “Innies” (who are “passive consumers of web writings” or consumers who “read watch and listen to the professional “Outties” and ignore the amateur “Outties”"). The idea being that professional “Outties” are generally established, branded sites with strong/large readership and amateur “Outties” are people looking for an audience (commenters, retweeters, reposters, etc.) who are creating content to be discovered. Read his post for the full scoop and he closes with a pretty interesting wrap up of the concept…
The moral of the story is that on the internet, volume is not engagement . Traffic is not reach. When you see things written about a person, place or thing you care about, whether its positive or negative, take a very deep breath before thinking that the story means anything to anyone but you.
It was also a concept expanded on by the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s Senior Fellow and Director, Center of Digital Media Freedom Adam D. Thierer. Adam’s blog does a nice job of framing Cuban’s thoughts and adding some additional parallels to them around Power Laws as well as Chris Anderson’s Long Tail theory.
I think the one area that is not captured in either blog is the importance of recognizing the conversation that is happening — whether they are driven by the professional or amateur “Outties.” While I agree with Cuban that volume is not engagement and traffic is not reach, but I also believe that all comments, re-posts, link backs, tweets/re-tweets, blogs expanding on a topic or theme, etc. (like this one) are part of the conversation that is taking place. The collective conversation is the piece that matters for brands.
A simplified example of this would be to search for your brand on Twitter and see what’s being said. One person with 15 followers may be saying something that may be able to be dismissed, but if 10, 20 or 50 people with 15 followers each are saying something, after you take your deep breadth, it may be worth taking a closer look and joining the conversation.
The role of communications is indeed changing and how we think about creating or sharing a message is something that needs to be considered. I think this is one of the key reasons companies are starting to act more like publishers or content providers — to ensure anyone (either professional or amateur) can participate in their story, share it and share their perspectives on it.
Regardless of which outtie you are thinking of or the innie you are trying to reach, always consider the importance of helping foster conversation through your communications initaitives.
A few months ago I had a chance to check out a book of Banksy’s art. At least for me, I consider it art, others may consider some of the work graffiti or vandalism, but that’s a different discussion.
In the book I was flipping through there is a quote from Banksy stating, “Any advertisement in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours, it belongs to you. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.”
While very much focused on advertising – billboards, poster-boards, etc. – and brought to life by some of Banksy’s public works where the existing Ads were altered, I think it holds true to the online world of communications today as well.
More than ever, companies in the tech sector (and others) are acting as publishers and the sheer amount of vendor generated content in the form of blogs, videos, photos, slideshows, podcasts, etc. are almost unavoidable. Whether you are creating a video, shooting photos of an event or just publishing your latest white paper, its important to keep in mind that the minute you share it online - your message is now open to the world at large to ‘take, re-arrange and re-use.’ This is a trend we call Socialized Media and is permeating not only vendor Websites but industry publications as well.
In many cases the opportunity is present for someone to interpret, analyze and share opinions and perspectives on your content — so the concept of re-using or re-arranging may take many different forms. In short, the job of creating and sharing is the first step, the ongoing conversation and engagement around the content is what becomes even more important for you to be a part of. Have you thought through what you’d do if / when a competitor responds publicly to your content or a mashup being created of your content or are you even prepared to track and monitor that conversation?
In many cases, how you respond or don’t may say as much about your brand as the original content itself.
To use Banksy’s words, in the evolving world of communications, there is a fine line between throwing rocks at someone and throwing a rock WITH someone - so they realate to and become part of sharing your message.
We (Ogilvy PR’s tech practice) often hear from business to business technology marketers and tech PR professionals looking for a better understanding of Government – selling to it, benefiting from stimulus spending, and how the regulatory environment may evolve. I want to share a great piece that our Ogilvy Government Relations team has developed. Having access to thinking like this is one of the things I love about working at a full-service firm that knows tech PR but thinks far beyond.
For any of you with an interest in marketing products and services to the federal government, please take a look at these tips on how to build a stable and thriving federal sales market.
Selling to the Federal Market: Complications and Opportunities
With declining commercial sales and an uncertain economic climate, many tech and IT companies are looking to the one certain growth market in today’s economy – the federal government. Given the growth in federal spending projected over the next four years in every area from healthcare to border security, there is no doubt that federal agencies will continue to procure record amounts of IT services and equipment.
However, selling in this market can often be a frustrating dead end for companies not attune to doing business with the government. Most adventures in government sales for the uninitiated bear little fruit for many years. The most frequent refrain from disappointed vendors is that the government could not “see the wisdom or merits of their technology or services.”
There are ways to build a stable and thriving federal sales market, but it takes commitment, time, money and savvy to realize that goal. Below are a few tips for those looking to break into the federal market or to significantly expand their presence.
1) Know Your Market and Capabilities – Whether it is health IT, communications, data storage and retrieval, or complex systems integration, you must have active intelligence of federal opportunities before word hits the street. This task requires active knowledge of agency plans for future budget cycles, agency requirements and Executive Branch and Congressional Initiatives. Furthermore, you must know whether your technology aligns with that particular need and is either competitive or can represent best value to the government.
2) Be in Your Market – Simply coming to Washington from the home office, armed with minimal intelligence to meet with a government official is totally ineffective. At best you will get a meeting. At worst, you will be regarded as an outsider with an unproven track record. Government purchasers are loathe to trust the untested and unknown. Without a consistent physical presence in Washington, you will never gain the trust of careerists whose futures depend on making the right decisions.
3) Staff Up – To be successful at both step one and two, a company must have a dedicated federal sales force and a lobbying team to open doors and provide intelligence on an almost daily basis. In addition, the company must have employees who have experience in the complex world of government contracting and requirements, and relationships with agencies that they have worked for or with in the past. This is a particular type of expertise that is no different from that of a software engineer or other technician and it can prove invaluable in winning contracts.
4) Team Up – Often the easiest way to win government business is to team with larger corporations or trusted government service providers who already have large, flexible contracts in place with agencies. Going after large contracts with major players as a sub can get the company in the door and begin building relationships for future opportunities.
5) Brand, Brand, Brand – As noted above, lack of familiarity in Washington breeds contempt. A company in the federal market must be able to tout not only its name and technology, but its past and present performance as a government contractor. Again, without the commitment to advertise and use public relations in the federal sales arena, few government purchasers will feel comfortable enough to take a chance on an unknown vendor.
It must be research season. The latest report to hit the streets down under is the annual Grey’s Eye on Australia report, conducted by Sweeney Research. Whilst some of this makes for interesting reading, I think it also states the obvious. Not surprisingly, it focuses on consumer attitudes about the recession and how people are feeling.
Reassuringly, despite the gloom, almost two-thirds of Aussies are “extremely” or “very” satisfied with life, despite rising unemployment and a greater focus on personal finances. Perhaps the Rudd Government’s decision in February to hand out wads of cash to a large proportion of the Australian population had something to do with that!
Grey director of planning, Simon Rich, said in the company’s press release: “For most Australians, life is still OK. Interest rates are low, the cost of petrol is declining and unemployment has not yet reached crisis levels. So, we’re positive about today but concerned about what the future may hold and as a result we’re cutting back expenses and holding off on big ticket purchases.”
I don’t know what is happening in other parts of the world; do you all share Simon’s views?
In an effort to save cash, the purchase of luxury items is waning and consumers have returned to home brand goods. This report showed only 9% of consumers do not purchase house brands, and 41% are buying more than they did 12 months ago. Call me a snob, but home brands still lack quality and with three children to feed, there is in my opinion less waste in sticking with what you know, rather than downgrading to products you may not have tried before.
The changing role of women and how they have adapted to the financial downturn is also highlighted in the report, with Grey managing director Jane Emery saying that it shows women are still the backbone of the Australian household. The report says most major household decisions are undertaken solely by women, with 59% in charge of household expenses and 74% take charge of supermarket shopping - compared to 34% of men. Come on fellas, clearly we should be pulling our weight more!!
Other key findings (and my comments):
- 41% Australians feel they live in prosperous times - down from 70% in 2008 (no surprise);
- Unemployment and job security (29%) is seen as the number one issue facing Australians over the next five years (no surprise);
- 28% people know someone who has lost their job as the result of the global financial crisis (no surprise);
- 86% Australians are actively trying to reduce debt (no surprise and don’t we do this anyway recession or not?);
- Only 16% of women feel job opportunities are consistent for both sexes, compared to 49% of men (that is a concern);
- 39% consumers are prepared to pay more for eco-friendly products or services , which is down from 49% last year (so, does this mean we don’t care about the environment, or has the recession led many of us to abandon the priority of being green to save money?).
- 51% rate as the number one concern drought and water issues, which is a major issue in Australia.
- Most respondents (76%) think most companies are still not environmentally conscious and 83% agree companies should tell people what they are doing about the environment.
- Only 31% of consumers are ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned about the effect of the environment on them personally or their household, compared to 37% in 2008 and 49% in 2007.
Finally, on Internet used (and my comments):
- Browsing the internet is Australians’ number one source of ‘unwinding’ (64%); - Contrary to belief, even 68% of Baby Boomers rate surfing the internet as their primary tactic for unwinding (are we that boring?);
- 74% of respondents subscribe to e-newsletters (boring…!);
- Only 45% of Australians have watched an advertisement online in the past two months (that did surprise me);
- or in an email someone sent to them (49%) - gotta be too much spam;
- 90% of respondents search for information on products or services online before buying (no surprise)
Overall, no real surprises, but some interesting differences. What do think? Are Australian consumers just an optimistic bunch, or is the recession hurting more in other markets? Clearly, the sun and surf may help keep us happy, but I suspect if Gray was to conduct this research again, today, many would not be so positive, with the bottom of the recession forecast to hit in October.
David Carlson: Social Media and Traditional PR