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Recently I gave a talk at SMU (Singapore Management University) on the future of social media and its impact on businesses. Here is a blog post by Michael Netzley on the talk.

In a nutshell, I see 4 key drivers that will shape the way we work: Enterprise 2.0, Mobile, Content and Video, and finally Crowdsourcing. All of them are related in one way or another.

If you think that only 10 years ago we were dealing with Y2K, that Google was just one and a half years old, that we were excited by the first USB flash drive… We can only imagine what’s ahead, in the next 10 years.

Nicholas Ludlum

by Nicholas Ludlum
Category: Trends

Via SAI I came across the latest version of Mary Meeker’s presentation on the state of the Internet. It’s a must read. There’s really too much good stuff to summarize, and you should really click through and spend time with the whole presentation itself, but pay close attention to slide 4 which compares the growth of the mobile Internet to AOL and Netscape’s growth in the 90’s. 

Another thing worth noting is slide 7 which, rightly, defines the mobile Internet as more than just phones (includes eReaders, car electronics, etc). The PC & browser -centric model of computing is fading away and that’s bound to have significant implications. One of those implications, I think, is that the way we experience the Internet is being, essentially, subdivided.  We’re self-selecting the kind of Internet experience we want to have (the iPhone app experience is different than the in-car experience, which is different than the Kindle experience, etc). Social media disintermediated many of the traditional influencers that shape consumer/customer perceptions.  Now that the relatively simple & static PC/browser model is being, effectively, disintermediated, there’s going to be increasing pressure on brands and marketers to ‘play’ in a multitude of different digital playgrounds, or - as I’ve written about before - digital subdivisions, each with their own formats, ettiquette, style, etc.

As a practitioner of green PR and marketing, I spend hours every week walking the fine line between sincere promotion of sustainable corporate ideals and the murky waters of corporate “greenwashing” – the general term to describe the practice of promoting disingenuous information to support the guise of an eco-friendly public image. Accordingly, being accused of greenwashing is a constant concern of mine, apparently for good reason.

In fact, a recent study found that 98 percent of products make claims that are greenwashed. While some may dismiss the label of “greenwashing” as a casualty of green PR and marketing, the damage caused to any organization found guilty of the practice can be severe. Consider just three of the six main greenwashing risks, as outlined by OgilvyEarth’s greenwashing guide:

  • Reputational Damage: Companies that greenwash risk their credibility within their industries and with consumers. Skepticism is a growing trend and ideal in our society, and people don’t hesitate to pick up on and alert others to anything they feel is insincere. Rebounding from a blow to one’s reputation is one of the hardest tasks a company can face.
  • Consumer Alienation: More than 50 percent of climate-savvy consumers believe brands’ sustainability-related claims are embellished or fabricated. With so many other options for eco-friendly products, skeptical buyers will be the first to walk away if they find a reason to believe a company is greenwashing.
  • Leadership Opportunity Cost: There is a $200 billion market in the U.S. for eco-friendly oriented products. Additionally, 38 percent of eco-minded consumers make an effort to purchase goods and services from socially-responsible companies, meaning there is huge potential for failure for businesses that choose to greenwash. But, there is also potential for success among those willing to lead the charge in genuine environmental efforts.

Many organizations, no matter how sincere their reasons for taking on corporate sustainability, run the risk of greenwashing. But to avoid being crowned with this notorious title, be honest about your environmental efforts and communicate your plans for reaching sustainability goals. Celebrate your accomplishments, but don’t embellish them – consumers will see straight through the hype. Take immediate action if concerns arise about your sustainability practices, that way you won’t give anyone a reason to believe you have something to hide. Lastly, always maintain your relationships in the industry and with media – this will only help to fortify your reputation and give you credibility when and where you need it.

Click here to download OgilvyEarth’s From Greenwash To Great: A Guide To Great Green Marketing (without the Greenwash).

Is she nuts? Social Responsibility costs money, and that was cut long ago. I know that’s what many of you are thinking. Hear me out. I think the planets are aligning to give companies more courage and motivation to align themselves with social causes. Here’s why:

1. Give the People What They Want. The data is everywhere: regardless of age or country of origin, people want to help people and they prefer brands that help people. Pretty simple stuff. But the numbers that support this thinking are encouraging and I think a little surprising. In the Pew Research Center’s Millennials study released last month, there is an interesting statistic that 21% of Millennials say that helping people who are in need is one of the most important things in their life - more important to them in fact than owning a home or being successful in a high paying career. Will their views change as they age and become less idealistic? I wonder.  A December 2009 Yankelovich study showed 69% of consumers say that when a company donates to or does something for school or community, they think its right to buy things from that company as often as possible - a 10% jump in that answer from 2005. During this recession, consumers may not be giving as much money, but they certainly are giving their time. And they seem to be responding favorably to brands that give both.

2. Social is as Social Does. Social media has absolutely changed the relationship between brand and consumer, giving them more direct lines of communication. But as the medium starts to mature, or we as marketers get more experience in working in it, it seems that some corporate-driven initiatives that have an investment tie to social causes receive a stronger, more lasting embrace by their online communities. Think Coke’s investment in the Heart Truth to raise awareness for women and heart disease.  The take-away? Most every brand steward not living under a rock is looking for a way to engage stakeholders and influencers via social media. B2C or B2B. The challenge is finding an idea or campaign that isn’t fleeting and has enough interest and appeal to be embraced by those online communities. So partnerships with social causes seem like a very authentic way to reach people around issues they are already passionate about with something they’ll really appreciate from a brand; putting money and effort where its brand mouth is.

3. As the Big Brands Go, Others Will Follow. Smart marketers have already identified this cultural desire for individuals and companies to be more involved in their community and pay it forward. President Obama has called for increased volunteerism. Pepsi has harnessed this desire to help others though their Pepsi Refresh campaign. At (client) Intel’s January launch of its Core processors, the company decided to partner with soccer powerhouse Mia Hamm. As part of Intel’s launch with Mia, the company made a donation to the Mia Hamm Foundation, which Mia created to raise funds and awareness for families needing marrow or cord blood transplants, and to foster opportunities for young women in sports.

I bet we’re only seeing the first set of waves on these kinds of campaigns. And I think that’s a good thing.

What do you think?

Can corporate initiatives (funding & resources) and programs for the social good co-exist without the “eeeew” factor?

When it comes to analysis on how well these programs help the bottom line, if all buying criteria are equal, could the consumer sentiment model hold true for B2B purchases and tip the scales towards socially-conscious corporations?

Is there a happy intersection of doing good and for-profit endeavors?

Boy I hope so. Earth Day’s just over a month away. Any campaign ideas on the whiteboard that could do some earthly good?

In early January I posted a blog on the “Top 10 Priorities for Tech PR Professionals in 2010.” I received quite a few comments on the blog itself as well as through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and email.

I waited a month and now have decided to re-post it with a single additional priority and some minor changes. The most evident is in the title, now “Top 11 Priorities for PR Professionals in 2010.” I left out “tech” because they are relevant to PR pros across practice areas. I added one priority (thanks to Lucy for the important reminder): “Building Communities”, now priority #6.

Here the revised post:

There’s no doubt that 2009 was a year that (further) changed our job as PR professionals. As I’m sure you’ve heard a million times, it’s an all new, ever changing world and we need to learn, move and adapt quickly. But, in concrete terms, what does that mean?

From my point of view (mostly from the agency side) I thought I’d list out the priorities for a tech PR practitioner in 2010. I think they stand for both experienced professionals and people just getting into PR.

One thing is for sure: our job is indeed getting more and more complex, challenging, and fascinating. All three qualities that have kept me in the same business for so many years.

1. Becoming a Content Creator. Technologies and the media environment are making it possible for companies to reach out to their stakeholders directly. PR must lead content creation. Cisco has done that very well for quite some time now, with News@Cisco. IBM is now following with the recent hire of Steve Hamm. I am sure many others will follow. A content strategy is pivotal in any good public relations program.

2. Telling Stories Visually. As PR professionals we need to become better visual storytellers. Read The Back of the Napkin for  inspiration – you can get the new companion workbook to put Roam’s principles into practice on Amazon.

3. Learn how to use multimedia tools. Now that you’ve put Content and Visual Storytelling at the center, learn how to make news using all the multimedia tools available and how to develop and manage an editorial calendar (or hire people who do it well.) We will see more journalists getting in-house to do precisely this. Steve Hamm at IBM won’t be the only one.

4. Get a Room! I mean a media room. Nowadays it is so much easier to have a studio close to your executives or your clients so you can easily shoot video without taking away a lot of their time. This can be very handy in times of crisis where you want a quick response. In this post you can find specific suggestions on my favorite equipment.

5. Become a social media expert (if you are not one already.) Social Media is integrated in everything we do. PR professionals that are not at least proficient in Social Media, are going to be obsolete before the end of the year. So, don’t rely only on “experts”. Become an expert.

6. Building Communities
Once you create great content, whether you are a b2b or a b2c company, and engage your stakeholders in conversations, you have a golden opportunity: “to build a community for users, influencers, advocates, product champions, experts, partners, etc. around your brand, products or services.” per Lucy’s comment in my previous post. I am sure that in 2010 we will start to see more and more community manager job opportunities in the marketplace.

7. Think 360. Talking about integration, don’t stop at social media. Think about all the communication disciplines. Clients and companies face communication or reputation (or both) challenges. Rarely can something be solved by one communication discipline. PR, AR Marketing, IR, HR (Internal Communication), and in some instances Sales and Customer Service needs to work together in a more integrated way than ever before. My good old friend Sue from the UK call it “hybridise”. “PR practitioners must increasingly learn how to bring in elements from traditionally competitive marketing disciplines.”

8. Develop new services and become more efficient. More for less is here to stay. Now that companies have learned (by necessity) to do and demand from their agency partners to get more for less, why would they go back to getting less for more? For agencies that means providing higher-value services and be more efficient in providing traditional support.

9. Identify the right measurement criteria for your needs. If #8 is true (and believe me, it is), ROI is going to be even more important than before. Flexible measurement solutions, that cost less than 10% of the total investment, will become critical for the success of a Corporate Communication department and for the agency.

10. Integrate your customers in your PR planning. As consumers are co-brand managers, really playing a major role in shaping global brands like Google, Apple and Ford, B2B companies need to work closely with their customers so they can become co-brand managers too. What they say, think or write about will affect your reputation and brand building. A hint? It’s not just about developing and pitching case studies.

11. Understand where influence begins and how it works. Too often I hear that PR is going to die (yawn) because social media is changing the media landscape so there is less and less traditional media. The reality is that PR is not only media relations. The big opportunity for PR professionals is to understand the new “influencer” landscape to a greater detail than before. Understand the ecosystem where your company or client belongs to, and how to engage those influencers and the people who influence them. A colleague of mine suggested that I read the “best book on Influence ever written : Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. I’ve just downloaded it on my kindle but since I trust my friend I am sure it’s very good and want it to share it with you sight unseen.

Have a wonderful 2010!

There’s no doubt that 2009 was a year that (further) changed our job as PR professionals. As I’m sure you’ve heard a million times, it’s an all new, ever changing world and we need to learn, move and adapt quickly. But, in concrete terms, what does that mean?

From my point of view (mostly from the agency side) I thought I’d list out the priorities for a tech PR practitioner in 2010. I think they stand for both experienced professionals and people just getting into PR.

One thing is for sure: our job is indeed getting more and more complex, challenging, and fascinating. All three qualities that have kept me in the same business for so many years.

1. Becoming a Content Creator. Technologies and the media environment are making it possible for companies to reach out to their stakeholders directly. PR must lead content creation. Cisco has done that very well for quite some time now, with News@Cisco. IBM is now following with the recent hire of Steve Hamm. I am sure many others will follow. A content strategy is pivotal in any good public relations plan.

2. Telling Stories Visually. As PR professionals we need to become better visual storytellers. Read The Back of the Napkin for  inspiration – you can get the new companion workbook to put Roam’s principles into practice on Amazon.  Perfect way to start the new year!

3. Learn how to use multimedia tools. Now that you’ve put Content and Visual Storytelling at the center, learn how to make news using all the multimedia tools available and how to develop and manage an editorial calendar (or hire people who do it well.) We will see more journalists getting in-house to do precisely this. Steve Hamm at IBM won’t be the only one.

4. Get a Room! I mean a media room. Nowadays it is so much easier to have a studio close to your executives or your clients so you can easily shoot video without taking away a lot of their time. This can be very handy in times of crisis where you want a quick response. In this post you can find specific suggestions on my favorite equipment.

5. Become a social media expert (if you are not one already.) Social Media is integrated in everything we do. PR professionals that are not at least proficient in Social Media, are going to be obsolete before the end of the year. So, don’t rely only on “experts”. Become an expert.

6. Think 360. Talking about integration, don’t stop at social media. Think about all the communication disciplines. Clients and companies face communication or reputation (or both) challenges. Rarely can something be solved by one communication discipline. PR, AR Marketing, IR, HR (Internal Communication), and in some instances Sales and Customer Service needs to work together in a more integrated way than ever before.

7. Develop new services and become more efficient. More for less is here to stay. Now that companies have learned (by necessity) to do and demand from their agency partners to get more for less, why would they go back to getting less for more? For agencies that means providing higher-value services and be more efficient in providing traditional support.

8. Identify the right measurement criteria for your needs. If #7 is true (and believe me, it is), ROI is going to be even more important than before. Flexible measurement solutions, that cost less than 10% of the total investment, will become critical for the success of a Corporate Communication department and for the agency.

9. Integrate your customers in your PR planning. As consumers are co-brand managers, really playing a major role in shaping global brands like Google, Apple and Ford, B2B companies need to work closely with their customers so they can become co-brand managers too. What they say, think or write about will affect your reputation and brand building. A hint? It’s not just about developing and pitching case studies.

10. Understand where influence begins and how it works. Too often I hear that PR is going to die (yawn) because social media is changing the media landscape so there is less and less traditional media. The reality is that PR is not only media relations. The big opportunity for PR professionals is to understand the new “influencer” landscape to a greater detail than before. Understand the ecosystem where your company or client belongs to, and how to engage those influencers and the people who influence them.

My best wishes to a wonderful 2010.

twitter-birdAt the Australian launch of Windows7 today, Microsoft has invited Twitter followers to take part, with the event being streamed live through Ustream.tv . These followers have the chance to engage directly with senior Microsoft executives, and during the Q&A session, every fourth question will come directly from the Twitter feed.

However, a number of journalists are not keen. First they would prefer questions only come from journalists at the event itself. Second, they’re worried the Twitter questions will be filtered and that only the easy ones will be answered. Third, they’re concerned it will take up too much time and give real journalists less opportunity to table their questions. But with only 140 characters and no follow up, it’s not likely to be a time consuming exercise.

One alternative suggestion put forward by a journalist is to run a Q&A by the likes of Slashdot and Digg, where questions are crowd sourced, than a top ten are posed to the interviewee and would better represent what the audience wants to know.

Either way, it will be interesting to see how it goes and the reaction. Twitter is now common place on TV with live studio audience shows using it to get questions in real time from viewers.

How many other PRs, particularly from the tech sector, are incorporating Twitter feeds like this into big events? What has the feedback been? Keen to hear what people think.

My colleague Sam North, former managing editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald in Australia, has responded strongly to Umair Haque’s Nichepaper Manifesto. He doesn’t blog but has given me permission to post his thoughts. A little long for a blog post, but thought I would share it all:

If the Nichepaper Manifesto is some sort of harbinger of the future then God help us all. Unfortunately its broad sweep of generalities, trite statements and ill-informed comments are typical of the newspapers-are-dead lobby. I defy anyone to get their head around such an amalgamation of nonsense. The day the article was sent to me today (Wednesday, August 5), as usual, I read the AFR (a specialist finance and business newspaper and website which seeks - and many say succeeds in doing - to develop a perspective, analytical skills, and storytelling capabilities that are inimitable by rivals . . Nichepaper, anyone?), The Australian, the SMH and the Daily Telegraph. All three strove to impart meaningful, lasting knowledge by extensively educating, enlightening and informing me about many issues, particularly the Ozcar debacle in Canberra and the terrorism arrests in Melbourne.

Far from radically reinventing what news is, both those issues had the previous day been the subject of astonishing news breaks by The Australian, with the paper exclusively revealing that Godwin Gretch had admitted to writing the fake email and – even more astoundingly – revealing that the massive police terror raids were being carried out even as our papers were being delivered.

The SMH and The Australian had sections on local news, world news, arts, sport and business (Nichepapers?) and separate liftout sections on Money (SMH), Higher Education, Wealth and the Australian Literature Review. Both papers have interactive websites with the last figures I saw showing smh.com.au with more than 4.3 million unique browsers each month and theaustralian.com.au with 1.4 million.

The Nichepaper Manifesto says Nichepapers ‘’are different because they have built a profound mastery of a tightly defined domain – finance, politics, even entertainment – and offer audiences deep, unwavering knowledge of it.’’

One would have thought that the SMH, The Australian and the AFR – along with their attendant specialist sections – offer all that, plus something more: eyeballs.

The latest circulation figures show that, far from the sky falling, the top three quality broadsheets in Australia – the SMH, The Age and The Australian – slightly increased circulation over the previous 12 months. And, in fact, the three papers have increased circulation over the past five years. And, while I can’t talk for The Australian, I do know the SMH and The Age remain profitable.

News (of the current definition, not the yet to be disclosed reinvented definition) still sells. The Daily Telegraph in London increased daily circulation by around 100,000 during the recent period when it was drip-feeding stories about the spending habits of British parliamentarians.

It is true that advertising has tanked in newspapers. But my theory is that everyone loves a new toy and the lure of the bright, shiny new media was difficult to resist. But in the light of a post-Christmas hangover sometimes those toys are looked at in a more critical light – they might be trendy, but are they better at doing the job?

Nielsen research released in April showed that more than 60 per cent of Twitter users have stopped using the service a month after joining; the two latest ANZ job advertisements surveys have shown an increase in newspaper job ads in June (0.9%) and a decrease (0.4%) in July, while online ads fell 4.8% in June and 3.6% in July.

What it all means, I’m not sure but I’ll finish with a blog in March from Tim Pethick, the young entrepreneur who successfully launched Nudie drinks, among other products. He told of his product Sultry Sally chips, a low fat brand available in Woolworths. Woolies, which had launched a rival product, told Pethick that he had to engage in mainstream advertising to boost the sales of his chips. Pethick wrote: ‘’to be forced into a position where I have to take a traditional, main media approach is anathema.’’ His fears were multiplied when a partner suggested advertising on 2GB.

‘’My heart sank. Strategically, I couldn’t think of anything worse. We are talking radio; worse, AM radio; worse still, talk-back radio; even worse, a radio station that everyone knows is only listened to by a few old punters – way, way off target and brand for us.’’ Needless to say the product walked off the shelves, with stores emptied of Sultry Sally chips. ‘’It is working like nothing I have seen before,’’ wrote Pethick. ‘’I love the fact that the old ways still count for something; I love the fact that I can still be surprised, be wrong and learn from it.’’

Actually I won’t finish on that, I’ll finish with the Nichepaper Manifesto which writes that ‘’Nichepapers are the future of news because their economies are superior.’’ ‘’What is different about them is that they are finding new paths to growth, and rediscovering the lost art of profitability by awesomeness’’. And what is the lost art of profitability by awesomeness?

I quote: ‘’When you can make awesome stuff, you don’t need to find “better” ways to sell it. The fundamental challenge of the 21st century isn’t selling the same old lame, toxic junk in new ways: its detoxifying and dezombifying it, by learning how to make insanely great stuff in the first place.’’

As you can see, Sam holds a firm view towards the newspaper lobby and its future, perhaps being an ex hack and all that.  But he makes his points very vividly and with passion, just as Umair did in his original post.  

Of course, plenty to debate here for everyone.

Graham White from our Australian office picked up this piece coming from the UK.  The Archbishop of Westminster believes that social networks “..led young people to form “transient relationships”, which put them at risk of suicide when the relationships collapsed.

http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/facebook-myspace-put-teens-at-risk-of-suicide-church-20090803-e6hh.html

This piece follows an earlier discussion in Indonesia earlier in the year among the Muslim ulamaks, saying social networks promote promiscuity between the sexes, and there were calls for Facebook to be made “haram” (forbidden under Islamic practices).  Facebook, mind you, is the top-ranked site in Indonesia, with more than 800,000 users.

http://www.smh.com.au/world/indonesia-gives-facebook-the-nod-but-no-flirting-please-20090522-bi9v.html

Compare the thoughts of the Archbishop and the Indonesian ulamaks (whom I assume are not digital natives), with those of these commentators, (whom I assume are digital natives). 

http://www.alarabiya.net/views/2009/08/01/80498.html

http://www.bt.com.bn/en/analysis/2009/07/07/facebook_is_it_halal_or_haram

The reflection here is that social media/ networks are not just secular or technology or mass media or marketing phenomena, it’s impacting religious practices, so much so that religious leaders have started commenting on them. 

In other words, what’s clear is that social media/networks are truly affecting and changing society (well, at least in the developed nations with Internet access). 

With social media becoming such an impact into our lives, shouldn’t we embrace it more, and look at the positive aspects of it?

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.

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