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Nate Cochrane pens his rules for social media etiquette on Australian new site, iTNews. And in a style true to the very fundamentals of social media which encourage active sharing and participation, he has made a point to list the rules he outlines as a work in progress and has opened it up for discussion on the site.

One of the rules that he points out is one that we tend to forget: ‘Quality NOT quantity’. Too often PRs get flack for doing a last minute dash to sign up as many people in their network to become friends/ fans on their clients’ Facebook groups and pages or on their Twitter handles.

As PRs, we need to continue to educate our clients that the real value does not lie in the sheer volume of people we sign up but rather in the quality of the people we engage (even if it’s only a handful!).

Consider who your target audience is, where do they frequent and how to reach them. Who is in your fans/ friends extended networks. Are they the right audience to target?

Using Twitter as an example, it’s important to do the analysis and drill down into who the person is that you want to connect with, get to know them, follow them for a while and find out what they write about. Also have a look into who follows that person, are they the appropriate person for your client to be reaching out to or is there someone in their Twitter network that is better?

The following tool can help you determine the most appropriate people to follow:

http://flowingdata.com/2008/03/12/17-ways-to-visualize-the-twitter-universe/

If we want to get some real and long lasting results for our clients, the key is to make sure that we’re speaking to the right audiences!

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 serviceAfter 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.

According to a new book released by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, journalists face “two years of carnage”. 

Titled “A report, Life in the Clickstream: The Future of Journalism”, the book also revealed it’s very possible that the biggest media companies in the US will come crashing down due to cost-cutting and reduced quality, while five in 11 newspapers will vanish in Britain. After all, more than 12,000 journalists around the world lost their jobs this year.

Media Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren said that usually, journalism has traditionally “thrived on the emergence of disruptive technologies even as economic models have changed”.  The Australian newspaper spoke to Christopher and filed a story yesterday.

In the article Warren says: “Like all crises, the challenges journalism faces are rewriting everything we thought we knew about the news media and causing us to question the basis on which the industry has survived and flourished.” Whilst journalists are using technology to find new and progressive ways to keep the public informed, in the report 70 per cent revealed they’re now experiencing increased workloads due to a shrinking of the workforce.  

As to the future, 19 per cent said they were excited about the future of journalism, but 35 per cent said they were pessimistic about their prospects. 

Just like the PR industry has to modify the rule book in terms of how it uses social media and the Internet to help its clients participate in conversations and reach new influencers outside heritage media; by the same token journalists and publishers face even tougher challenges to retain relevance, especially as audiences continue to fragment the world over and chose multiple sources for information. Add to this the financial crisis now sweeping the world and further cost pressures will only amplify the speed of change.

The Australian article looks at what might evolve if mainstream news organisations collapse, citing research from the City University of New York. That says an organic news organisation could evolve – based on bloggers, video shooters and photographers, it would be augmented by community managers, program developers artists and run by just a handful of editors, all on an annual budget of $2.1 million. 

On a brighter note, and to update on my last post about PC Magazine’s decision to cull its print title, Roy Morgan has just released circulation figures in Australia for the last 12 months. The good news is that PC magazines did remarkably well. PC User’s readership climbed from 281,000 to 313,000 while APC went up from 275,000 to 280,000. PC Authority went up from 154,000 to 158,000, and PC Powerplay up from 111,000 to 115,000. Netguide was the only tech title to record a fall, dipping from 106,000 to 99,000. For even more analysis, check out last year’s results to compare.

Some good news to end on.

 

 

Whilst there is a lot of attention and focus right now on the recession and how it will impact IT spending, I am sure the Wednesday’s news that PC Magazine will close its print edition to go 100 per cent online did not go unnoticed. I would imagine this decision will have many asking themselves the question “if PC Magazine can’t sustain itself, who can?”

It is a trend that we have seen in Australia with PC World doing the same thing some months back.

So, is this a shock or simply a result of market forces?

Having spent nine good years myself at Yellow Pages through the late 80s to the mid 90s, there was a belief then that the print directory would disappear. It didn’t happen and the book is still going strong and has a place in most homes sitting underneath the phone. But of course, online consumption is powering ahead and at some stage I am sure it will all go online. 

But in light of PC Magazine’s decision, is this going to be a watershed moment for the PC and technology magazine industry?

Arguably, PC Magazine has been the world’s number one PC publication for much of its history, so this decision will make many other publishers take note and consider their strategies.

Personally, I think online is not a problem and in fact opens new opportunities for us and our clients: deadline cycles change, faster news cycles, more opportunity for video, for reader comments and so on. Also, much easier to track and monitor stories. Bring it on.

But with the global financial crisis and such a Goliath dropping its print edition, it’s hard not to imagine it won’t have some kind of knock-on effect. Let’s hope not. Long live technology magazines, if not in print, online.


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Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

The hot topic at the moment is the uncertain economic environment – something that is rearing its head in all industries and all walks off life today. As I have mentioned previously, I am keen to explore over time what impact this changing landscape will have on the PR industry next year.

As PR/ comms. budgets are typically the first to get stripped in organisations, will we see PR evaluation and measurement become an even more crucial tool for reporting in this uncertain economic time? Will we increasingly use it as a means for us, as PR professionals, to justify our worth?

And as Graham White, MD of Ogilvy PR company, Howorth, and Tech PR Nibbles blogger put it nicely: “More than ever we need to be accountable and in a recession, PR has to be part of the effectiveness mindset.”

I’ll be interested to see if the big agencies create, brand, package and sell PR measurement methodologies unique to their businesses and to their clients. If PR agencies are not already using PR measurement as a fundamental tool for evaluation and follow-through on client campaigns and projects, surely it is something they will look to in the coming year.

Despite the importance of PR measurement in the uncertain time, I would have to agree with many wise people before my time that historically, PR measurement has been (and still is) elusive. The complexities of measuring PR are never black and white.

I am interested in your take on this topic? Will we iron out the problems we had historically had with PR measurement? Will evaluation become second nature for PR professionals in their daily work (if it isn’t already)? Will PR take a hit or rise in the economic downturn?

Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

I have mentioned the benefits of using social bookmarking sites before but I think it’s beneficial to mention it again – mainly people seem to be more receptive to using online Web 2.0 tools these days. And more and more, we are seeing people use these tools in a professional sense.

For example, PR practitioners and journalists in Australia are now frequenting Twitter as part of their daily grind. Journalists are using Twitter to put a shout out for spokespeople for stories they are writing. PR practitioners are shouting out news announcements and interview opportunities in a bid to get media interest.

Back to social bookmarking sites… There are sites such as Digg and Del.icio.us which are great tools that let you share and find content, including video and news articles, from anywhere on the web.

I’m a great fan of Digg. For those newbies out there, adigg’ is similar to a favourite.

The content on Digg is submitted by the consumer and is voted on by other consumers. The more ‘diggs’ you get on content that you have uploaded, the higher up it climbs in the Digg  ranks. If you’re content is absolutely fabulous and many people are ‘digging’ it, it can even be promoted to the front site page for millions of site visitors to see.

Digg is a fantastic example and proof point of a successful online community!

Leveraging these sites as a PR professional or a journalist

PR professionals

If you receive a fantastic piece of online media coverage for a client of yours, you can upload it to Digg. You will then be asked to submit the content along with a title, description and a tag that is suitable for the content.

What are the benefits? More journalists today are using social bookmarking sites to research specific categories. And It’s a tool you can use to try and generate additional media coverage for a client. 

Journalists

If you aren’t already doing so, I would suggest that you join Digg. Upload your published online content to the site. By submitting stories here you are extending your reach to a truly global audience. You can even build a cult following in Digg – those that will get to know and love your stories, read them and share them on with others.

Bloggers are using Digg as part of their daily beat as well. Increasingly, we are seeing instances of where bloggers or journalists pick up others news stories from Digg and reference it in their blogs – increasing the popularity of the story and the site origination.

I encourage you all to set up a Digg account and start experimenting. I’d love to hear your thoughts on social bookmarking sites? Can it really work to leverage stories? Can you really generate additional media coverage by submitting content to the site?

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.”

Oh dear.

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.

Go figure!

Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

I read a really interesting article on the emerging social media trend of ‘dark marketing’ which takes a very much ‘covert’ approach. It provides examples of companies that have implemented stealth tactics in order to reach and sway influencers and potential influencers without engaging them directly with a brand.

Dark Marketing was defined as “…discretely sponsored online and real world entertainment intended to reach hipster audiences that would ordinarily shun corporate shilling” by Tom Edwards in this article.

In order to give a balanced account of this marketing approach, I have provided a couple of positive and negative examples. Sony recently launched a ‘Fake Tourist’ campaign in which it seeded Sony camera users in a central location and asked them to engage with people to take their picture with the desired goal to lead to a ‘pseudo-pitch’ around the product. This approach faced widespread criticism as it was considered a sly tactic to try and drive up sales of Sony’s latest camera product.

Another example is Vespa in the U.S. (which isn’t listed in this particular article I am referring to). Vespa actually hired attractive models to ride around on its scooters and up to bystanders in order to lure them, with their looks, into asking for their phone number. At this point, the Vespa driver would hand out a phone number and ride off (kind of like what you would expect to see in a movie). The catch? When the bystanders called the number, they were actually directly connected to a Vespa dealership!

Don’t be disillusioned. There are examples of this sort of activity that can work – but importantly, the activity needs to be ‘smart’ and cannot offend consumers.

An example used in the article of where this stealth tactic has worked is McDonalds and its recent ‘Lost Ring’ campaign. The Lost Ring was a virtual reality viral game targeted at youth and aimed at subtly promoting the McDonald’s brand and its partnership with the Olympics. It was in fact so discrete that it was almost (and still is) impossible to attribute this back to the McDonald’s brand. Not one single instance of a golden arch. The interesting thing here is that even post-campaign period – the site has a really simple survey mechanism to solicit feedback from site visitors – and still subtle in its branding.

Marketers are getting smarter – and so they must – especially if they (and we) want to be able to reach out to and make an impact on relevant brand influencers both online and offline.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on covert/ stealth marketing. Do you think it’s right/ wrong?

Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

It is becoming increasingly evident that more business users are jumping online during the work day to frequent social networking sites, using it as an online hub to conduct business and connect with other users for work purposes. For example, Twitter is becoming not only a hang out place to connect with friends but from a professional standpoint I am seeing that PR practitioners and journalists are using it as a portal to tap into useful networks, scoop out stories, identify spokespeople and generate outcomes.

Interestingly enough, as we see this trend escalate, eMarketer predicts that advertisers in the US will spend $40 million this year to reach the business audience on different social networking sites. And according to its forecasts, this spend is expected to reach $210 million in 2012.

The very nature of a social network is that it connects like-minded people and those with common hobbies and interests. It is therefore no surprise that we are seeing this behaviour among the business audience. And what’s more, the very nature of social network sites is providing advertisers and marketers with great opportunities to reach out to the exact audience they are wishing to tap into, as social networking sites become even more purpose-built and niche.

Another example is LinkedIn. LinkedIn describes itself as “A networking tool to find connections to recommend job candidates, industry experts and business partners…” This site is a recruiters dream! With its member subscription having doubled in the last year, this is the ideal environment to scope out and head hunt potential talent.

I recently viewed by profile on LinkedIn and I was able to track not only how many people viewed my profile in the last 27 days but it also told me who these people were. One was ‘someone in the Human Resources industry’ and the other was an ‘Account Director at Howorth Communications’. Nothing is sacred anymore.

These are just a few proof points that indicate the power of social networking sites in business and how sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter (and others) are increasingly becoming poweful tools that facilitate important business connections.

Do you think this trend will continue to escalate? Or are social networking sites merely fad? Would love your thoughts.

As I sit here typing my debut post for this blog, I can’t help but think of the dozens of topics I should write about– my thoughts on social media, the new widgets I downloaded on my iPhone, my new obsession with Twitter, or even Facebooking at work (I am guilty, and so are you.)  Just thinking of these topics made me realize how in one very short year after moving from Pennsylvania to San Francisco, I have warped into a digital girl. Prior to working as an AAE in the Technology Practice, I had no idea that blogs were big business and social networking was encouraged at work.  I still can’t figure out where all the “stuff” goes when we upload pictures or download music, it’s all still a mystery. I’m still learning.

All this digital information, mind-numbing technology, and creative innovation that surrounds us each day is extremely overwhelming, borderline suffocating but in a strange way humbling and inspiring. While studying in college I refused to read dissertation papers or reports online, I had to feel the pages, trace the words, and touch the pictures. I hardly signed on to AIM and I refused to respond to text messages, thinking it was so silly to not pick up the phone and press “call.”  I honestly thought personal blogs were rants and ramblings with no credibility (many still are), and heck, I created a blog last year just for my friends and family to read so they would stop calling me in the middle of the night while living abroad in South Korea, hence the very creative blog title. In one short year, my perception of technology has changed, drastically.

We, namely Gen Y, grew up bombarded with information overload. We are a spoiled generation, not in terms of material things, but in digital goods. We watched as the tech bubble burst in Silicon Valley, we witnessed 9/11 while sitting in classrooms, we quit Harvard and started an online yearbook, and we asked Google, not God, why the sky is blue.  We have a reputation of being “know-it-alls” because of all this technology. You can’t blame us, because with the click of our fingers, we feel like we know it all.

This year, Gen Y Americans have more incentive, power and voice to rock the vote and elect the next President of the United States.  Presidential Candidates are blogging and even YouTube is playing a fundamental role during debates. We are optimistic for the future and are more wired and globally connected with our peers than previous generations.  Yet, we are facing an economic downturn, a grim job market and a mortgage crisis.  We are renting, not buying, borrowing, not paying, dating, not marrying…or maybe that’s just me ;). We are aware of what’s imminent, but hopeful because like I said, we live in a digital world, and with technology, we can find answers, innovate, communicate, educate, spark controversy and conversation, and bring about change. 

[Disclaimer: author is an extreme optimist.]


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