You might think the President of the United States would have people to ensure his social media accounts are not hacked - but apparently not even he is protected.
Barack Obama’s Twitter account is just one of the many high profile people who have had to deal with a social media account being hacked over the past few years. Which begs the question – if the President of the United States can be hacked, is anyone safe?
Luckily, Veracode put together this infographic of social media security basics to break down a few simple strategies to help protect your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or whatever your social site of choice may be. Going beyond making your password stronger, the infographic details the most popular Facebook scams (watch out for those free Farmville dollars!) and tactics for using social media in the safest way.
While these tips may seem basic to some, the infographic is a good reminder to stay on guard while you are perusing your social networks. I know I’m guilty of taking for granted that bit.ly links are safe without scrutinizing them first as the infographic advises. Do you have any additional security advice that is missing from the infographic?
It’s the day after the huge Mega Millions drawing and if you’re reading this I’m assuming you didn’t win either.
So instead of counting my soon-to-be millions, I spent this Saturday morning doing my typical routine of coffee and catching up on blogs and interesting news items from the past week. When I’m not reading my colleagues' posts on the Sounding Board (like Jonathan’s riveting overview of a service where you can order tacos delivered by helicopter), I like to read PR and social media blogs from around the Interwebs. Here’s a short list of my current favorite industry reads. Feel free to leave a comment with your blog picks.
- Social Media Club DC – local chapter of the national Social Media Club and they have a robust list of DC-area professional development and social events focused on social media best practices, tips and emerging trends.
- Ragan’s PR Daily – daily news site offering PR industry topics, tips and opinions.
- Gawker PR Dummies – let’s face it: sometimes PR spin isn’t exactly well received by the public. Gawker lists their PR duds of the week on this site with biting humor. Let it be a cautionary tale.
- PR Squared – written by Todd Defren, SHIFT Communications, who offers up his take on the intersection of social media and marketing.
- Chris Abraham – Abraham blogs about social media, marketing and metrics. Who wouldn’t want to read insights from a man who claims that Unicorns raised him?
I’m not going to completely date myself, but I will say that the intensity of social media in my college days was nothing like it is for students today. In fact, most of it didn’t even exist (at least, in a mainstream sense) until after I graduated. Facebook was around for about a year, but no one knew what to do with it since MySpace was still the rage. YouTube barely launched before I put on my cap and gown, and Twitter made its debut while I was a year into my first post-college job. Needless to say, those social media tools were not a part of my college life. But when I think about college students today, I can’t help but wonder how different their experience must be. And I’m not talking about their social life, but their academic one. Schools and universities can recruit, interact and inform students in ways never thought possible…even compared to seven+ years ago when I was enrolled. (And to think, a simple Tweet or Facebook message could have saved me from those early, snowy walks to class – yes, uphill too – that were in fact canceled for whatever random reason.)
Of course, there are more appropriate reasons why social media makes sense for college life. Sociagility, a social media consultancy company, recently revealed their list of the 50 highest-ranked U.S. and UK universities that have picked up on the idea and are doing it right. Examining Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, “The results are determined by how each school attracted attention to its social media pages — based on site traffic, followers, views and engagement — as well as receptiveness to listening to comments, interaction, network reach and trust.”
Here are the top 10:
- University of Pennsylvania
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- University of Michigan
- Stanford University
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of Oxford
- University of Sheffield
- University of Wisconsin, Madison
- University of Texas at Austin
Here is the full list.
While Western Michigan University may not have made the list, I follow my Broncos on social media channels and am happy to see the level of engagement demonstrated both by students/graduates and the school itself. Even though I’m far from campus, I feel connected, educated and in-the-know about university happenings.
Is your university on the list? What was your experience like with social media when you were there – or what do you imagine it would have been like?
- Mary Evans
With so many of us on-the-go these days, it’s only natural that we are constantly looking for ways to combine and manage our, for lack of a better word, stuff, under one device. Long gone are the days of carrying a cell phone, book, camera and laptop. (No, this isn’t a plug for an iPad.) But I came across some research regarding Apple’s Newsstand app, and I have to admit, I wasn’t very surprised when I read about the tremendous amount of money publications are making from iPad users.
While the app itself is free, there are subscription fees for most of the content available on it, and according to February research from Distimo, the top 100 grossing publications from Newsstand made more than $70K per day in the U.S.. While that’s a lot of money, you have to remember that people are cutting out of their lives door-to-door newspaper deliveries, print magazine subscriptions, and the like in order to have everything in one central location. So isn’t it only natural that everything washes itself out in the end, once you factor money, convenience and accessibility? I guess I just don’t find it surprising that people are removing the clutter from their lives and trading in hard copies for electronic. Instead, the study is more of a reinforcing reminder of what most of us expected to happen.
Per Distimo, the top five U.S. grossing publications in February were The Daily (an iPad-only publication), the New York Times, The New Yorker, National Geographic and Cosmopolitan.
If you’re an iPad user who contributed to that $70K number last month, what publications are you subscribed to, and do you still purchase hard copies of newspapers, magazines, books, etc.? What are the pros and cons of the two worlds?
- Mary Evans
It's not unusual for us to begin working with a B2B (or even B2G) company that either is not using social media tools at all or has the channels set up but doesn't know what to do with them (much less have the time or personnel to manage them). Companies often wonder why they should even bother with social media and will having a Facebook or Twitter page really make a difference?
According to the infographic below, which is from InsideView, the answer to that question is a resounding YES!
Selling Through Social Media to Close More Leads InsideView
Even though social media clearly is providing results for B2B companies and helping them close deals, a few things in particular jumped out at me from this infographic.
- No Google+. Could this be because Google+ is no longer alive and kicking?
- Companies with an active blog are seeing 67% more leads per month. Like all social media channels, blogs take time to develop and nurture, but having somewhere to share content and develop thought leaders is incredibly important.
- More than 1/3 of global buyers surveyed use social media to engage with their vendors. This means that you can't just have a Facebook or Twitter page -- you need to be present. You need to monitor these channels and engage with your customers.
- 55% of survey respondents search for info on social media. That means, if you aren't there they can't find you and you are losing an opportunity to engage with your customers.
- Lastly, along with your customers already being there, so is your competition. And if they aren't yet, they will be soon.
So has social media helped you close more leads? Or, are you just now entering the wild world of social?
When I visited my parents last weekend in Evans City, Pennsylvania (in the middle of nowhere), I remember thinking to myself that my parents must be the only two people left in the entire country without smartphones. And, according to both IDC and Nielsen stats released earlier this week, I’m getting closer and closer to being right about that. The studies concluded that 49.7% of U.S. mobile subscribers now own smartphones (as of Feb 2012) rather than feature phones, an increase of 38% to last year’s report. So, although there are quite a few more than two people left in the U.S. who have yet to jump on the smartphone bandwagon, the numbers are steadily shrinking and are expected to double by 2016.
The reports also commented on operating system statistics (with Andoid continuing to lead):
- 48% own an Android OS device
- 32.1% have an Apple iPhone
- 11.6% are Blackberry owners
"Android's growth is tied directly to the propagation of lower-priced devices," said Tom Mainelli, research director, Mobile Connected Devices, IDC. "So, while we expect dozens of hardware vendors to own some share in the Android market, many will find profitability difficult to sustain. Similarly, we expect a large percentage of application developers to continue to focus their efforts on iOS, despite the platform's smaller overall market share, because iOS end users have proven more willing to pay for high-quality apps."
Could you recognize your favorite brand without a label?
That is the question brand strategist Andrew Miller is posing to the public over the next 100 days. Every day, Miller will be covering famous products with a coat of white paint “removing all visual branding, reducing the object to its purest form.” Each object may be purchased for less than $10 and is either something Miller owns, something another person gives him, or something he finds.
Currently on day 17 of the study, I did a quick test around the office to see how many of the items SpeakerBoxers were able to identify. Across the board, everyone was able to identify almost all of the items as far as what the objects physically were (i.e. battery) but only were able to identify a little over half for their brands (i.e. Duracell).
For the most part though, it seems as though brand identity is stronger than words and products with a memorable or unique characteristic were the easiest to pick out. Lesson here: products need to represent the brand beyond just a label.
So are you able to recognize the brands minus a label? Would consumers be able to recognize your brand stripped down?
“Joseph Kony? That’s last week, broheim. Now it’s all about the pink slime!”
Like some ancient, monolithic doomsday clock, the Internet hivemind has once again shifted its attention to a new cause du jour, from African warlord Joseph Kony to pink slime, a vile-looking (though reportedly safe) amalgam of beef used to nourish America’s school children. And their parents, since it’s also used as filler in supermarket ground beef.
While the term “pink slime” was coined all the way back in 2002 (its manufacturer, Beef Products, Inc., refer to it as “lean finely textured beef”), it remained out of the mainstream public consciousness until a March 7, 2012, ABC News report. The news segment revealed to the world how the foul looking substance is concocted and its prevalence in the food industrial complex. The resulting furor over the product was nothing if not predictable, but it did result in Beef Products, Inc., laying off 600 workers and closing three of their four plants.
What I find most interesting about the whole pink slime campaign is that Beef Products, Inc., did not take this lying down. They stood behind their product, as repulsive looking as it is, and brought in various reputable third parties to hold their banner. The company even took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal addressing the issue and published an exceptionally honest FAQ around their product on their advocacy website, beefisbeef.com.
The actual issue here is insubstantial to public relations – in truth, I don’t have a problem with pink slime and I think this falls into the “never see how the sausage is made” category of disgust. What we as PR professionals need to take into account is how the initial campaign against the product went viral, and how the manufacturer responded.
Beef Products Inc. didn’t immediately go off the deep end and fire off cease and desist letters or refuse to comment – they went on the offensive, but didn’t attack the credibility of their accusers. Instead, the company fought based on their belief in the product and credible data that supports its safety. This is a great example for how to deal with a negative viral attack on a given company – responding with facts, not vitriol, and not shying away from the attention.
Photo credit: MoDevUX
Mobile continues to be a hotbed of action as the market tries to capitalize on the success of app stores and the consumer adoption of new platforms. However, a successful mobile program goes far beyond just the sheer number of app downloads. Today’s mobile user demands a unique and intuitive mobile experience. Personally, if I choose to invest in the iPad I want to use apps developed and designed specifically for it that deliver on a killer mobile experience.
To address best practices in mobile design and development for end users like myself, the MoDev Network fostered MoDevUX meetups and conferences. The next MoDevUX is being held right in our backyard at the Ritz Carlton Tysons Corner on April 20, from 8am-6pm. The event brings together the nation’s best mobile developers, designers, architects, and creative talent to discuss what works in mobile experience and design and the future of mobile platforms. Topics and presentations will cover UX/UI, structuring content, touchscreen design, HTML5 mobile framework, app creation, app markets, usability and more. You can view the full schedule and information about additional workshops on the 19th and the Hackathon on the 21st here.
To all of the savvy mobile users out there: what are some of your favorite mobile apps or websites?
Whether you were waiting for it or dreading it, Facebook has started rolling out its new Timeline feature for brand pages. Up until now brands and people have been able to opt out of switching to Timeline, but as of March 30 this new profile will become the default.
Rather than waiting until the 30th and just letting Facebook switch your brand page over on it’s own, why not make the switch proactively? Doing so will prevent Facebook from deciding how your page will look for you or leaving you with a gaping hole at the top of your page.
To prep for your switch, there are three easy things you can do:
1. Update your ‘about’ section
One of the aspects of Timeline for brand pages is that the about section will now be more front and center. So with its new spotlight, this is a great time to refresh your ‘about’ section to make sure it accurately reflects your company. Also, make sure to include a link to your website and keep it short enough to fit in the space provided… not many people click on the ‘see more’ link.
2. Choose a ‘cover photo’ (and a new profile picture, if you need to)
So you already have a profile picture, but with Timeline you need a cover photo. Your cover photo is a larger image that spans the top of your page and works in conjunction with your profile picture. It can be whatever you like, but whatever you do…choose one! Timeline looks pretty funny without a picture!
From the pages I’ve seen so far, brands have left their profile picture as their logo and used to cover photo to showcase the most important aspect of the business. This way, whenever you post something, your logo is still associated with it. However, if you do decide to use your logo as your cover photo, don’t forget to choose a profile picture that is different!
Also, it’s important to note here that Facebook has set a stipulation on these photos for brands: they cannot include a call to action of any kind—no discounts, sales, contact info, or suggestions to ‘like’ pages, ‘share’ info or visit websites or blogs.
3. Organize your information, review your timeline and EDIT
The switch to Timeline will put thumbnails of your photos, apps and likes at the top of your page and allow you to pick which of them is most important to you to have displayed. So be sure to organize these in a way that makes the most sense for your company.
Also, before you actually switch, Facebook will let you preview your Timeline to make sure it displays your company information the way you want it to. Here you have the option to edit what is seen, so take a close look! Also, you can move items of importance up to the top of your profile by adding a ‘pin’ or highlight them where they are by adding a ‘star.’
I hope these tips get you started with Timeline or at least help make the transition a little easier!
Because even SEAL Team Six gets the munchies...
Tacocopter, in case you haven't heard, is a real start-up.
It's a real start-up in the sense that it has a webpage, an email address, and a branded line of tee-shirts.
Here's the Huffington Post's Jason Gilbert on this nascent (and real!) business venture:
"[Tacocopter] boasts a business plan that combines four of the most prominent touchstones of modern America: tacos, helicopters, robots and laziness... You order tacos on your smartphone and also beam in your GPS location information. Your order -- and your location -- are transmitted to an unmanned drone helicopter (grounded, near the kitchen where the tacos are made), and the tacocopter is then sent out with your food to find you and deliver your tacos to wherever you're standing."
All right, so obviously this isn't "real-real." But in the world of technology start-ups, it's real enough.
For one thing, the technology to build and operate a Tacocopter is roughly available. There's demand. There's a business plan. And despite a few minor challenges that Gilbert catalogues...
"Prohibitive FAA regulations...navigating the treacherous terrain of an urban environment, keeping the food warm, finding a city map precise enough to avoid crashes 100 percent of the time, avoiding birds, balconies and telephone wires, delivering food to people indoors, delivering food to the right person, dealing with greedy humans who would just steal the Tacocopter as soon as it got to them, etc."
...there's the seed of a real operational model... right?
That's what's so great about Tacocopter: It's just absurd enough to make one reconsider the validity of our entire new tech economy. A marketplace that's so terrified of missing the next great idea, that we're willing to realistically consider any number of ridiculous ones.
It's a Renaissance for dreamers. And to play, all you need is a tee-shirt.
Not so long ago my esteemed colleague Pete wrote a blog post about Google+ being alive and kicking. However, it appears I’m not the only one who would disagree with that description.
When Google+ first launched last year it seemed everyone thought Google had finally come out with a social network that could rival Facebook. But, over time, it seems not to be the case. In fact, the Wall Street Journal ran an article at the end of February that describes “The Mounting Minuses at Google+.”
According to the Wall Street Journal article, Google+ has 90 million users but data shows that while users are signing up they aren’t doing much there. Google execs, on the other hand, tell the New York Times “about 50 million people who have created a Google Plus account actively use the company’s Google Plus-enhanced products daily.”
But, those numbers aren’t exactly accurate when you consider that “Google Plus-enhanced products” include YouTube, Google.com and Google Play (formerly Android Market). Based on Google’s own math, just a few months ago, before I downgraded from Google+, I would have been considered an active user. The problem? I never checked my Google+ account and certainly would not have considered myself an active user.
In fact, while by no means a scientific survey, a quick survey of our very own SpeakerBox office showed that only one person out of our entire team was using Google+ on a regular basis.
Even more telling though may be the example in the Wall Street Journal article about Intel. According to the person responsible for Intel’s social media presence, 360,000 Google+ members have signed up to receive updates from the company since it joined Google+. Not bad, right? Not until you compare it with Facebook, where the company has more than eight million “fans” and gets thousands of comments on its posts.
So am I suggesting everyone jump ship and downgrade from Google+? No. But if your company is looking to expand your social media presence, it’s important to take time and research the options, know what the number of active users really means and make the choice that’s best for your company and the audience you want to reach.
-- Jennifer Edgerly
"Relax, guys. There's still the European DVD sales."
My dad works with some executives from the movie industry. One of them said to him in passing the other day:
"If you really want to know how a picture is going to do, just look at the second-week box office numbers."
His theory is that after the first week, the multi-million dollar advertising effect wears off, and you're left with pure word of mouth. And in today's world, this is all that really matters.
But if he's right, it raises an important question: Since most movies are terrible (for instance, anything with Rachel McAdams), shouldn't Hollywood reallocate those mega advertising dollars to the cause of... you know... making better movies?
Questus principal Jeff Rosenblum certainly thinks so. And not just for movies, but every product imaginable.
In what's easily the smartest thing I've read about advertising this year, The Daily Beast's Dan Lyons interviews Rosenblum about his iconoclastic documentary "The Naked Brand."
The movie's thesis: CEOs should divert the millions they spend on advertising into actually fixing their companies, then spread the word using cheap social media.
"You can't change people's behavior with social media," opines Rosenblum. "But you can use it to understand and accelerate their behavior."
Maybe he's right. Advertising is an institution built on lies. Social media, truth. And consumers are wising up.
(I actually still think there's a role for traditional advertising that advances awareness of product improvement, for instance Crispin Porter's reintroduction of Dominos last year. But this is a minor quibble.)
To Rosenblum's point: My lovely and estimable colleague Kathryn (who camped out at the AMC yesterday instead of coming into work) will have much more influence on my decision to see The Hunger Games than all the TV ads, website banners, and Stanley Tucci press junkets put together.
On the other hand (and this is a fairly persuasive counterpoint), since when do I trust Kathryn?
Last Thursday, I listened in on comScore’s webinar “Mobile Future in Focus: Key Trends Shaping the Mobile and Tablet Landscape in 2012.” The webinar was really interesting and focused on the results of their latest mobile trends study.
As the mobile landscape continues to evolve with new connected devices coming out and changing the way we consume news, information, media and content, comScore has identified four key trends for 2012.
1. Mobile media is mainstream
Basically, content consumption is being increasingly driven by smartphone usage, with more than half of mobile phone users in the U.S. consuming mobile media. The majority of Americans (93%) are accessing connected media via their smartphones…I’d say that shows it’s become mainstream.
2. Mobile fueling social media and commerce
Obviously, smartphones are being used to access social media sites with over 64 million people in the U.S. accessing them through their mobile device every month and over 38 million every day. Facebook crushes all other social sites with 77% of people accessing it monthly. Most of these visits are to read or post updates but some users follow links and over 50% follow organizations and/or brands.
However, mobile content and connectivity is also changing how we define commerce with deal-a-day sites, shopping guides, electronic payment processing, online retail and bank accounts being accessed regularly by smartphone users. The number of people that use PayPal on their phones has more than doubled over the last several months and 1 in 4 smartphone owners accessed online retail sites in December 2011. Also, smartphone use is changing the in-store experience of shopping by letting users easily check availability, compare prices, search for coupons and research features – sometimes while they’re actually in the store.
3. Platform wars intensify
Android and Apple are battling it out for first place with each of them taking the lead in different areas. As of July 2011, over 50% of people in the U.S. buying a new phone purchased a smartphone, making them a majority in the market.
Savvy consumers are basing their choice first on network quality, then phone operating system and third on the selection of apps – surprisingly cost ranks after these three factors. While iOS still holds the lion’s share of devices owned, Android sales are growing at the greatest rate with iOS at a close second. As this race is heating up they’re seeing RIM’s sales decline, turning this really into a two-platform race.
4. Connected devices give rise to digital omnivores
The rise of tablets and the number of smartphones on the market has changed how people access content, giving rise to a new kind of content consumer that comScore dubbed a “digital omnivore.” With tablet usage on a steep incline, connected devices are rivaling the PC in how Americans access content. comScore outlined the biorhythms of when digital omnivores access content via which device, with tablets being used mostly before and after work, computers being used mostly during typical business hours and mobile phones being used steadily during waking hours.
The data also showed that Android and Apple are continuing their battle in this arena as well with Android having the lead in number of devices available and Apple holding the lead in actual tablet usage. Additionally, people are increasingly accessing mobile content over Wi-Fi as opposed to mobile services – especially when it comes to tablets where over 90% of traffic is over Wi-Fi.
As consumers, we often think we want something when we really don’t. Or what we really want is something completely different than what we think we want. Or we kid ourselves into thinking we want something when, in reality, the choices we’ve made in the past point to wanting something completely different.
If that sounds confusing, check out some of the naming conventions Netflix uses to categorize the type of video content it offers its users. “Critically acclaimed visually striking movies” is a nice example – that’s so specific it really doesn’t mean much of anything, at least not to me. BUT – it’s supposed to mean something, because it’s supposed to be Netflix’s way of presenting content that is, supposedly, directly tailored to what an individual consumer is really interested in, not what they think they might be interested in.
What spurs these confusing thoughts on an otherwise peaceful Tuesday morning? This Financial Times article on how Netflix “predicts” the type of content its users want to watch. Apparently the company uses a complex algorithm that takes into account customer surveys, past viewing habits, and more, to create a personalized experience that is geared toward delivering what the customer is most likely to enjoy.
According to Netflix, I am nothing like this man
This is nothing new, of course. Marketers have been doing this through various means – direct mail, for example – for years. But what’s fascinating here is how Netflix is using individual customer data, compiling it into metadata, and regurgitating it in such a way that is remarkably accurate and one-to-one. So while a person may say they want to watch Schindler’s List – past viewing habits indicate they really want to see what’s up on The Vampire Diaries (which, before anyone asks, I’ve never seen. Seriously).
Netflix understands that the key to keeping its customers is to make the relationship with them as direct and personalized as possible. It’s targeted and, because of that, highly effective. They provide customers what they want, even if they don’t know it.
Netflix missteps over the past twelve months have been well-documented, but there’s one thing they still know how to do, and that’s use a combination of technology and old-school marketing disciplines to create custom-made experiences. It’s an approach worth emulating.
- Pete Larmey
Winter Shareholders Meeting in Cupertino
My lovely and estimable colleague Kathryn will be spared in today's column, as I rebut (instead) the handsome Boston sports fan sitting to her right.
I wrote a blog post a few weeks back called "How to Fix Everything In Marketing, Instantly," which contained the secret to Apple's success. From the post:
"Technology companies like Sony... kept basing their new product development on customer input, whereas Steve Jobs was using customer input to scrub the mildew off his diamond-studded toilet seat."
Well, the evidence keeps pouring in.
According to analysts and tech reviewers, the new iPad does exactly what Apple products always do: It gives people what they want, instead of what they think they want.
And in doing so, it causes confusion (perhaps even cognitive dissonance) that manifests as dissapointment.
See, here's what we thought we wanted: A completely redesigned, possibly spherical, glowing orb that looks and feels nothing like the most popular computing product on the market.
Here's what we really wanted: A significantly better iPad.
My colleague Pete wrote (in a blog post that I would link to, were it not for the SpeakerBox blogging page view contest) about a "new, somewhat better than the old, iPad."
But I think that's the understatement of the century.
A tablet computer is, essentially, a large touch screen. And the new iPad touch screen has FOUR TIMES THE PIXELS of the iPad 2.
That's a ridiculous leap forward in technology (without adding cost, battery life consumption, or significant weight). Think about it: When the iPhone 4 Retina display launched, there were many who thought it might NEVER be feasible for iPad.
Yet here it is. Already. Along with 4G LTE and some truly astounding battery advancements.
Disappointment with the new iPad is like disappointment with a new pencil sharpener that only drastically improved its sharpening capabilities. "It's still the same basic sharpener! Where are the blinking lights and holographic projections?"
I know I write about Apple glowingly a lot these days, but look:
We've all known companies that were light-years ahead of their competition. But have we ever known one to be light-years ahead of its own customer base?
And that's why they're ninjas.
This could be your PR team
If you’re a baseball fan like me, you’re probably feeling pretty good these days. The boys of summer are getting ready; teams are in Florida and Arizona working out the kinks, everybody’s excited, and the inevitable monumental September collapse of my favorite team is still a few months away.
This is the time when every team takes a look at what they’ve got and figures out the best plan of attack for Opening Day. Don’t let the naysayers fool you; spring training does matter, because it provides managers with an all-important evaluation period that gives them a good idea whether or not the mix they’ve got is enough to win them a championship.
Now’s also a good time for PR managers to sit back and take a look at whether the programs they implemented at the beginning of this year are starting to deliver dividends. With the first few months of 2012 in the books, spring provides an excellent opportunity to see if your program’s an all-star or also-ran.
Pitching change? Take a look at some of the pitches you’ve tossed lately. Any hits (in this metaphor, hits are a good thing)? If not, you may want to evaluate your wind-up. Why aren’t reporters biting? Is the subject matter still relevant? Do you need to take a different, more unique angle?
Small ball or home run? If you’re not finding any luck with your everyday efforts – pitching, social media, etc. – maybe it’s time to start thinking a little bigger. Spring and summer aren’t just for ballgames, they’re also filled with trade shows and events. If budget allows, maybe stage your own big splash, perhaps at someone else’s party – or, even better, create your own. A well-timed, thought-out big announcement can garner some significant attention – but it needs to be very, very newsworthy. Like Yu Darvish/Stephen Strasburg newsworthy.
Pinch run? Sometimes after the big rush of beginning of the year planning, things start to slooow down. It happens. So maybe now’s the time to make some changes to the starting lineup to give you a burst of speed. As you’re evaluating your program, start to think of some proactive ideas that can help jumpstart your efforts. These could include creative authored article pitches on topics you’re the expert on, a new social media campaign, or hiring Ozzie Guillen as your official spokesperson (no, don’t do that). Anything you can use to get the word out about your organization in a proactive way.
Designated hitter? Have you developed or designated your spokesperson “bench”? If you haven’t, you really should. Everyone loves a good quote, and reporters appreciate having an expert on your team they can come back to whenever they’re looking for thoughts on a particular topic. Grooming great spokespeople is kind of like grooming the next Rookie of the Year; if you do it right you can unlock an enormous amount of potential and have a player that can really help your team.
Peanuts or Cracker Jack? This really has nothing to do with your PR program. I’m just wondering (I’m a peanuts guy myself).
Everyone needs to work on mechanics now and then. After all, that’s what spring training is for! So take this opportunity to sit back and take a few cracks in the PR batting cage; see what you can work on so you’re program’s ready for the long, winding season ahead.
- Pete Larmey
Photo courtesy Associated Press
"Why don't I have people for this?"
My lovely and estimable colleague Kathryn is a digital native. That is to say, she was born after the advent of graphical Internet browsers (circa 1993) and has no first-hand experience with an analog, technologically humble universe.
When Kathryn wants a cup of coffee, she orders one from Amazon.com. When she's feeling warm, she sets her iPhone to "cool." And when she wants the news, she checks Twitter for the latest TwitPics and infographics.
Yes, Kathryn is a monster. But she's a monster we created. The physical embodiment of our high fructose corn syrup YouTube attention span society.
But is the damage irreversable?
San Francisco-based Kickstarter darling Matter thinks maybe not. And it's raised $100,000 to prove that long-form science and technology journalism still has a place in Kathryn's America.
“We have tapped into frustration with the way the internet has promoted quick and cheap journalism and bashed longer-quality stuff, or at least undermined the business model that used to support that sort of thing,” said Matter co-founder Jim Giles.
"[Matter will have] no cheap reviews, no snarky opinion pieces, no top ten lists. Just one unmissable story [after another]."
Hmmm... a grassroots initiative to turn the tide of journalistic integrity, without infographics, puppies, or reality TV? Sounds intriguing.
But will digital natives really buy it? To find out, I'd better go to the oracle herself:
"You know I think I'm good, but thanks for checking."
Sorry, Matter. The Kaplan has spoken.
From apps to devices to startups and even advertising, the March 8 Potomac Tech Wire Mobile Outlook panel didn’t hold back about their opinions about 2011 and predictions for 2012. Panelists included:
- Charles Curran, General Partner, Valhalla Partners
- Barg Upender, Founder and CEO, Mobomo
- Carolyn Parent, Co-founder, timeRazor
- Martin Ringlein, Co-founder & Senior Consultant, nclud
- Sean Shadmand, President and Co-founder, Socialize
- Moderator - Paul Sherman, Editor, Potomac Tech Wire
The event kicked off with panelists responding to what mobile trend they were most surprised by in 2011. While several panelists agreed that location-based apps and services have been “taking off like a rocket”, others seemed more impressed by the fact that mobile innovations are helping to cut out the “middleman.” Upender used the simplicity and genius of the car service app Uber as an example, divulging details of his recent experience. He noted that with a few clicks he was able to hail a town car (with notification of when it was approaching his pick-up location), go to a restaurant and pay the driver all through the app, calling it “an awesome user experience.” Curran noted that, in 2011, he was impressed with the growth in demand for data scientists, providing a helpful message to the parents in the crowd: “Tell all of your kids in high school and college to become data scientists.”
iOS vs. Android
The battle of Android vs. iOS was also a hot topic at the event, with the panelists and the audience mostly preferring Apple devices and agreeing they are leading the pack in innovation. Ringlein mentioned that iOS is still the leader in mobile and Android is barely hanging on in second place. “Android still has a lot of problems from a platform and programming side,” said Ringlein. However, he also noted that people should keep their eyes on other front-end technologies that could help bridge the gap between the two platforms in the upcoming year.
Of course, Apple didn’t come up without the mention of their recent new iPad announcement and tablets, in general. Ringlein mentioned that 4G was going to really change the way we distribute and consume content. Parent gave the nod to an increase in tablet use in the retail space, noting a change in how people will interact with retailers. She said we can expect to see people bringing their iPads with them to retail destinations to research buying options in real-time, impacting their purchase decisions.
I’m sure Curran had my August 2011 blog post about the future of mobile advertising in mind when he mentioned that soon mobile ads would be location-based. He noted that businesses will be able to tell when you are nearby and push specifically targeted ads out to your mobile device, and I think he is on to something. However, in response to Paul Sherman’s skepticism that there is a place for mobile advertising, Shadmand stated that the term “ad” is a scary word. However, he did explain that, although advertising on mobile devices will and should take on a much different model than conventional advertising, there is definitely a market for it. He use American Express as an example, citing that the company is allowing people to sign your credit card up to your Twitter account and rewarding users for tweeting about them.
Upender brought up that some mobile apps are ads within themselves, including apps such as Chefs Feed - an app that gives you the in on where the country’s top chefs are eating – essentially creating ads for each restaurant. And a final thought from Ringlein on mobile ads: “the ad you don’t notice is the ad that works the best.”
Parent was the first to put in her two cents about mobile startups, once again focusing on the location-based community. She informed the audience that people need to get the right information at the right time, and startups need to aspire to connect those two things by really thinking about the value-add and uniqueness of their offering. She also noted that having a plan in regard to how to make money is also essential.
In response to whether or not charging the consumer was working, Curran interjected that you can’t charge everyone. He gave the example of Dropbox – 99 percent of the consumers using their product don’t pay, but the 1 percent who do are making them successful. In turn, he referenced that The New York Times is trying to charge each consumer, but it’s not working.
Sherman kicked off this conversation by noting that this year at CES the mobile health community was everywhere. The panel agreed that we would see a huge wave of health-related mobile services over the next five years, including wristbands and heart monitors. They also discussed the social incentives attached to these services that will make it huge, i.e. running apps that will tweet your mileage and giving people the motivation to take health to the next level. Shadmand wrapped up the topic by stating that what will help mobile health boom will be how it cuts out the middleman and goes straight to the consumer, blurring the lines between B2B and B2C.
Following the panel, a handful of local startups were given the opportunity to give live demos of their apps, showcasing D.C. companies’ abilities to innovate in the mobile market. Here’s the list:
No, I'm not an investor, acquirer, nor am I an investment advisor to companies that are interested in a capital raise or M&A (mergers and acquisitions). I'm the CEO of a public relations firm for technology companies. So what do I know about M&A?
In our tech PR business, we do spend a lot of time with clients helping them leverage PR and digital communications in order to support their corporate goals, which often times includes M&A activities. So, we often get asked the next leading question, "how is the marketplace today?"
I just co-conducted a webinar where I teamed with Gretchen Guandolo, managing partner of Clearsight Advisors, a leading merchant bank here in DC, to address this very topic. The slides from the webinar as well as the digital recording are available here on our website.
Gretchen made the following comment to me, which is exciting for multiple reasons:
“While 2011 was an extremely strong year for M&A, all indications are that 2012 will be even stronger. Private equity firms continue to sit on nearly a trillion dollar stockpile of un-invested capital and strategic buyers have built sizable war chests to fuel growth via acquisitions. The level of M&A activity thus far in Q1 is on pace to exceed the prior year.”
I took note of the data available and research pointing to how hot M&A will be in 2012: most of our resources are saying similar things: the investment marketplace seems to be "hotter" than "not" and thus, it makes sense that now more than ever, PR for M&A or capital raises should be a part of a companies' marketing program if it's a desired outcome.
It is well understood that the conditions that are best for strong M&A activity are when:
1. interest rates are low
2. buyers have high cash balances
3. capital gains remains low
Since these conditions are all true at the moment, at least for 2012, it bodes well for those companies interested in pursuing opportunities to grow via M&A.
KPMG and Wharton just conducted a survey indicating that the conditions are right for increased M&A activity this year, due to increased cash reserves and low interest rates. According to the sources in the survey, on the buy-side, 7 out of 10 companies expected to make acquisitions this year, up from 57% in 2011. Chart from the report:
Richard Jeanneret of Ernst and Young shares some results on a CNBC clip from their Capital Confidence Barometer Survey - 1,000 C-suite executives were surveyed on their confidence level in the market. Relating to M&A, CEOs want to do deals next year. Fundamentals are strong as ever, cash reserves in excess of $2 trillion, and other conditions make the market ripe for M&A, regardless of this being an election year. Of course, no one can predict the future, but it's an educated guess.
When it comes to leveraging PR for capital raises, however, it's a tougher nut, since many companies need money to invest in PR so they can raise capital, but they can't get the money until they invest in PR. Classic case of chicken or the egg. Sometimes PR activities should be done in house in the beginning stages, with the marketing team or even the founders of the company...create as much buzz as possible in the right places, and be very, very focused in your efforts so you don't waste time. Then, when receiving your initial capital, you'll already have a head start! Download the webinar for more do-it-yourself tips.
What is your opinion on whether we're going to see a slew or a dearth of deals done this year?
--Elizabeth Shea, @eliz2shea
You probably heard that Apple unveiled the new iPad today. And actually, that’s what they called it: “the new iPad.” Funny thing is, save for a few added, admittedly cool features – Retina Display, 4G connectivity, etc. – it’s kinda the same as the old iPad.
Doesn’t matter, though. It’ll sell gazillions.
That’s because Apple, perhaps more so than any other company on the planet, has become unbelievably good at getting people to not just want something but feel, deep down in their bones, that they absolutely need it. Even when they really don’t (and let’s face it, as nice as the iPad is, no one really needs one).
The funny thing is that Apple seems to do this without even breaking a sweat. How many big press releases do you see Apple distribute per month? How many speaking engagements does Tim Cook do outside of Apple-sanctioned events? How many byline articles have Scott Forstall, Jony Ive and Phil Schiller written recently? Y
You get my point. And that’s why companies of all shapes and sizes would kill to be Apple. The brand is so recognizable, with such a fervent following, that it towers over the tech landscape.
Chances are, you’re not Apple. But someday you might be. In order to get there, you need to do the seemingly little things that other companies who aren’t Apple do on a daily basis. Be up to speed and involved in all aspects of social media, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs. Get the word out about your organization through relevant news releases (two per month is a good goal to shoot for, provided you have something newsworthy to talk about). Submit executives for awards. Explore potential speaking opportunities. Heck, you may have to do something as simple as get involved in your local chamber of commerce.
I’m not sure if that’s exactly how Apple built their brand to what it is today, but I’m willing to bet it involved at least a smidgen of that. Just some things to consider while you’re standing outside the Apple Store next week waiting to get your hands on the new, somewhat better than the old, iPad.
- Pete Larmey
Photo courtesy Associated Press
We had the opportunity to sit down with Paul Duning, co-founder of Capitol Communicator, and he was kind enough to let us pepper him with questions about his new event, the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit. The Summit, co-produced with Potomac Tech Wire, will take place April 20, 2012 at the Gannett Headquarters in McLean, VA.
Why did you decide to create the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit?
Potomac Tech Wire and Capitol Communicator saw an opportunity to bring together our networked communities to discuss the convergence of technology, advertising, marketing, public relations and media. Both groups have a solid history of producing successful events and our reach in the mid-atlantic is approximately 40,000.
How will this event differ from other area events?
Most local conferences focus on the local market. We are expanding our reach by attracting speakers, sponsors and attendees from the region beyond just DC. Potomac Tech Wire is a tech-focused media company and Capitol Communicator is marcom-focused. These communities are typically very siloed. We believe there is a lot of learning that will come from bringing these communities together. We believe the insight that will come from this event will spawn new exploration for marketers.
Are you still looking for speakers? Any slots in particular?
Paul Sherman is taking the lead on organizing our speakers and we’ve had numerous submissions as well as proactively reached out to a number of people. We anticipate that most of our speakers will be in place by the end of next week.
What do you think are the biggest trends in marketing this year?
Increased marketing spending is driving some interesting trends in 2012, such as the integration of automation tools, social media and CRM technologies. Social Media will mature and companies will begin to see that relevant content is king, not noise. Lastly, mobile will continue to be hot. More emphasis will be put on the development of mobile Web sites and apps.
And of course, all of these trends will be discussed in detail at the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit.
Interested in learning more? Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and get up-to-date event news on Potomac Tech Wire and Capitol Communicator.
Hope to see you there.
- Katie Hanusik
I’m serious. I’m really wondering – do people still adhere to The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, um, style?
For those who are not familiar with it, the AP Stylebook is a journalistic writing guide that provides guidance as to how certain terms, phrases, abbreviations and more should be written in articles and press releases. For example, according to The AP Stylebook a press release with a Washington dateline should be written as:
WASHINGTON, D.C. (no bold or italics)
WASHINGTON, DC (which is the U.S. Postal Service’s abbreviation for District of Columbia)
Likewise, The AP Stylebook stipulates that executive titles only be capitalized if they appear before a person’s name; that well-known cities like New York don’t even need a state abbreviation in a dateline; that acronyms should only be used after completely spelling out the full phrase (writing “chief executive officer” before using the term “CEO,” for example); and so forth.
The AP Stylebook has kind of been the go-to source for both journalists and PR pros since 1953. PR consultants like myself had a copy of the doorstop-sized print edition at our desks – always. It was the Webster’s Dictionary for our industry.
But in today’s new media age, which emphasizes the quick hits of Twitter and Facebook postings, it seems that the guidelines The AP Stylebook espoused seem to be going away, or, at best, are being completely ignored. You rarely see a press release these days that strictly adheres to those AP Style standards and uniformities. And maybe it doesn’t matter. But even in today’s new media age, it does seem to me that there’s still some room for some form of “PR decorum” that places an emphasis on detail and consistency.
Or maybe I’m just too old school, and AP Style will continue to go the way of other 1950s and ‘60s icons, like Cadillac convertibles and cheap gas. Either way, I’m sure Don Draper would be horrified.
- Pete Larmey
Photos courtesy of Basic Books and AMC
Ever feel like you’re just toiling away on your public relations program with nothing to showfor it? Sending out the odd press release, shooting off a random pitch email to a reporter, posting a few Tweets here and there – to no avail? Well, that makes you Jeremy Lin.
What’s that, you say? You’re a tech entrepreneur, not a point guard for the New York Knicks? Of course. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a lesson or two from “The Man” himself!
See, Jeremy Lin was not always “Jeremy Lin.” Linsanity is a pretty new thing that only started when Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni was forced to use Lin in place of an injured Baron Davis – only to find out that Lin’s abilities were perfectly suited to D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense.
The thing is, although he showed promise, Lin didn’t necessarily offer signs of brilliance during his stint with the Golden State Warriors. It was only when he became more seasoned and began working within a system built toward his skillset that he became the toast of the town.
His story is actually a pretty good lesson for start-up companies seeking to break through the pack with their public relations efforts. Lin wasn’t an overnight success (although it seems like he was). Several things needed to come together in order for him to become the player he has become over the last month or so, including:
- The intense focus and practice necessary to become a complete player. Lin knew his strengths (passing, speed) and his weaknesses (shooting). He focused on working on both. Entrepreneurs can apply this discipline to their own PR efforts, by developing a concerted approach that involves a number of different tactics (social media, traditional media relations, etc.) that can be used together to form a complete PR program.
- The need to work within a plan and system that plays to particular strengths. The style of play in Golden State was different than the coaching scheme utilized by the Knicks. In New York, Lin found a system that worked well for him. Likewise, start-up companies should develop a solid PR plan that plays to their strengths and seamlessly incorporates each element of the program (strategy, tactics, execution, goals).
- The ability to articulate his story. Lin’s talented – no doubt about it (and this coming from a Celtics fan!) – but there’s obviously more to Linsanity than just a good ballplayer. People are loving this guy’s story, and a lot of that has to do with the way he handles himself. Don’t kid yourself: there’s definitely a Jeremy Lin brand (kind of like the Tim Tebow brand – but with actual talent, doh!), and, purposefully or not, Lin has done a nice job articulating it. He’s engaging, likeable, and yes, quotable. Everything you would want in a spokesperson. You’ll want to model your own spokespeople on those attributes.
Someday, this Linsanity stuff is going to die down. But even when it does, I’m willing to bet that Jeremy Lin will still be around -- still scoring triple doubles, still running the Knicks offense, still grabbing attention in the Big Apple. Don’t you want that type of insanity for your business?
- Pete Larmey
Hmmm... Feels like maybe I should pin this...
My lovely and estimable colleague Kathryn recently blogged about the social media phenomenon called Pinterest.
If you don't know what Pinterest is, it's likely that you are a) terribly uninformed and b) a guy. I don't want to be sexist about this, but it does seem like the vast, vast majority of Pinterest members are women, and that the vast, vast majority of Pin Postings (I don't know what the actual term they use for this is, probably “Twipping” or something like that) are of baked goods, interior decorations, and Ryan Gosling.
Granted, there are some things that uniformly divide the sexes (like Mariah Carey's “All I Want For Christmas” single). But shouldn't an image-based social networking platform theoretically appeal to both sides of the chromosomal divide?
Of course you should pin it! The world needs to know which batteries you prefer.
Thought Catalog's Brian Donovan doesn't think it should appeal to anyone (or rather, laments the fact that it does). His essay about Pinterest is well worth a full read, his thesis being: Pinterest represents everything lazy and frivolous about the Internet.
From the essay:
[Pinterest is] literally the least amount of information that can be put in front of you and still make you feel like you’re looking at something... Basically, imagine going to a museum that’s been curated by someone’s hip aunt using magazines and Hallmark cards as her only resource, and you’ve been to Pinterest. You don’t have to read anything, write anything, buy anything, or even understand anything... It’s brilliant in both its simplicity and wildly low estimation of our intellectual demands.
Well put. But is Pinterest really so terrible a concept? I'm not so sure.
Though it pains me to say so as a copywriter, images have always had a greater impact than words. It's just the way we're wired; we're visual creatures. So as a user interface, I don't think "all imagery, no text" is necessarily a step in the wrong direction. Pictures CAN be powerful, poignant, deeply meaningful constructions. It just so happens that on Pinterest, they're not.
But who's really to blame for that? For better or worse, Pinterest seems to have been temporarily (or maybe eternally) hijacked by women with very specific tastes and interests. That doesn't mean it will always be so.
And frankly, if more of the pins were about Star Wars, football, and supermodels -- I might sign up. You hear that Silicon Valley? "Manterest." I smell a start-up...
I follow Ghandi (sic) on Pinterest.
The Guardian just put out what I (and Business Insider and Boing Boing and you get the idea) think is the best ad of the year so far - HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW, SUPER BOWL?! The video, which is a modern take on the Three Little Pigs fairy tale, has the added benefit of visualizing open journalism, a concept that the Guardian appears to be claiming as its own.
Roughly explained, open journalism is not crowd-sourced news writing, but rather a literal “opening” of the journalistic process to the masses in a controlled manner. Citizen journalists are not exactly new; bloggers have often fit into this role, as have “everyman” print columnists before them. Their importance to the media world, however, is booming, especially when it comes to covering rapidly developing stories like the Occupy protests or the Arab Spring revolutions.
What’s unique is in HOW the Guardian is opening up – they’re fully committed to this notion and are striving to position themselves as more than a newspaper (their EIC has said as much). This goes far beyond just commenting and simple sharing, as it looks like the Guardian will be betting their future on social integration and riding the waves of services like Twitter and Facebook.
I think that this is a bold, but necessary, move on the Guardian’s front – rather than try and lock up news behind paywalls or cling to the old vanguard of print, the Guardian is diving headfirst into the chaotic world of real-time feedback and news gathering. It’s going to be fascinating to watch how other major news outlets respond to this (if they even do).
What do you think? Is the Guardian’s approach intriguing to you? Do you think it’s just the same old “commenting” repackaged.
What? Nobody else finds power sexy?
My lovely and estimable colleague Kathryn recently blogged about PRSA's ongoing attempt to crowdsource a universal definition for public relations.
I would leave it there, except that when I actually read the definitions, I noticed that they were all identical and awful.
Let me get this straight: Thousands of definitions were submitted, and THESE were the three finalists??
It's as if PRSA is going out of its way to paint professional communicators as incapable of coherent communication. Take definition one for example:
Public relations is the management function of researching, communicating and collaborating with publics to build mutually beneficial relationships.
Oh, it's the MANAGEMENT function of collaborating with publics. Now I get it. Also, a quick suggestion: It's typically best to define things using actual words, not PR terms like publics. Isn't the whole point of a universal definition TO MAKE THE CONCEPT ACCESSIBLE? And why am I shouting?
Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.
Ah, this definition is way more strategic, in the sense that it tells me how strategic our communications are. We don't just blather about things at random. There's a strategy, dammit!
Public relations is the strategic process of engagement between organizations and publics to achieve mutual understanding and realize goals.
Wait, couldn't you add “and realize goals” to the end of just about any mission statement? As in, Muommar Gaddafi's plan was to crush the Libyan insurgency and realize goals. Hmmm. That last part didn't really add much, did it?
Look, my problem with these definitions is that they exemplify the worst, most cardinal sin in public relations – obfuscation. Successful communications achieve clarity, above all. In a sense, these PRSA things aren't even definitions. They're anti-definitions, which (thanks to the Large Hadron Collider) we now know exist.
So what's my brilliant, unassailable definition for Public Relations?
Find out in the next addition of our award-winning three-part series “Jonathan Yells At Stuff.”
The federal government recently wrapped up another crowdsourcing initiative. “The National Dialogue on the Federal Mobility Strategy,” ran from January 11-27 and was designed to generate input for the forthcoming Federal Mobility Strategy, a key initiative of Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel. VanRoekel has lofty plans for government’s adoption of mobile technologies to deliver services, engage citizens, reduce costs and increase productivity. At a January AFFIRM luncheon, VanRoekel committed to releasing a full mobility strategy within 60 days, including a streamlined acquisition process for mobile device procurement.
Over the two-week comment period, the National Dialogue generated 134 ideas that were contributed and voted on by 457 site visitors. The top ideas ran the gamut from leveraging the power of mobile to enhance accessibility, encourage idea sharing and enable content portability.
In a companion blog post, VanRoekel points to the progress that the government has already made on the mobile front from mobile Web sites for USA.gov, WhiteHouse.gov and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, to mobile apps for MyTSA and the Army’s mCare app.
The Draft Federal Mobility Strategy Outline hints at what is to come. Like many in the government contracting community, including several SpeakerBox clients, we’re anxiously awaiting VanRoekel’s final strategy document sometime in the next month.
- Katie Hanusik