Monday, December 27

Looking Back: Top Ten Communication Stories In 2010

Good Bye 2010This past year has been an interesting one for Copywrite, Ink., especially as it relates to this collection of communication observations. In addition to adopting a different design in early 2010, adding the Disquis comment system, we also changed to a dedicated address.

The dedicated address change, specifically, led to some interesting behind-the-scenes changes. While both addresses lead to the same destination (and there was no interruption for subscribers), traffic is counted separately on some external measurement systems and many well-read posts appear as if they were never read at all (because of the tweet share button).

I only mention it because it fits with some of the content themes written about in 2010. Looks can be deceiving. What isn't deceiving, however, is which stories seemed to resonate with readers. And to close out 2010, I thought I'd share this with you.

Top Ten Communication Stories 2010.

1. TSA Policies Are Not A Privacy Issue.

Some things are not a simple matter of semantics, liberty among them. So while the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Department Of Homeland Security continually make the case that current and future security measures are a choice between security and privacy, liberty remains the real issue we ought to be talking about. This was the most read story of 2010 and probably the most important, given the far reaching consequences of those who will choose the illusion of security over liberty.

2. Unteaching Social Media: Communication First, With A Deck.

While some people were surprised to learn that I spend more time teaching communication as opposed to social media in social media classes, the deck attached to this post generated more than its fair share of interest among communicators, hailing from public relations, marketing, and advertising. I tend to keep social media simple. It's a singular environment where broadcasters and receivers cannot be distinguished and communicators must learn to simultaneously communicate on a scale of one to one, one to niche, and one to many. This post included a link to the deck I used in class.


3. Fresh Content Providers, Quarterly Updates.

What began as a relatively simple question became a year-long experiment of sorts. The Fresh Content Project tasked Copywrite, Ink. with picking a single post per day from a growing field of 250 communication-related bloggers. The intent was to discover whether or not popularity could be an indication of quality content. The experiment will conclude on December 31, with some reveals and loose ends to tie up in 2011. At its close, we'll begin working on the next experiment — the anti-influence project (for lack of a better name).

Interestingly enough, it wasn't the weekly content recaps that attracted the most attention. It was the quarterly rankings, which featured every author chosen during any given quarter. You can also find every post chosen on Facebook.

4. Managing Crisis: Bad PR Is Only A Symptom.

Without question, one of the most captivating live crisis communication case studies that took place in 2010 was the BP oil spill. Of all the posts related to the case study across multiple companies, the initial story that recognized that the BP oil spill was not a single crisis communication event, but rather several across the weeks and months, resonated the most with communicators. I'm glad it did because if there is one thing public relations professionals need to learn about crisis management it's that almost all crises have independent events within them that must be handled on a situational case-by-case basis.

5. Saving Wildlife: Dawn Responds To Oil Spill Crisis.

While there were many stories written around the Gulf Coast oil spill, there was a related/unrelated story that also captured some interest. What made this story important, in terms of reader interest, is that it proves people aren't always keen on simply gravitating to bad news. There was good news to be found in the field of bad news stories. One of them came from Procter & Gamble (P&G) and its product, Dawn, which gently removes oil and helps save wildlife affected by oil spills. Although Dawn has been used for more than 30 years in the field, P&G doesn't push public relations related to saving wildlife. Rather, like most good public relations stories, it allows people to discover it on their own.

6. Pushing Pies: Pizza Hut, Domino's, Papa John's.

While pizza doesn't seem like a captivating communication topic, there is a lot to learn about big companies marketing virtually the same product. The comparison between the marketing efforts of the big three — Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Papa John's — pinpointed how important it can be to find a product contrast that resonates and then stick with it. For Pizza Hut that meant unbeatable value and quick order convenience. Contrast that with Domino's and Papa John's. The former took to attempting to punish the Pizza Hut and Papa John's brands while failing to deliver on its own promise. The latter celebrated everyone's love for pizza, but failed to communicate the distinction that made it one of the big three to begin with.

7. Integrating Communication: PR-Driven Social Media.

Throughout 2010, we offered up several communication models for consideration, the most popular of which was the PR-Driven Social Media model. I'm not surprised. While we believe that social media is a cross-discipline activity that requires an integrated approach that involves marketing, advertising, public relations, and other fields of expertise, public relations professionals remain the most interested in taking the online communication helm. As long as they continue to embrace social media at a faster pace than other fields, it seems likely social media will increasingly be viewed as a public relations discipline, for better or worse.

8. Understanding Bloggers: Why PR Doesn't Get Them.

Having worked with bloggers for multiple social networks and outreach campaigns over the course of five years, it seemed relatively easy for me to break out a list of considerations related to the predominant types of bloggers. While it's an oversimplification to assign "motivations" behind various bloggers, the lesson to be learned was not to categorize bloggers as much as it was to open up the eyes of public relations professionals, helping them to realize that not all bloggers are motivated by cash incentives or the "privilege" of getting the inside scoop of a company. Contrary, bloggers are as diverse as people, which makes sense as most of them are people. Treat them as such.

9. Changing PR: Customers Are Media; Complaints Are News.

Not all crisis communication scenarios happen to big companies. Once of the most interesting mini-crisis communication challenges that occurred this year happened to a relatively small theater operator in St. Croix Falls, Wis. What started out as a private complaint made by a customer, quickly turned public after the theater's manager sent the complainer an email response without a bit of empathy or remorse for the theater's failings, basically telling the customer to "f*ck off." This runaway email became the subject of scorn as a Facebook boycott page took off and mainstream media started covering the story. Sadly, all the manager had to do was apologize and offer a free popcorn on the next visit.

10. Branding: Personal Branding And Reputation Are Illusions.

Despite the growing number of communicators who are joining the fray to question the validity of personal branding, it remains a controversial topic in that people are generally divided between the two schools of thought (with the third group that attempts to find some middle ground). I contributed several posts to the topic in 2010, but the one that resonated with readers was one that included some cognitive psychology into the mix. People who enjoy discussing this topic might be happy to know that I anticipate the personal branding topic will reoccur several times in 2011. It is also the subject of the book I've been writing, which I limp along with from time to time.

And that brings about some of the changes ahead in 2011. Copywrite, Ink. will be turning 20 years old next year and this educational extension will be turning seven with more than 1,200 posts under its belt. It's time to scale it to three times a week as opposed to five, allowing me more time to focus on additional projects.

Those include working with our growing stable of clientele, finishing the aforementioned book that lands on the back burner too often, accepting the occasional guest post on other blogs (usually declined as I hadn't the time), and nurturing our side project Liquid [Hip], which continues to see some exceptional traction.

Thanks so much for finding time to make the Copywrite, Ink. blog part of your busy week. I'll work even harder to keep the content fresh in 2011. But this post closes out 2010. With the exception of one of the last fresh content recaps landing next Sunday, look for the first post of 2011 on January 3. Happy New Year! Good night, good luck, and good fortunes.
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