Showing posts with label polls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label polls. Show all posts

Friday, August 31

Being Duped: From Political Outrage To Social Spoof

When my cousin shared the newest outrage from Senate challenger and Congressman Todd Akin earlier this week, I had to look twice. The Daily Currant ran a satirical news story with the headline Todd Akin Claims Breast Milk Cures Homosexuality. But the real story had nothing to do with Congressman Akin.

The real story has to do with how most people didn't look twice. People who already felt disgruntled by the politician's extreme pro life position were outraged and responded. Some ''quasi" media outlets even republished the entire story as if it was fact, forgetting that the site is satirical.

The corrections are starting to mount up — Rockford Register Star and The Celebrity Cafe among them. Others were so embarrassed that they have deleted the posts, leading search engines to empty pages. A few, for whatever reason, have let it stand as fact. And Twitter, no surprise, took the lead in spreading the satire as real news, followed by forums on the opposite extreme of ideology.

News spreads fast on the Internet. Faux news spreads even faster.

While it's no surprise that the original outrage left people susceptible to believe anything, it also reinforces how social media is a mixed blessing. Few people check sources before sharing, especially when the story affirms what they want to believe. Not everything on the net is grounded in truth.

The story that was buried in the wake of the satire might be more of a surprise. Rep. Akin is leading in some polls and the race itself is still tightly contested across most polls. The reasons are simple. His opponent is weak and the majority of Missourians are ready to forgive the misstatement in order to see her go.

The fact that he is still very much a viable candidate demonstrates something else about social media. While numbers and news stories, back links, and opinions across the whole of the Web matter, they are not always aligned with the realities of a geographical region. Missouri knows the 6-year story better.

Of course, that has nothing to do with my opinion of what Rep. Todd Akin had said. There is a better sense of that in my original piece. I thought it was a travesty, but maybe not the campaign killer that many people expected it would be. His rebound suggests the Missouri race is very much up for grabs.

Friday, November 19

Raising Psychology: Affluence Advertising

luxury buyer
Earlier in November, the American Affluence Research Center advised luxury marketers to focus on the wealthiest one percent of the market and ignore the rest. According to an article by Luxury Daily, it based its decision on a completed study that surveyed the wealthiest 10 percent of American households.

"Luxury brands and luxury marketers should be focused on the wealthiest one percent because they are the least likely to be cutting back and are the most knowledgeable about the price points and brands that are true high-end luxury," Ron Kurtz, president of the American Affluence Research Center, Atlanta, told the magazine.

The logic is that luxury marketers need to focus on the audience that is least likely to be cutting back. They are also the most likely to be knowledgeable about the price points and brands that are at the highest end of luxury. However, while the advice might seem sound, it misses one key component of the luxury marker — obtainability.

Sometimes added value isn't the only commodity; exclusivity and identity resonate.

There are several ways to market a luxury product or service. Demonstrating value is one way, but exclusivity and identity are important. An average income household might invest in a green innovation that is generally considered a luxury item because it is an extension of their values.

And, equally likely, consumers are willing to splurge on luxury items for special occasions because, despite financial constraints, the act of purchasing the item or its rarity makes it appear more valuable. In the deepest corners of the recession, consumers were splurging while they were on vacation for very significant reasons.

In addition, the perception of a general product on any particular day can elevate its value. For example, Porsche is often associated with wealth. Cadillac used to be associated with wealth, but as it became more readily accessible to the general public, it lost some stature as a luxury purchase.

This might make an interesting topic for expanded discussion, even without all the evidence that is contrary to the advice of the American Affluence Research Center. Its research seems right, but the conclusions it draws would only drive more marketers into an extremely competitive and small market. Don't be foolish. Instead, take more time to get to know your customers.

Friday, July 30

Finding Truth: The Death Of Hyperbole?

For several years now, dozens of companies have released scores of research studies that have captured the fancy of mainstream media for headlines. I've mentioned it a few times over the years.

In May, MyType surveyed over 20,000 of its users on Facebook to determine that iPad owners are generally selfish elites and their critics are independent geeks. Never mind that in another part of the study, the independent geeks self-scored themselves higher on being susceptible to greed. And never mind that MyType, a Facebook application developer, created the segments "by selecting only people who matched multiple profile characteristics."

That might be a naughty note in research circles, but it didn't stop a few papers and magazines from jumping at the chance to publish the findings, without the methodology. One exception, one month later, was the Guardian. It took more interest in John Grohol's article that called the MyType research bad science.

Balancing Popular Polls With Real Research.

Things are changing. As more celebrities join social networks, they tend to grab up positions of popularity over the once socially famous (assuming they aren't automated celebrities). As expert authorities increase their participation, quick psychology surveys by software developers lose any feeling of real importance. As agencies play a greater role in developing online content, what once was considered creative loses some of its luster.

It will take more time, but the media will eventually participate in the shift. As publications compete for the same base of subscribers, it might be in their best interest to police themselves against those that grab up nonsense. Specifically, those that benefit from pushing catchy headlines one day, may find themselves making the headlines the next (much like the Guardian did to several by pointing out which ones published the MyType research). Even those that maintain popular blog listings might be turned off, eventually.

The point here might be that this signals a restructuring over who and what can hold people's attention. And the good news is that some patently bad ideas might be vetted. The not-so-good news is that some networks might be more dismissive of those little gems that bubble up from time to time in favor of sticking by bigger brands. We'll see.

In the meantime, expect more research to be unraveled by people who practice science and psychology (and other fields) . While people who are authorities in those areas aren't always right, they're welcome to point out what others might be doing wrong. And that, we can hope, will be worth coverage by the media.

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Friday, April 2

Targeting Mascots: Corporate Accountability International

In one of the more absurd public relations campaign linkages to date, Corporate Accountability International is making the case that the best way to prevent childhood obesity is to retire Ronald McDonald. According to the release, the percentage of obese children has tripled in children ages 2-5, and quadrupled in children ages 6-11.

"This clown is no friend to our children or their health," said national spokesperson Stacey Folsomof, Corporate Accountability International. "No icon has ever been more effective in hooking kids on a harmful product. Kids have become more obese and less healthy on his watch. He's a deep-fried Joe Camel for the 21st century. He deserves a break, and so do our kids."

According to the release, parents have a growing recognition that the fast food industry is the primary driver, with close to 60 percent of Americans feeling that the industry is responsible for the growing epidemic. The report, Clowning With Kids' Health, analyzes how Ronald McDonald and other children's marketing are at the heart of current trends.

Highlights From The Clowning Study.

• Two out of three Americans have a favorable impression of Ronald McDonald, which is the result of positive branding for 50 years.
• More than half "favor stopping corporations from using cartoons and other children's characters to sell harmful products to children."
• 47 percent support retiring Ronald as a corporate mascot, with 46 percent of those with a favorable impression of him also wanting to retire him.

How My Son Debunked The Study.

Since nobody in our office could find any evidence of children, ages 2-5, riding up to McDonald's drive-thru windows on tricycles to support their habit of Happy Meals and shakes, I asked them how do these kids get the merch? Blank stares. So I asked my son, age 11. He's on spring break.

"The few times we ever go near McDonald's, Mom drives us," he said, then amused. "But the image of Ronald McDonald doesn't make me want hamburgers. I would blame the Hamburglar."

Interesting. Based on his input, we might conclude that parents who drive their kids to McDonald's excessively might actually be responsible for childhood obesity. Or, if you prefer the wit and wisdom of an 11-year-old boy exposed to countless commercials, it might be the dude in the striped pajamas.

More likely, the real curators of childhood obesity beyond parents are school cafeteria lunches. You see, with the exception of schools smart enough to adopt the National Farm to School Network, students seem to be served a nutritional menu that could be below even McDonald's standards. Still, I wasn't sure. So I asked one of our clients, Allen Wong, who manages Kung Fu Plaza in Las Vegas, since Thai food is generally considered the healthiest in the world.

He cited a February 2008 article in Edutopia that compared school lunches in the United States, Russia, and Japan. Americans are eating turkey dogs and tater tots. Russians are eating beef, beet soup, and rye bread. And Japanese students are eating wonton miso soup, spinach and Chinese cabbage, rice, and milk.

Interesting. Based on his input we might draw some other conclusions. First, if Corporate Accountability International really intended to do something about childhood obesity, it might start with school lunches or the candy and snacks some school districts use as rewards. Second, the study proves there is a healthy trend in this county to blame everybody for the purchasing decisions of parents, except the parents.

Of course, if you don't see any of these points as glimmers of truth, then all I can suggest is you better be careful this weekend. I heard that the Easter Bunny is in town and he's ready to force feed children baskets full of candy. Except at our house. He tends to leave coins tucked inside those plastic eggs.

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Thursday, March 18

Choosing Truth: LifeLock, Inc. Settlement

Last week, we shared four different versions of the $11 million settlement LifeLock, Inc. agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission and $1 million to a group of 35 state attorneys general over deceptive advertising. We then asked readers to compare these truths, choosing the most likely truth.

There wasn't enough data to call this poll scientific, but there was enough to prove a point. When faced with four stories, the truth is often left behind and consumers are baffled.

LifeLock Poll Results

• 28.57 percent said they were most likely to believe the Federal Trade Commission.
• 28.57 percent were not inclined to believe any of the four stories released.
• 14.29 percent said they believed LifeLock worked with the FTC to set new standards.
• 14.29 percent were inclined to believe all of the stories, assuming each had some truth.
• 7.14 percent thought what CEO Todd Davis said in interviews was the most accurate.
• 7.14 percent believed investor David Cowen that the FTC was politically motivated.

Interestingly enough, poll participants do not match the greater online sentiment. Online coverage is overwhelmingly negative, with approximately 85 percent of the conversation centered on the FTC release, and only 15 percent accepting any version of the LifeLock story.

Sentiment is overwhelmingly influenced only by which release mainstream and new media decided to cover. However, based on cursory research, the FTC release, which dominated the conversation on March 7, seems like it will have a much shorter shelf life than LifeLock public relations efforts.

The Public Relations Lesson

With some certainty, LifeLock had an opportunity to move beyond the settlement and return to business as mostly usual, but the public relations message is largely inconsistent and overreaches, undermining its own attempt at damage control. In addition, Cowen would have better served the company if he had not offered his opinion. The best the company can hope for now is that the settlement issue will eventually fade into history.

It's very possible it will, given the company partners with the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association on training programs. And, despite Nevada being one of the settling attorneys general offices, it is also hosting a cooperative identity theft town hall meeting.

Still, LifeLock is probably fortunate so far that the FTC has not sought to penalize the company in its handling of communication regarding the settlement, given the FTC barred LifeLock from overstating protection against all types of identity theft and the risk of identity theft to consumers. After all, LifeLock's settlement release clearly overstates its role in the settlement, which is ironic given the settlement was all about reigning in overstatement.

The Truth Lesson

While truth is not relative, the facts chosen by all parties seem somewhat selective. But most people will only be exposed to one of the four messages, which will shape their opinions about the company. And yet, none of those stories provide a full accounting of the truth.

Chances are that the truth resides somewhere in between everyone telling the truth and nobody telling the truth, depending on how you want to look at it. All of the releases seem to contain some truth and some spin, which prompted some poll participants to conclude all of them were true while others, given that a partial truth is not the truth, all not true.

For instance, Cowens' post is true in that the FTC is under greater scrutiny from the current administration, which may prompt it to pursue some cases that do not warrant it. It is also likely true that LifeLock accepted the settlement even if it felt it could win the case in the court of law because settlements seem cheaper (not always). His opinion, though, overreaches on speculation of a very specific agenda. It seems unlikely the ties are that tight, specific, and planned.

Still, the FTC release is heavy-handed. Usually, settlements come with some sense of resolution between the two parties, but this release is clearly punitive and doesn't provide a timeframe of when the deceptive advertising supposedly occurred. The FTC clearly wanted the settlement to be seen as a win, even if its own disclaimer admits that the settlement is no indication that the defendant violated the law.

Given the heavy-handedness, it seems painfully clear that LifeLock and the FTC were not cuddling up together in order to set new industry standards as LifeLock alleged in its release. And, at least one of the commissioners was not even interested in accepting the settlement. LifeLock also overstates that everything is business as usual as there are tighter guidelines in how it communicates its advertising messages in the future.

The message is further complicated by conflicting interview messages. Those messages seem to be closer to the truth but still overreach in communicating that the settlement did not have an impact on the company. That statement alone contradicts its claim to have set a new industry standard.

Another lesson here is how "he said, she said" journalism does little to get at the truth. When time-strapped reporters increasingly rely on reporting statements as opposed to investigating facts, nobody is served. It's especially par for the course for more complex subjects where topics like health care and TARP money give consumers the choice of believing the person who says the sky is "green" or the one who says the sky is "purple" while leaving "blue" out of the options all together.

In Conclusion

The real trouble spot for the FTC in this story is that there seems to be some dissent over whether such a service is needed. Based on the varied releases from attorneys general offices, identify theft is a problem, nothing is foolproof protection against it, and consumers can take steps to increase protection without such services (and thus companies like LifeLock are not needed).

However, such logic could lead one to conclude all sorts of services are unneeded, including everything from house cleaners and accountants to restaurants and pet groomers. Of course consumers can take measures into their own hands. However, if they want the convenience or peace of mind of having someone do some of it for them, then they might consider a service.

That aside, the FTC was right in taking this case but overzealous about periphery topics on wins that amounts to less than a 10 percent refund per consumer. LifeLock seems to have misrepresented its service by its own admission but seems unlikely to stop spinning the truth. And the decision whether or not a consumer chooses an identity theft protection service or does something on their own (none of which is 100 percent) amounts to nothing more than asking whether they want to clean the house or have someone do it for them. Ergo, everyone tried to be honest, but nobody was truthful. Not really. Case closed.

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Thursday, March 11

Choosing The Truth: Take Your Pick

"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” — Galileo Galilei

Except, fewer and fewer people seem the least bit interested. Take the recent settlement between the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 35 state attorneys general, and a company accused of deceptive business practices for making false claims. The outcome is cast in a rainbow of colors. If you happened to catch them all, you can pick and chose a truth for you.

There is the FTC truth. The LifeLock truth. The other LifeLock truth. The David Cowen truth. Confused? Here's a summary of the links sourced above.

The FTC Truth.

LifeLock, Inc. has agreed to pay $11 million to the Federal Trade Commission and $1 million to a group of 35 state attorneys general to settle charges that the company used false claims to promote its identity theft protection services, which it widely advertised by displaying its CEO’s Social Security number on the side of a truck.

In one of the largest FTC-state coordinated settlements on record, LifeLock and its principals will be barred from making deceptive claims and required to take more stringent measures to safeguard the personal information they collect from customers.

“While LifeLock promised consumers complete protection against all types of identity theft, in truth, the protection it actually provided left enough holes that you could drive a truck through it,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

“This agreement effectively prevents LifeLock from misrepresenting that its services offer absolute prevention against identity theft because there is unfortunately no foolproof way to avoid ID theft,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “Consumers can take definitive steps to minimize the chances of having their personal information stolen, and this settlement will help them make more informed decisions about whether to enroll in ID theft protection services.”

The LifeLock Truth.

LifeLock, Inc., the industry leader in identity theft protection, today announced that it has signed an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and several State attorneys general which closes a compliance inquiry by setting advertising standards for the company and establishing regulatory guidance for the identity theft protection industry.

"LifeLock is pleased with this agreement, which, for the very first time, works to set advertising guidelines for the entire industry. We welcome federal and state efforts to regulate our industry, because doing so helps to protect consumers from the risks of identity theft," said LifeLock Chairman and CEO Todd Davis.

"Because of LifeLock's marketing efforts over the years, many more Americans now know of the risks of identity theft," said Davis. "More than one and a half million consumers rely on us 24 hours a day to help protect their identities."

The Other LifeLock Truth.

LifeLock cofounder Davis said yesterday that the company had already abandoned most of the practices outlined in the FTC's complaint and settlement agreement.

"Today's agreement makes absolutely no impact on our business as it runs today, in our service or our advertising," Davis said in a phone interview.

Davis said LifeLock's revamped service, in place since the fall, didn't rely on fraud alerts. Instead, he said the company had partnered with other technology companies to develop "our own unique LifeLock identity alerts" designed to give customers early warning of identity theft and related frauds.

The David Cowen Truth.

The truth is that the FTC doesn't care whether consumers need protection from LifeLock's ads. The FTC has clear direction from President Obama to demonstrate its dominion over financial services as he campaigns to establish a consumer protection agency, and so the FTC is prepared to enforce and potentially litigate even in cases it knows it can't win. LifeLock understood this, and so even though $12 million is a LOT of money, it's nothing compared to what the lawyers will charge over the next five years to successfully defend against an FTC crusade.

A Recap Of Choices

So which is it?

Was LifeLock barred from making deceptive claims and required to better safeguard the personal information it collects?

Or, did LifeLock work hand in hand with the FTC to set new regulatory guidance for the identity theft protection industry?

Or, did LifeLock agree to a $12 million settlement to atone for past mistakes that it had already self-corrected last year?

Or, was LifeLock singled out because the FTC is following a mandate by President Obama to demonstrate dominion?

There are plenty more truths if you turn to the press. However, the vast majority of stories seem to be simply rehashing what everyone else said. How does this serve the public? We have no idea.

Based on these stories, please help us find the answer by choosing what you think is the truth below. The poll will close next Wednesday, and then we will publish the results along with our best assessment on what the truth might be. Vote for one.

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Friday, February 5

Depressing Readers: Accuracy Matters

Dr. John Grohol, CEO of Psych Central, wrote a noteworthy post for communicators and journalists — accuracy can mean the difference between the Internet causing depression or the Internet attracting depressed people.

After Leeds University released a study that found people who spend a lot of time browsing the net are more likely to show depressive symptoms, Grohol wrote that mainstream media did surprisingly well in covering the story. Of seven publications cited, only three did not sensationalize the headline, leading people to believe that the Internet caused depression.

However, there is something remotely troubling in the statistical samplings. Rather than use randomized, controlled groups, the study was conducted using an online questionnaire. According to Grohol's analysis, only 18 of 1,319 self-selected people online meet the criteria for "Internet addiction," which was a key element in some conclusions drawn by the researchers.

The test only included one validation study and the researchers helped give the story life with subjective comments that suggest such a link could be negative. In his post, Grohol points out that subsequent studies could possibly reveal the Internet might even be good for depressed people in that it provides some outlet for social connections where no outlet might exist.

What conclusions can you draw from communication research?

How many surveys and polls do communicators, journalists, and educators rely on despite questionable data or subjective conclusions? What about your organization? Are you creating a perception bubble and preaching to the choir? Or is your organization catering too much to its squeaky wheels? How much do you really know about what you know?

One Dow Jones post recently took note of how different social networks might lead you to have very different impressions of Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code. Specifically, it suggests there is primarily praise from his 97,000 Facebook fans. There is more criticism from several groups of writers, who are unlikely to be avid Dan Brown readers (hat tip: Sara Springmeyer).

But what does that mean? And does it account for the cultures of these communities? Evidence suggests that when people comment using their own social media identities, they are concerned about two things: their own appearance and group acceptance. As a result, such influences do not always amount to reliable crowd-sourced data.

There are other examples too. David Fleet recently questioned a survey that suggested journalists prefer bulk emails. Tamara Lytle included the idea in an article that warns companies away from cliche crisis communication plans. American physicist Richard Feynman frequently spoke and wrote about the need to continually rethink scientific models of the past to ensure future theories were not built on flawed studies.

So what can a communicator do? The most obvious answer is to continually re-verify data. The less obvious answer is to approach research from an objective perspective as opposed to pursuing a hypothesis that leads to validation and not verification. After all, the difference between two words is as large as the Internet causing depression or attracting depressed people.

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Friday, January 8

Conducting Research: When Matters As Much As What

In 2008, the big story for air travel was that strict airport security caused more than 41 million trips to be avoided because of airport and airline security delays. The estimated cost to the U.S. economy was $26 billion.

Today, all that has temporarily changed. According to Rasmussen Reports, 63 percent of those surveyed said increased airline security was not more of a hassle than it is worth. And another survey, released today by Destination Analysts, found that almost half of all travelers believe airport screening techniques are not sufficient.

The change in public sentiment stems from the Christmas Day incident involving Abdulmutallab, who ignited his pants leg and a wall of a plane while allegedly trying to detonate a mixture of explosives he smuggled aboard. A few days after, President Obama called for changes to "close gaps in the U.S. intelligence system."

The renewed focus on airport security has resulted in the hastening of more controversial full-body scanners despite shortcomings. (Plans to add more imaging devices were already in place, but not widely reported after a bill barred the use of body imagers as primary scanners.) Equally interesting is the speculation over the next wave of security devices, which are said to be akin to "mind reading" technology.

Reactionary Psychology, Polls, And Public Relations

The topic of airport security aside, the chain of events seems to demonstrate how wildly unpredictable crowd-sourcing can be.

Twenty-four months ago, the public had grown weary over increased airport security. Today, the majority seem to be in favor of technologies that were considered an abuse against civil liberties less than 24 weeks ago. And most analysts see the sudden interest spike in national security to be short term, forgotten in less than 24 days.

And yet, the polls gathered up as evidence to support a direction along with the decisions made during such a time will last much longer. How about your company's market research? Do you consider existing events and trends when reviewing research and making decisions? Or do you assume data captured six months ago is accurate without the greater context?

Wednesday, August 12

Owning Social: Digital Readiness Report

According to the the 2009 Digital Readiness Report, public relations leads marketing in the management of social media communications channels whereas marketing leads in managing e-mail marketing and SEO. While the sampling size is relatively thin, it does track a greater trend in communication. People are wondering who owns social media.

According to the report, it says that public relations has taken the lead in 51 percent of all organizations compared to 40.5 percent where marketing leads. The balance belongs to a mix of executive management, IT, and other departments.

Other Highlights Related To 'Owning' Social.

• Public relations is responsible for blogging at 49 percent of all organizations; marketing is responsible for blogging at
22% of all organizations.

• Public relations is responsible for social networking at 48 percent of all organizations; marketing is responsible for social networking at 27 percent of all organizations.

• Public relations is responsible for micro-blogging (which can be best defined as message services) at 52 percent of all organizations; marketing is responsible for microblogging at 22 percent of all organizations.

Why Would Public Relations Want To Own Social?

As traditional media continues to die or shift toward digital convergence, what has become a priority function of public relations professionals — securing editorial space — is slipping away. Never mind that public relations ought to be something else, the impression measures have changed as editorial space and circulation have shrunk.

While it's almost odd to think that communication professionals who would sometimes snub bloggers seeking content just a few years ago would suddenly make a play for the space out of necessity, the profession is seeking new revenue streams. For some, it's not just about online space; it's about everything they consider "below the line," which includes marketing functions that also garner media attention.

If there is any truth to this trend, public relations professionals are trending toward communication generalists: professionals who always had to look at the big picture. Since there is some evidence to support that it is happening, the real question to start asking is whether or not most public relations professionals are ready. Jason Falls at Social Media Explorer says no.

If There Is Confusion, It's Because Nobody Owns Social.

Although every spring and a few other times a year at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, I make the case that public relations professionals need to learn social media skill sets with increasing frequency and veracity to such a degree that class has evolved well beyond any textbook available, the truth is that nobody owns social media. Simply put, if there was ever a communication channel that required integration, this is it.

Tomorrow's communication professional needs skill sets that are not being taught as part of the curriculum because communication has largely become as departmentalized at universities as it has within many major corporations. Marketing emphasizes the classic strategies that businesses understand; advertising focuses on the creative properties of communication; public relations teaches how to reach the media (and hopefully other publics beyond that).

Meanwhile, most major companies then begin to split it up further, delegating some to IT, human resources, corporate communication, government affairs, investor relations, community relations, social media, front line sales, customer service, and so on and so forth. (Never mind that content development requires some strong editorial skills too.) And, often times, all of these departments work in specialized silos where the objective sometimes becomes dominating other departments instead of, you know, working to meet the objectives of the company.

So is there any wonder why companies are confused about social media?

Social media touches, crosses into, influences, and impacts all of these areas. And the percentage of professionals who understand this represent about a fraction of one percent (written for effect, and not a currently proven statistical truism). Worse, some relations professionals, at least in this market, are taking their social media training from some "social media experts" who have managed to make a splash online for themselves despite having no experience in communication.

There are, generally, people who say things like never mind conversations, jump in anyway. The result? We all have a better chance of reaching other communication-related professionals on Twitter than we ever have of reaching everyday consumers because the conversation is dominated by people in the field. (Don't get me wrong. I like Twitter, but it is not representative of an entire population of people who might care about every product.) That works for why I use Twitter. It does not nor will it work for some of our clients.

More importantly, platform training does not equal social media skill sets. Social media or social marketing or social networking or any of it is much more situational in setting objectives, developing content, and implementing strategies.

Until companies, and perhaps public relations professionals or whomever operates within the space understand this, executives will continue to be surprised to watch their stock fall away because the intern charged with making friends on the Internet entered a forum discussion about how many cell phones were being returned because they failed to meet expectations.

That's right. It doesn't matter how big your public relations firm is when that happens. Just saying. It happens. And it will continue to happen until communication becomes integrated.

Monday, July 27

Translating Research: Mommy Bloggers

The results of a new national survey commissioned by Hallmark Cards, Inc. attempts to pin down one of the more increasingly elusive but always important audiences for some companies — moms. And, according to the new survey, the company discovered that moms need more encouragement from other moms to meet the day-to-day challenges of motherhood.

What Moms Are Telling Hallmark Cards, Inc.

• 84 percent of moms said they believe that sharing funny stories about their child or children with other moms helps them manage the day-to-day challenges and stress of motherhood.
• 68 percent said they share funny stories about their experiences with others as a way to handle the day-to-day challenges of motherhood.
• 75 percent said they are looking for new ways to boost their child's confidence for going back to school.

What Hallmark Cards, Inc. Offers Moms.

Hallmark Cards, Inc. translated these findings into a new greeting card product line, one they say helps moms encourage moms and moms encourage kids. While the commercials connect and the concept is sound, the cards seem one step disconnected.

Translating Research Makes A Difference.

I can't help but wonder if moms are saying they want to connect with more moms. In other words, maybe the research suggests that they want a community, which makes those cards seem like a secondary or ancillary solution.

In other words, if moms are saying they want to connect and share, meeting that need might be the priority over a product that may appeal to them once they've connected. Translating the research this way leads to several different paths to entry that range from developing a network to supporting those networks that already exist. Reading Susan Getgood's post might be a good place to start too. She lists several mommy networks that seem within reach.

Of course, any program developed out of the initial research ought not be exclusive to mommy bloggers, which is where Hallmark Cards, Inc. attempted to apply it last April. Back then, the company hosted 12 mommy bloggers at Hallmark headquarters to learn and share, among other things, ideas about the need for mom-to-mom encouragement.

The takeaway here is two-fold. How you translate data makes a difference. In this case, sometimes the path to creating new products includes developing or supporting a network where that product becomes useful. The difference is in the objective: demand creation vs. demand fulfillment.

Over the long term, I suspect Hallmark Cards, Inc. will get it right. The company has a history of listening to consumers and then translating any insights into new products and services. Now, it only needs to learn that some research doesn't translate into new products as much as it translates into the environments where such products might fit.

Thursday, May 21

Policing Employees: Not Today; Tomorrow

According to a new Deloitte survey recently featured on The Wall Street Journal blogs, 60 percent of managers believe that businesses have a right to know how employees portray themselves or their companies on sites like Facebook and MySpace.

“While the decision to post videos, pictures, thoughts, experiences and observations is personal, a single act can create far reaching ethical consequences for individuals as well as employers," said Sharon Allen, chairman of the board, Deloitte LLP. "Therefore, it is important for executives to be mindful of the implications of this connected world and to elevate the discussion about the risks associated with it to the highest levels of leadership.”

The percentage is lower among employees but still significant. Forty-seven percent believed those managers might be right. However, that number dropped to 37 percent among workers ages 18-34.

It still raises an interesting question. Where does employer representation end and personal privacy end online? And can policing employee behavior backfire when breaches in ethical behavior or common sense are still dependent on titles? After all, the Domino's employees were fired. Yet John Mackey still helms Whole Foods.

Employees are currently left alone to figure it out

• 27% of employees said their companies talk about leveraging social media.
• 22% of employees said their companies have formal guidelines for their use.
• 22% of employees said their leadership team uses social networking to communicate.
• 17% of employees said their company has a program to monitor and mitigate risks.

Still, employees are aware their behavior can damage their companies. Seventy-four percent said it's easy online. For the full report, visit here. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 19

Selling Cheap: Microsoft Laptops

"It would be very unusual for Microsoft's score to be increasing this much and Apple's to be decreasing without some sort of event driving that, like a major campaign that's particularly successful." — Ted Marzilli, global managing director for BrandIndex at consumer polling service YouGov

That campaign, according to Adweek, would be Microsoft's new "Laptop Hunters," which targets Apple's value perception. Specifically, the campaign asks people if they "can find everything they're looking for in a laptop for less than $1,000, the marketer will pay for the computer."

While the "Laptop Hunters" seems to be resonating with mass media, online consumers are another matter. "Laptop Hunters" commercials score two-and-a-half to three stars, which is still a dramatic step up from Song Smith. In fact, the only one enjoyed by YouTubers seems to be the spoof commercial; it scores four-and-a-half stars for featuring a homeless man who reluctantly takes the free PC.

YouTubers are not the only ones in disbelief over the BrandIndex assessment. The comment section in the AdAge story demonstrates real push back. But maybe that's because some of them already know that Microsoft recommends a laptop over the $1,000 for any designer. And, designers seem to be pointed toward the lowest end models. For gamers, Microsoft recommends a $1,899 laptop. For "Jetsetters," $1099. For "socialites," $1,499. For "all around," $1,999.

So who do they really expect to find the perfect laptop for under $1,000? Parents. They seem to be the only ones that Microsoft would recommend a laptop for $699 as configured, because parents must not do any of those other things that Microsoft mentioned above.

Wednesday, April 15

Bagging On Taxes: American Taxpayers

April 15, which is the date Americans file their tax returns with the IRS, used to be a day filled with fear for most. Now, it seems to be shaping up as a day of reckoning, as citizens in more than 2,000 locations across the United States are holding "tea parties" to protest higher taxes and out-of-control government spending.

Using the same tool — the Internet — to organize as President Obama did to win the presidential election, ordinary citizens are expressing their apparent dissatisfaction with the "real change" as opposed to the "promised change" that the new administration has taken. By 2010, the estimated national debt, or debt held by the public, will equal approximately $81,000 per U.S. household. That is almost three times as much as it was in 2007.

As if taking a page from the fans of Jericho and others, one of the more creative ideas developed by the GOP is to help people send tea bags to their choice of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Harry Reid, or Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Each tea bag features an elephant watermark. The effort is duplicated by another organization, without an elephant watermark, here.

Regardless of how one feels about tea parties or the administration, there is an interesting side story playing out today. There seems to be discrepancies between the majority of news organizations and live reporting from everyday people. In short, the public has a clear choice between which reality they want to believe: either Americans are upset with taxes or they are not.

Either you call the original Boston Tea Party "shameful" like Charles Arlinghaus did for the UnionLeader, or you consider it one of the first steps toward independence in America like history does. (While Arlinghaus is right that the tea parties will have to grow into positive action beyond rallies, he's wrong in believing such protests don't mean anything.)

Are Tax Parties Hype Or Hope?

If you believe CBS, the concept of any public outcry is contrary to recent polls that place President Obama's approval rating as high as 67 percent, Americans largely approve of higher taxes, and 74 percent want the "rich," now defined as anyone making more than $250,000 per year, to be taxed more.

Or, you can wonder what President Obama might know about the real numbers behind the movement given he choose to speak about simplifying the tax code at the same time some cities had organized their rallies. This strategy seems to fall in line with what everyday people are reporting — that there is a real grass roots movement at work, and not just among conservatives.

One of the best examples of the extreme reporting that we noticed today comes courtesy of the Washington Post. The Post reported on a Facebook tea party group with 1,800 members. However, when we checked, it had 31,000 members.

The Post story links to a defunct blog as an example. However, CNN chose the National TEA Party, which has 18,000 Facebook members. Among the best non-news reporting seems to be found at Ta Day Tea Party. There are also several localized Facebook accounts, with as many as 500 to 1,000 members each.

One of Michelle Malkin's posts seems to suggest why there might be so much confusion. She says there are as many as four or six different hashtags to follow tea parties on Twitter. Why is that significant? It demonstrates that the varied reporting is indicative of largely independent groups rallying around a common theme, but very different campaigns. And, contrary to the CBS poll, another poll conducted by Harris Interactive suggested that the majority of Americans think taxes are too high.

The Real Facts Are Being Buried.

In order to find the truth, you have to remove some of the opinions. Polls don't reveal facts as much as much as figures.

Americans will pay more in taxes than they will spend on food, clothing, and housing combined this year. In fact, according to the Tax Foundation, most Americans have to work between 82 and 120 days just to pay their taxes, depending on the state in which they live. Alaskans pay the least and the people in Connecticut pay the most.

The only reason most people feel comfortable taxing the rich more, despite the fact that the top 5 percent of all wage earners already pay 60 percent of all taxes while the bottom 50 percent pay only 3 percent of all taxes, is because, well, it's the other guy. And, the reason some people chose to protest today is not because they are dissatisfied with recent tax cuts, but rather because they know that the mounting national debt will have to be repaid sooner or later, and taxpayers will have to pay it.

Our country's current fiscal policy is best likened to a teenager on a spending spree. It seems like there is progress toward creating a better lifestyle with the recent purchase of a new flat screen television, smart phone, and club clothes. But that progress will quickly come to a halt when the bill comes due, the repo man takes the stuff back, and still charges interest.

Friday, March 20

Banking On Troubles: Waggener Edstrom Worldwide

According to a consumer poll conducted by Waggener Edstrom Worldwide and RT Strategies, a mere 8 percent of consumers have full confidence in banks and financial services companies. The firm compares the low water mark to a 31 percent confidence level reported in 2006 by the University of Chicago National Opinion Research Center.

Highlights From Waggener Edstrom Worldwide Nationwide Consumer Poll

• 44 percent of respondents said they heard something from the industry but felt more negative after hearing it.
• 11 percent of respondents heard something from the industry and felt better about it.
• 38 percent of respondents said they have heard nothing directly from the industry at all.

Waggener Edstrom Worldwide concludes that media coverage and/or advertising is shaping public opinion more than direct communication from the industry and that authentic and credible communication positively influences widely held opinions about the industry overall.

"Ironically, at a time when the financial services industry has the most at stake, its communications with consumers and policymakers have descended to a strikingly low level," said Torod Neptune, senior vice president and Global Public Affairs Practice leader at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. "Perhaps one of the most jarring findings in this survey is the sheer lack of industry leadership in communicating what financial services companies are doing to aid in a broad-based economic recovery."

The consumer poll mirrors a cursory public sentiment report we conducted for a national bank last month, which demonstrated the financial services industry as a whole is causing individual bank brand erosion as a direct result of accepting TARP funds. Areas of concern across the industry include mismanagement, financial waste, security, trust, and longevity.

Where we differ from Waggener Edstrom Worldwide is in its recommendation that there is an opportunity for financial services leaders to step forward in the midst of this storm and proactively communicate a message of trust. Unlike most messages, trust cannot be communicated as an industry as much as it has to be earned at a ratio of one-to-one.

What is also missing from the Waggener Edstrom Worldwide conclusions is that some banks are communicating direct to clients. And, by in large, there are reasons that TARP banks have remained largely quiet. Specifically, not all of them needed TARP funds. The reason they accepted the funds is sound, but it does not resonate with the public while individual banks are targeted for public floggings.

So is there a solution? Sure. But the opportunity isn't to step forward in the midst of this storm and proactively communicate for the industry in an environment where it's good sport to take shots at financial services, where individual bank decisions can erode the credibility of whomever picks up the mantle, or where government has positioned itself in an adversarial role. Instead, an individual bank needs to focus on what it can manage — its own communication to employees, customers, and prospects.

In addition, the message wouldn't be one of trust, but rather one demonstrated by reliability and longevity. And by "demonstrated," I mean with evidence that suggests it is provably true. Each bank, of course, needs to develop a message based on its own situation and core values, assuming it hasn't drifted too far away from those.

Interestingly enough, the less reported on portion of the study reveals that consumers appear willing to give the industry the benefit of the doubt on questions about industry practices, such as the use of TARP funds. That tells me the 8 percent finding that is carrying some headlines today isn't so much about the industry as much as it demonstrates how popular it is to say "I don't trust banks, um, except the one that has my money."

Wednesday, February 11

Looking For Leadership: Engage Employees

As the economic downturn continues, employee engagement remains the critical component for companies to weather the worst and remain on track. It is not enough to simply demand more from top performers or expect employees to hang on with with the hope that job security seems safer than facing unemployment. Leaders need to energize the base.

Watson Wyatt, a global consulting firm, recently released a report that shows highly engaged employees are twice as likely to become top performers. They also miss 20 percent fewer days of work. And, three-quarters of them exceed or far exceed performance review expectations.

The benefits for highly engaged employees benefit the organization as a whole. Organizations with clear leadership and internal communication enjoy 26 percent higher employee productivity, have lower turnover risk, and have earned 13 percent greater total returns to shareholders over the last five years. They are also more supportive of organizational change initiatives, willing to get behind near-term plans even when they ask for sacrifice.

There are two catches. Executives need to be leaders more than managers. And, each organization requires its own plan.

“There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to employee engagement," said Ilene Gochman, global practice leader for organization effectiveness at Watson Wyatt. "Segmenting the workforce and tailoring communication, performance management programs and other resources to specific employee groups is the most effective way to engage workers.”

• Capitalize on “engageable moments.” In the best of times, companies can most easily energize new employees. Currently, most companies do not. Even after six months, employees tend to be less motivated to do their best every day. Instead, especially at organizations with hiring freezes, challenging economic times can become the catalyst, assuming management hasn't settled into complacency.

• Demonstrate strong leadership and clear direction. As we recently mentioned, employees want to know about their organization’s specific plans and progress. "What plan" matters less than the fact there is a plan.

• Manage organizational change with effective communication. Especially in an economic crisis, employees are anxious to learn the rationale behind decisions. Authentic communication from senior management will give employees a sense of purpose.

• Emphasize customer focus. Employees are already aware that job security is strengthened by satisfied customers. The two challenges most leaders face is if employees are too focused on internal rumors (will there be more layoffs) or if employers are not providing employees enough support to satisfy customers.

• Invest in the core. One of the most interesting aspects of the study was the emphasis placed on energizing the base. Highly engaged employees that are already top performers can be limited by their less engaged co-workers. Companies need to establish engagement with more than 60 percent of the workforce before productivity shifts.

From our own research, the majority of organizations have settled into a "holding" pattern, attempting to wait out the economic crisis. This presents a tangible opportunity for companies that energized to turn the economic situation into a clear advantage. As simple as it might sound, the decision can be articulated in a few lines from Robert Frost.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

The only question that remains is which road will your organization take? Without question, the choice will make all the difference. Our company, fortunately, has already decided to take the one less traveled by. And, we recently were engaged by an organization to help them do the same. What about your organization? Wait and hold or engage and grow?

Related reading:

City of Collinsville: We work to bring the employees into the decision making.

Edleman: One in four employees will consider switching jobs when the economy picks up.

The Employee Factor: Employee engagement levels erode over time.

Compensation Force: Recession-driven sense of shared destiny - are we missing an opportunity?

Thursday, January 15

Saying Nothing: Why Leadership Needs To Engage

Although a recent survey from Weber Shandwick has a small sampling with only 514 respondents, it mirrors several other studies that suggest the same — company leadership is still too quiet about the current economic crisis.

More than half (54 percent) of those surveyed said their employers are not talking about how the financial crisis is impacting the company and the majority (71 percent) said their company's leadership should be communicating about it more. The study also pinpoints that while company leadership is perceived to be not talking about the recession, 74 percent of their colleagues and co-workers are talking about it, with 26 percent expecting layoffs.

Last December, Watson Wyatt released a study that conveys the opposite. Overall, it found 77 percent of employers have already sent out or are planning communication on the impact of the financial crisis. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of these employers cited easing employee anxiety as one of the top two goals of their crisis-related internal communication, while nearly one-third (32 percent) cited earning employees’ trust.

Are more employers talking, but fewer employees hearing?

When the intent of communication no longer produces the desired outcomes (such as alleviating employee anxiety), it's time to reevaluate the communication.

In this case, communication managers and executives might consider that addressing the financial crisis is not the same as typical or motivational internal communication — it's crisis communication, even if the company is not directly impacted by the crisis occurring around it. And while not every crisis communication step needs to be followed, there are several very important questions that leadership needs to ask:

Are we acknowledging something is wrong? While instilling internal confidence is critical, employers cannot outright dismiss the recession. It has to be acknowledged, even if the company is unique, or the message may not be believed.

Are we satisfying employee interest? Employees are talking about the financial crisis. Government is talking about the financial crisis. The media is talking about the financial crisis. The sheer frequency of all this communication suggests company leadership needs to consistently communicate its position and direction. For companies wondering how many times they might reinforce job security to their employees, there is one answer: as many times as employees need to hear it.

Are we communicating empathy? Internal communication is not exclusively internal. Internal communication influences front-line communication and is influenced by outside factors. Even if company is one of several viewing the recession as an opportunity as opposed to a setback, the communication needs to express empathy. Employee spouses, colleagues, and point-of-contact customers may have very different experiences.

Have we included positive steps being taken to address the situation? During a crisis, even if the crisis is external, every message needs to be reinforced by provable data and a positive direction, regardless of what that data might communicate. People are always more receptive to a clear direction, even if it includes some bad news.

If these questions remain unanswered, any communication may be rendered ineffective. Ineffective communication is non-communication and may not even register with employees. Given that internal communication is permeable, non-communication can contribute to external public sentiment. It may even be why the RBC CASH (Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household) Index reported consumer sentiment is at a six-year low.

"At a time when working Americans are concerned about their personal finances, their jobs and the overall economy, employees are looking for credible, candid information, and right now too few business leaders are filling the information void that exists,” said Harris Diamond, CEO of Weber Shandwick. “Employers have a great opportunity to communicate with their workforce about the impact of the economic situation on their companies as well as on employees."

Isn't it obvious? Employees are not just employees. They are also consumers and shareholders. And right now, they are looking to the private sector, as much as government, to stabilize the economy. At minimum, they need reassurance that their company isn't waiting for someone else to come up with a solution.

Related posts:

Ragan: Survey: Leaders Fail To Communicate With Employees

British Association Of Communicators In Business: Recession Demands More Emphasis On Internal Communication Not Less

Jenna Boiler: The Importance Of Internal Marketing

Geneva Communicators Network: Employee Communication Spending To Rise In 2009

Copywrite, Ink: Thinking Internal: Watson Wyatt Study

Friday, December 12

Reflecting On Forrester: People Don't Trust Hammers

Sometimes the interpretation of research frightens me. And today, I can now count the interpretation of the Forrester Research study — which says 16 percent of consumers don't trust hammers, er, blogs — among those that do.

Since you won't find the obvious in the report, I might point out that you will find the obvious on author Josh Bernoff's blog: People don't trust companies.

Another missing element from the study is the methodology. You'll find that on Bernoff's blog too. According to his blog, Forrester surveyed 5,000 people they believe to be representative of the U.S. online adult population (18 and older) online. They then asked those opt-in participants to rate how much they trusted information on a five-point scale, from 1 (don’t trust at all) to 5 (trust completely).

"In this case about 80% of those we polled said they did use corporate blogs," explains Bernoff. "Of those who used them, only 16% rated them 4 or 5 on the five-point trust scale."

While I still don't know how they conducted the survey or if "use" can be defined as "read," I do know now that the "3"s were counted in the "don't trust" column to craft that headline. Hmmm ... why would they do that?

Well, it might make for a better headline since we already know 20 percent of the respondents don't even trust e-mails from people they know. (Sorry, Mom. Next time, please call.) That, and most of the footnotes track back to high ticket reports, which makes it feel a bit more like a lead generation piece than a content sharing piece from a company that encourages sharing.

Of course, there could be another reason. Headlines like that and the promise of juicy data create a flurry of promotional, er, blog posts. Geoff Livingston provided an uncharacteristic scolding of sorts. Kami Huyse tried a more subtle approach. And Max Kalehoff was one of the few people to get it right by saying Forrester Research got it wrong.

Know what I think? Blogs aren't to be trusted much in the same way hammers aren't to be trusted.

It's the people who provide the content that you decide whether or not to trust. And, the level of trust that occurs is based on the accuracy of the information provided or the value of the conversation it creates or the character of the people involved. To say otherwise doesn't seem all that genuine to me. In fact, to say companies shouldn't talk about themselves on their blogs is especially ridiculous given some experts talk about themselves so ad nauseam that they need a second blog to cover it all.

Until some social media experts figure out that social media isn't a second plane of existence, they will continue to bump their heads against the wall and all those surveys that say, time and time again, that nobody trusts anybody, except the people they know, er, 80 percent of the time.

The bottom line is this: if you earn a level of trust with someone, then it won't really matter where you have a conversation — in person, on the phone, in an e-mail, on a blog, or across a social network. It's about that simple.

Friday, October 17

Allowing Anonymous: Communicators Divided

Ragan recently released the results of a poll that asked a series of questions regarding anonymous comments. More than 1,000 communicators responded.

Highlights: How Organizations View Anonymous Comments

• 46 percent of their organizations do not allow anonymous comments.
• 46 percent of their organizations do not allow comments of any kind.
• 14 percent of their organizations do allow anonymous comments.

Highlights: How Communicators See Anonymous Comments

• 37 percent were undecided whether anonymous comments should be allowed.
• 31 percent said anonymous comments on blogs and article should not be allowed.
• 32 percent believe anon anonymous comments on blogs and articles should be allowed.

“Our company does not appreciate feedback of any kind from employees, not even on a person-to-person basis. Management is averse to following anything to be made publicly available without executive review.” — Anonymous

How Companies Might Come To Cope With Anonymous Comments

Social media — blogs, forums, Internets — is not a cookie cutter operation, internally or externally. And the decision to allow or disallow anonymous comments might be made with that in mind. Take a look around the Internet and you'll see a great variety of conclusions on the subject to guide you.

This blog, for example, allows anonymous comments. The only comments that are ever deleted are spam ads. We made this decision because we wanted a place where people could engage in open, candid discussions about communication.

However, I also believe that there are only two ways that anonymous posters demonstrate credibility: the quality of the comment, which means whether the post provides insights over insults. And, how or if we respond to the comment.

Why Companies Might Consider Moderated Comments

We manage several other blogs that are much more heavily moderated. The National Business Community Blog is not well-suited for unmoderated comments.

It only has one purpose: to share stories about companies that do good. Every now and again, one example or best practice comes from a company with known dissenters and we become privileged to receive a deluge of negative comments about it.

None of these comments are ever published because we feel strongly that it distracts from our intent. Every now and again, people like to visit a blog void of discussion or drama. We do read the comments though, and on one occasion removed the post.

Why Companies Might Consider No Comments At All

The intent is myopic, like using a blog to publish new releases, white papers, and feature stories about the company. Many social media experts disagree with me on this point, but my feeling is that the long tail of social media need not wag the company dog. If a company doesn't want to benefit from any dialogue from employees, customers, and any other stakeholders, then there is no need for us to force them to.

The only other reason I can think of is that the company representatives, whether a CEO or communicator, are not well skilled in dealing with the occasional criticism, call out, or attack. It takes a balanced hand to respond, which is important to consider since most crisis communication situations have very little to do with what happens and everything to do with how we respond.

What I Teach Students About Being Anonymous

There is no black or white and yes or no answer. Each company, hopefully with input from their communication team, can make the right choice.

However, and I cannot stress this enough, I do advise communicators and public relations professionals to never make anonymous comments or, if they do, they need to be prepared to answer for such posts in a world where no communication is really private. Not anymore.


Tuesday, September 16

Blaming Sexes: Bad Research Habits

Researchers at the University of Toronto recently compared the stress levels and physical health problems of men and women working in one of three situations: for a lone male supervisor, a lone female supervisor, or for both a male and female supervisor. The report concluded:

• Women working for female bosses reported more psychological distress and physical symptoms than women working for a male boss.
• Women reporting to a mixed-gender pair reported more symptoms than their peers who worked for a single male boss.
• Men who worked for a single supervisor, regardless of the supervisor's gender, had similar levels of distress.
• Men who worked for a mixed-gender pair had fewer symptoms than those working for a lone male supervisor.

My speculation differs. It seems to me that psychological distress and physical symptoms are more likely caused by poor coping skills; ineffective management and leadership skills; or choice of research.

Wednesday, May 7

Reaching Trends: Social Media Adoption

Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, released some compelling survey results. Its poll suggests: while not all companies are engaged in social media, media executives are focused on it.

Almost two-thirds of media executives (66 percent) surveyed see multiple-screen short-form content as the largest growth area over the next five years. Even better news for ad-supported online networks, almost the same amount said such content will continue to be the prevailing business model. (Partial Source: Broadcasting & Cable).

Fifty-two percent said digital will drive all media and may even replace traditional advertising in five years. Even more amazing, 68 percent said social media will continue to be the leading growth area.

“It is great news that media organizations are developing a consistent strategic view of the key growth areas, but execution is slow,” said Gavin Mann, digital media lead for Accenture’s Media & Entertainment practice. “There clearly remains a huge effort to put in place the necessary capabilities, and it is apparent that the size of the task is still not fully understood.”

The discrepancy between perception (that social media has yet to hit full adoption) and realty (adoption is hitting exponential growth of the adoption curve) is apparent. If large companies are not talking about adopting social media today, chances are that they are planning to launch a social media presence in the near future. So what’s the hold up?

Simple. While many executives are already participating in social media on various levels, many are unsure whether consumers are ready. However, as we recently saw in the Universal McCann report, consumers are more than ready — with over 80 percent of the U.S. population already participating in social media on some level.

In addition, most companies are moving into social media at a much faster pace than they have in other adoption cycles like cell phones and desktop computers. But social media, in particular, has set itself apart from other technology-driven innovations in that it has a concept-to-implementation rate of 90 days or less. That is must faster than most companies can operate.

“This is just the beginning for a rapidly changing landscape where the media content environment grows more fractious and the user gains more control and power,” said Mann. “Traditional, established content providers will have to adapt and develop new business and monetization models in order to keep revenue streams flowing.”

More than half (57 percent) of the respondents identified the rapid growth of user-generated content—which includes amateur digital videos, podcasts, mobile-phone photography, wikis and social-media blogs—as one of the top three challenges they face today. In other words, media is embracing social media because they want to be part of it before it bypasses them all together.

Some of our own independent research supports the Accenture poll with one key exception. User-generated content will continue to expand, but consumers are likely to want more guidance and content support from the platforms company’s create. Only about one in four participants in the U.S. wants to be a content creator.


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