Wednesday, October 8

Taking Photos: Brazilian Tourism Portal


While not all U.S. companies understand social media as a viable communication tool to reach American consumers, other countries seem to be on the front end of understanding it well enough. The Brazilian Tourist Board, EMBRATUR, is offering Americans who travel to Brazil the chance to participate in an essay and photo contest.

Entries will be accepted through November 21 and judged by Peter Guttman, a photographer, writer, and author who traveled on assignment to more than 200 countries. He recently returned from assignment in the Brazilian Amazon.

“The wondrous scenes and memories a photo can record -- especially when traveling -- inspire others to try similar adventures and seek out marvels of the planet," says Guttman. “Travelers with just a handful of pictures can collect memories and amazing stories.”

Despite economic worries in the United States, Brazil experienced a 9.6 percent increase in American tourism last year. And, according to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, American visitations to South America is still up 5.7 percent, a growth rate that is on pace with the Caribbean for the first time.

While the photo contest Web site interface is notably clunky, the concept still represents a step in the right direction. Most Americans might be passive about creating their own blogs, but an increasing number of them are very interested in participating on platforms managed by someone else.

So what might we do differently? We'd move the consumer marketing concept to the next step by running a photo blog that highlights one photo pick per day. It would give entrants a chance to check the status of their photos and Brazil enthusiasts a reason to return, over and over again.

The top entry will receive an all-expenses-paid return trip for two to Brazil.

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Tuesday, October 7

Pushing Print Down: Gloomy Headlines


The Newspaper Association of America (NNA) says newspaper advertising is going to drop another 11 percent this year. Even more troublesome is that the NNA isn't so bullish on online ad revenue growth for newspapers this year, which it sees as low as 1.8 percent. Maybe next year will better, the report says.

Part of the challenge goes beyond the migration pains of moving print to an increasingly digital world. The recession is slowing down local media markets. According to American Express' Open Small Business Monitor as reported by AdvertisingAge, concerns about cash flow have risen since and capital-investment plans are among the lowest since the study first began. Just under half of small-business owners plan to cut back or delay marketing expenditures.

Such cutbacks go much further than impacting newspapers. Local radio and television stations are feeling the pinch. And, along with them, so are the agencies paid to produce the work. Public relations doesn't seem to be exempt, but the idea it owns social media is tenuous at best.

Now everyone wants a piece of any space showing the slightest signs of growth. But trying to crowd ten "social media experts" in a boat built for two seems pretty risky, especially if the pitch sounds even more snake oil than every other Tuesday.

So who will fare well in the communication industry? Like always, companies with diversified interests and relatively few cash cows tend to fare better. Local retail is still very strong and necessary services (like plumbing and electrical) are outpacing others. It's also the reason that some agencies are, so far, content to offer messages of strength.

Why? It's not rocket science. When economic times seem tough, you tend to want to work with those who seem largely unaffected.

You know what I mean? It's hard to buy a newspaper ad when everyone seems to think their money is best spent elsewhere and the industry's decline shows few signs of flattening any time soon. I don't think that's a good thing, but it will not change until newspapers stop forecasting their own demise.

Monday, October 6

Picking Targets: Max Gladwell On PR


“The PR firm pitches your story to their friends in the media, which includes so much schmoozing and schwagging. You get stories written about your company or product, also known as “hits,” which raises your profile. Except that this has never actually been 'public' relations.” — Max Gladwell

Gladwell hits the target in a post that points out blogger relations and media relations need to be handled differently. Too many public relations firms are attempting to apply the weakest media relations 'tactics' to blogger relations, claiming that the same methods will hold true: that massive e-mail lists, non-news social media releases, and "relationships" are more than enough to grab up earned social media. Enough so that some are asking bloggers to place "pitch terms" on blogs, the exact opposite of what would be required to forge a relationship.

If you know a blogger, no public pitch terms are necessary. Right?

At first blush, the post perfectly reminds public relations professionals about the pitfalls in their practice. But after doing well to define blogger relations and separate out media relations from public relations, it also adds to the confusion that has become too typical in the field. Among them: promoting some pretty painful myths like counting column inches and proclaiming that those hits have an advertising equivalent (hopefully more than the retainer, they say).

But alas, not all column inches are created equal. Are they?

Column inch counts are quite possibly the single biggest contributor to massive e-mail lists, blind pitches, non-news releases, and the idea that "relationships" have become overemphasized in the game to grab up earned media. All of these 'tactics' lend well to capture space, but the quality of the space and the ability to move people to action remain elusive.

There is a cultural attraction here in Las Vegas that claimed to have several million in earned media (column inches). Yet for all that publicity, it still remains well off the Las Vegas visitor "must see" list, is largely ignored by locals, and its number one speaking point remains the public price tag — $250 million in a state with a budget crisis. Effective?

Done correctly, public relations tends to be a bit more involved. So, I'd suggest turning to Bill Sledzik's non-definitions instead.

Sledzik, an associate professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Kent State University, shared a few definitions from the past. And, he followed them up with what public relations is not.

As for social media, the concept that it's consumer relations as a counterpart of customer service doesn't hold true. In fact, I have yet to see a suitable definition of social media as a communication tool, probably because the publics are just as varied online as they are offline.

Friday, October 3

Walking For Arthritis: Arthritis Walk 2008

My daughter is only two years old, but she wants to walk for arthritis on Saturday, Oct. 25 in support of the Southern Nevada Arthritis Foundation.

How do I know she does?

You’d never know to look at her, but she is one of the 46 million Americans living with arthritis, the nation's leading cause of disability. She has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in both ankles and one hand, a bitter reminder that underneath her firecracker smile she’s always had to fight a little harder. There are no free rides.

What’s worse for us is that Nevada is only one of nine states in the U.S. that doesn’t have a pediatric rheumatologist. In lieu of seeing the specialist she needs to, we take her to a clinic that specializes in children with cancer. One of the doctors there flies in from Calif. four days a month.

We’re just grateful she was diagnosed. The quick care doctor who initially saw her rejected the obvious: the first ankle had swelled to twice the size of the other. He thought it was a hip infection. (The misdiagnosis might have been worse had some legislators not fought for tort reform.)

Tort reform in Nevada.

A few years ago, Nevada was facing a very real medical crisis. Doctors and nurses were being squeezed out of state as the cost of malpractice insurance continued to rise and health insurance companies added more hurdles than help. (Health care premiums for families here have increased 54.6 percent in the last seven years.)

State Sen. Bob Beers led the fight for tort reform in the state of Nevada and continues to fight for doctors and nurses, which is one of several reasons that the Nevada State Medical Association, the Clark County Medical Society, and Southern Nevada Medical Industry Coalition endorsed him.

It’s very sobering when you can make personal connections between your life and state government. For the three plus months we lived in Summerlin Hospital NICU, rarely did a day go by when I didn’t wonder what might have happened had the doctors and nurses who saved my daughter’s life moved on to greener, more doctor friendly states.

She won’t walk alone.

Two years later, add my daughter to the list of his endorsements.

Sen. Bob Beers told us yesterday he would take a few hours off the campaign trail to help her raise money for arthritis. In fact, since his father also suffers from arthritis, he asked that we set up my daughter’s page under the Team Beers banner. His campaign will be jumpstarting my family’s modest $5,000 fundraising goal with the first $1,000.

For more information about the walk, visit the 2008 Arthritis Walk schedule. And if you’d like to help us reach our goal, you can find the Team Beers page here.

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Thursday, October 2

Engaging Fans: Why The NHL Needs Social Media

If there was ever a sport that could benefit from increased social media exposure, it could be hockey.

Sure, the National Hockey League (NHL) has made some striking improvements to its online offerings. The Web site has made marked progress in personalizing the connections to fans, and it’s already seeing momentum with a $15 million advertising campaign being managed by Young & Rubicam.

So why more social media?

While the emphasis about social media tends to be focused on exposure, customer engagement — direct player to fan engagement in this case — is less talked about but easily the strongest counterpart to online communication. For some companies, especially those with limited customer contact points, some social media tactics increase customer contact without being as intrusive as “customer care calls” with additional plus sell incentives.

The concept is not new. One of the best findings in the original Gallup study demonstrated constant contact increased consumer loyalty.

Using the case study of the airline industry, five times the number of Southwest Airlines customers were fully engaged over United. Considering Southwest Airlines was only in the initial phases of developing a viable social media component, it’s very likely they have widened the gap.

For the National Hockey League, it almost seems too easy. Team correspondents augmented by perspective posts from players could add a real element to the sport as it strives for its comeback. The more fans feel they know a player, the more likely they will never miss a game in person, online, or on television.

Hockey might even be one of the best suited sports for it. My partner, who is an avid autograph collector, frequently mentions that NHL players are among the most accessible of any sport. Online engagement would only deepen that relationship among more fans.

On a smaller scale, it works for busy consultants and professionals too. For example, almost every accountant I’ve ever worked with has mentioned there is never enough time in the peak season to develop relationships with clients, and not enough good reasons to contact their customers the rest of the year.

It makes you wonder what would happen if accountants invested time online, providing customers tax tips all year long rather than offering postscript conversations because it’s already time to file.

The same might hold true for hockey. After all, the number one reason for many people to attend sporting events is because they already know someone on the ice. Besides all that, who wouldn't want to read a quick Tweet from the penalty box?

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Wednesday, October 1

Answering Questions: Are Teachers Too Old To Know?

Q: What does a digital native, born close to 1990, need to learn from a digital immigrant who graduated before the IBM PC was launched in the UK, and who wrote magazine articles back in the 1980s about how businesses were adopting a new communications device, the fax machine. — Valrossie

A:The capacity for a person to learn, dream, and achieve is not defined or limited by his or her history but rather enhanced by it, provided he or she does not have the propensity to limit themselves by history, regardless of age, birthright, or any other measure.

That understood, the digital immigrant has become experienced by living with rapidly increasing changes in their environment, and is hopefully wiser in understanding which tenets of something like strategic communication might survive under such remarkable pressures. Whereas the digital native may never have the benefit of knowing those tenets nor are they assured to demonstrate their own wherewithal to continuously adopt to the numerous changes ahead of them.

I was part of a strategic communication think tank a few years back. The discussion revolved around the need to address communication issues related to the Blackberry. The solution, some said, was to devise an entire working study around Blackberry text messaging. Net, net, I said, by the time you are finished with your study, the entire world will have changed and the Blackberry as we know it today will be on the verge of extinction under the weight of another emerging technology.

I didn't know it then, but that would be the iPhone.

Better to devise a study on adapting to rapid technological advancements in communication, I offered.

By the way, I know you weren't talking about me specifically in the question left on the previous post, but I would like to point something out anyway. I'm not so old ... just old enough to remember gumballs. ;)

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