Thursday, June 11

Reinventing Public Relations: Edelman PR

You don't have to agree with Richard Edelman of Edleman PR, an independent global PR firm, to appreciate some of the finer points of the presentation delivered at Georgetown University. Social media has changed public relations and mass communication in ways that few people ever expected.

From Edelman's perspective, public relations is faced with the challenge to evolve from pitching to informing, control to credibility, from one-off stories to continuing conversations, from influencing elites to engaging a new cadre of influencers.

Yet, for some, in looking at these four points for the evolution of public relations, they might wonder where public relations took the red pill. Was it ever about the pitch? Were they ever in control of communication? Was the focus on one-off stories? And was public relations really a game of expanding influence? Was the public relations world so bleak or is that the tone to make a brave new world seem twice as bright and shiny?

There is probably too much content for the confines of a single post to address those questions. So it might be best to stick with just three.

What Was Public Relations?

Bill Sledzik, an associate professor at Kent State University (and one of the few people I know who has an aversion to online typos like I do, even our own), still reigns with one of the best sum-ups on what public relations might be, assuming it never became what Edelman suggests it is today.

The point is that Sledzik's post has become required reading for my students, specifically because none of the definitions presented include words like "pitch," "control," "influence," or "one-off stories."

Who Owns Social Media?

If there was ever a misnomer in communication, it's the constant question of who owns social media. Does public relations own it? Marketing? Advertising? Social media experts?

While I often share the idea of integrated communication because social media skill sets tend to pull from all communication-related disciplines, the less obvious answer is no one owns it beyond the people who participate.

Why Are Influencers Nouns?

While there is enough good in Edelman's presentation to encourage people to read it, there is plenty wrong too.

The best of it mirrors some recent research we completed. It demonstrated to one of our clients that engaged citizens are much more likely to promote the organization's message than are members of the media, despite the fact that the organization devotes more than 90 percent of its time to media relations.

The worst of it keeps reinforcing this notion that there are new influencers. I used to think so, and might use the term for simplicity on occasion. However, Edelman keeps missing that while anyone can have influence about a subject or within a network for a varied period of time, the bigger picture suggests there aren't any influencers. And even if there were influencers, that noun is seldom permanent.

Wednesday, June 10

Selecting Tools: Social Media For Business

The most common question communicators ask about social media is which tools, if any, are best suited for their companies. At least, that seemed to be the consensus among communicators attending the International Association of Business Communicators' (IABC Las Vegas) "Six in Sixty" program last week.

While there seems to be a general propensity to lead companies to the most popular social media tools, platforms, and communities, I provided an alternative solution for attendees with the premise that the long tail of social media need not always wag the company dog. During the 10-minute presentation, I shared a small deck to reinforce key points for three very different organizational needs: B2B, B2C, and nonprofit.

While there were strategic communication objectives for all three organizations, the simplified answer (given that each speaker had ten minutes) is that most are best served by considering two critical questions. 1. What communication assets do or will they have? 2. What tools, platforms, networks, and communities do their publics tend to use?

For a niche engineering firm presenting case studies and abstracts to a generally passive audience, a blog seemed best suited to help position them as subject matter experts. Within 90 days, the blog attracted a regular readership that included manufacturers, government regulators, and environmentalists.

For a nonprofit organization with an existing but underutilized blog, it made sense to redevelop it before developing a Facebook group to help them establish a sense of community. Within 60 days, the redeveloped blog had a following of 700 readers, which would be later invited to join a Facebook community.

For an independent film that had exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes clips featuring several well-known cast members, YouTube seemed to be the best match (with Revver as a backup in the event YouTube didn't work out). Within 60 days, the various clips earned 350,000 views (with an additional 350,000 views of fan-duplicated videos). Revver proved important too. After a YouTube error caused the account to be suspended, we were able to retain the videos on a production blog until a new YouTube account was established.

All three programs employed other social media tools as well. However, the short- and long-term priorities were determined by considering how each organization could add value for their intended audiences and where those audiences were most likely to find that content. How did we know? We listened, which is the first critical step in developing any social media program.

Tuesday, June 9

Riding Coattails: Palm Pre

If conversations are any measure, it becomes much more challenging to say whether the new Palm Pre from Sprint will have a real impact on the smart phone market, especially as it relates to the iPhone. Despite a strong sales start, which some analysts predict to be between 50,000 and 100,000 units over the weekend, the iPhone continues to dominate online conversations.

Specifically, the iPhone captures 67 percent of the conversations when compared to the Palm Pre. When another well-known brand is included, such as Blackberry, the numbers show where the impact might land and it's not on the iPhone. Split three ways, the iPhone captures 50 percent of the conversation while the remaining 50 percent is unevenly split between the Palm Pre and Blackberry. Even then, Blackberry retains a small majority with 26 percent.

So Why Target The iPhone?

From a purely public relations perspective, comparing the new Pre to the iPhone ensures more attention than comparing it to other smart phones. However, from a strategic communication perspective, it might not work.

While the new phone has some distinguishing features, it immediately loses to the more than 50,000 applications offered by iPhone. And, according to Research in Motion, it remains well behind BlackBerry Storm and HTC's G1. The Pre public relations push to compare to the iPhone also loses on price point with the iPhone's new $99 price (the Pre offers a rebate). It also seems to be providing a forum for people to talk about the new iPhone 3G S (which will retail for $199) due out at the end of June.

What Telecommunications Needs To Know

The iPhone has been a strategic communication success story as much as it was a technological leap forward two years ago.

Once its initial branding dispute was settled, Apple not only delivered a phone that was everything but a phone, it also captured 1.1 percent of the mobile phone market in two years.

Where the strategic communication coup shines through is that every other phone maker has struggled to catch up by attempting to adopt iPhone technologies. Ironically, the copycat business model fails because it continually reinforces the notion that all other smart phones still have to catch up.

When consumers consider that fact, the Pre, despite some sales successes, seems to be another public reminder that even though Apple's 1.1 percent market share is much smaller than Nokia's 38 percent or Motorola's 8.3 percent, everyone considers it to be the product to beat.

Long term, as long as Apple continues to stay ahead of the curve, most phone makers will continue to look left behind. Short term, the telecommunication competitors will be hard pressed to win a comparison as long as they continue to define their products against the one with a home court advantage.

In fact, other than trying to ride the iPhone conversation coattails, there wasn't any benefit at all in attempting to cast the Pre as an iPhone alternative. At least, there was no benefit that we could see.

Monday, June 8

Advertising Still Works: Teen Shoppers

As much as the Internet has had a dramatic impact on way people think about advertising, a new study from Scarborough Research demonstrates that proximity advertising still works. In fact, teen shoppers are looking for it.

"The findings show that teens do in fact notice advertising in the mall, and our study shows that they generally rate it positively," commented Jane Traub, senior vice president of research for Scarborough. "As mentioned previously, teens spend considerable time in the mall, so it is not too surprising that they do notice the advertising that is present in that environment."

Highlights From Teen Shopper Survey

• 91% of teen shoppers notice poster display ads at the mall
• 85% notice hanging advertising banners
• 77% notice sampling
• 58% notice promotional events
• 57% notice TV/video screens
• 48% notice interactive displays/kiosks
• 31% notice moving images projected on the floor or walls

The study also revealed that while 77 percent of teens are concerned about how the economy will affect their families' future, 62 percent said the frequency of visiting malls has increased or stayed the same. On a typical visit, 68 percent of teens spend two or more hours at the mall, with more than a quarter (28%) spending upwards of three hours. More than half of teens (56%) spent $50 or more on their last visit and 29 percent spent $100 or more.

Online and offline communication is integrated.

While proximity advertising (signage, etc.) works, the study also reveals that most teens do not distinguish from online and offline advertising. They perceive all advertising as integrated, with more than 75 percent of males and 69 percent of females chatting with friends about meeting at the mall and purchasing items. More than 67 percent of males and 55 percent of females also went online to learn about specific items before going to the mall.

The full report is available from Scarborough Research/Arbitron Inc. Scarborough Research measures the lifestyle and shopping patterns, media behaviors and demographics of American consumers, and is considered the authority on local market research.

Friday, June 5

Missing Net Intent: Marketers See Myopically

If Brian Morrissey, writing for Adweek, is right, then online communication has a long way to go before it can right the wrongs of its own success. He correctly points out that the Internet is "blessed because it differentiated itself as more measurable than traditional media — and cursed because it has pigeonholed the medium as an engine of direct-response."

The observation comes from a new survey conducted by Forbes. The survey polled 119 senior marketers and was conducted in February and March. The numbers reveal a surprisingly myopic view of the Internet as a tool to generate direct response as opposed to a critical branding component that could eventually help establish customer loyalty.

• 82 percent identified conversations as a leading objective
• 55 percent identified registrations as a leading objective
• 51 percent identified click throughs as a leading objective
• 31 percent identified brand building as a leading objective
• 11 percent identified increasing reach as a leading objective

"On the Web specifically, advertising has moved into more demand fulfillment as opposed to demand creation. That's not really advertising. There's nothing wrong with it." Jim Spanfeller, CEO of Forbes, told Adweek. "Doing search marketing and point-of purchase displays all works, but it's not advertising. It's not about creating demand and improving brand metrics."

Why Most Top Marketers Still Misunderstand The Internet

The Internet is not as myopic as most marketers would have anyone believe. It's multifaceted, with measurement best tied to communication objectives over the medium.

Clicks, registrations, and conversations are certainly a measurable component on the Internet, but utilizing the medium as a direct response vehicle is paramount to creating a self-fulfilling myth. If you use it as a direct response vehicle, then it's likely to be nothing more than a direct response vehicle, with a diminished return on investment over the long term.

The reality is that the Internet can be all of those things listed in the Forbes survey because the Internet is less of a medium than it is a convergence of media — print, radio, television, direct, display, networking, presentation, public relations, communication, word-of-mouth, etc. And the success of any program is directly related to how you develop that program.

Indeed, its versatility as a communication tool is as varied as any communication vehicle offline, which is why so many people struggle to place it within the various communication disciplines that exist — marketing, advertising, public relations, direct response, etc. All the while, it doesn't really "belong" to any of these disciplines because the medium, or collection of media, is clearly integrated.

Monday, June 1

Speaking About Social Media: IABC Las Vegas

Tomorrow, I'll be one of six presenters at the International Association of Business Communicators' (IABC Las Vegas) "Six in Sixty" program held at Maggiano's at the Fashion Show Mall. The program starts at 11:30 a.m. and focuses on various aspects of Internet marketing and social media.

Six in Sixty programs are always fun and challenging in that IABC members and guests hear presentations from six different speakers in sixty minutes. The program format ensures each speaker spends no more than 10 minutes at each table of eight before rotating to the next table. For speakers it can be challenging because delivering a similar mini-presentation several times creates an uncanny feeling of deja-vu.

IABC Las Vegas — "Six in Sixty"

Mark Cenicola with will present on the effective use of blogging to drive Web traffic.

Cheryl Bella with The Firm will present on how to maximize LinkedIn.

Ned Barnett with Barnett Marketing Communications will present social media ethics.

Bonnie Parrish-Kell with Dancing Rabbits will present SEO basics.

Megan Lane with Imagine Marketing will present on using Twitter for business.

As the sixth speaker, I'll discuss how to determine which social media tools might be best suited for specific organizations or events, based upon the organization's strategic objectives, existing communication assets, and listening to customers. As part of the presentation, I'll share some recent case studies from very diverse organizations.

IABC Las Vegas is the statewide chapter for the International Association of Business Communicators, which is an international network of professionals engaged in strategic business communication management. The chapter was founded locally in 1978. You can find more information here.

Blog Archive

by Richard R Becker Copyright and Trademark, Copywrite, Ink. © 2021; Theme designed by Bie Blogger Template