Our Chasing Perception blog is made up of many voices to represent the diverse personality of Indicate Media. We highlight the topics we find interesting, are passionate about, or simply make us laugh.
Members of any team, whether in business or sports, must balance personal needs, goals and ambitions with those of the group. The best and most successful teams are lead by high performing, yet selfless individuals who understand that people around them make their success possible.
As in all agency-client relationships, PR clients rarely care about individual achievements, but instead focus on the agency’s aggregate results. At Indicate Media, we think every day about how good teamwork strengthens our business—and most importantly—translates into client satisfaction. Here are a few best practices for being a good PR team player.
1) Always think about results in terms of team effort. Even if Carmelo Anthony sinks the winning basket, the headline always reads “Knicks Win!” Sure, the star may get special recognition on the side, but self-centered people on any team will eventually alienate themselves from others on whom they depend.
In PR, it’s exciting to be the one to land a client in the New York Times or Mashable. It’s easy to think: “I’m the one who crafted the pitch, reached out to the reporter, followed up and landed the coverage—this is MY result.” Throw out this way of thinking. Yes, today you may have done something that lead to a direct result for a client, but you didn’t achieve it in a vacuum. Be proud of your results, but be willing to share the glory with your team.
2) Get in the habit of using the words “we,” “us,” and “our.” Yes, the saying: “There’s no I in team” is old and worn out, but it’s still true. Related to point 1, it’s tempting (and often an automatic reflex) to use “I,” “me,” and “my” when communicating with clients—especially in emails. As humans, we naturally view and express our own actions and communication in the first person. Consider the following email example:
Dear client X,
I hope you had a nice weekend, and I wanted to update you on the conversation I’ve been having with the reporter you spoke with at the Daily Times Journal Gazette. He continues to engage with me, and it’s my opinion that this should lead to a follow up interview. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks.
Now, look at it this way:
Dear client X,
We hope you had a nice weekend, and the team wants to update you on the conversation we’ve been having with the reporter you spoke with at the Daily Times Journal Gazette. He continues to engage with us, and it’s our opinion that this should lead to a follow up interview. Let us know if you have any questions. Thanks.
This type of language lets your clients know that they have a team working for them, and it’s the combined intelligence and effort of everyone on the team that goes into recommendations and results.
3) Communicate! One of the most tragic ironies in the field of professional communications is the often lack of communication among PR teams. We know from our own experience how easy it is to get wrapped up in your own work and become enclosed in a bubble.
Some people would be surprised if they actually counted the times they communicated with their colleagues—besides “what are you doing for lunch?” As nice as email and instant messages are, get up every once and a while and go to other people’s offices or desks for a face-to-face conversation. Good teams are built on good and consistent communication.
4) Pitch in. One of the best words of wisdom is: there are NO menial tasks in PR. We work in a client service business, and it’s the responsibility of everyone on the team to help accomplish objectives. Sure, responsibilities change as you move up the chain of command, but even those at the top build good teams through leading by example.
Take this scenario: A client has just arrived at the office for a lunch meeting. The food and drinks need to be set up in the conference room. Whether you’re an intern or a VP, if you have a free second and a free hand, help out. Nobody is above making sure clients are taken care of.
What are some other tips for being a good PR team player? We’d love to hear your thoughts, stories and experiences!
Today, a large portion of any brand’s content exists online, and websites are often the first company-consumer touch point. As professional communicators, we’re often involved in crafting our clients’ website copy and other online content. We continue our writing series with a rules and tips on creating effective copy for mass-market websites.
The two main types of mass-market websites are: e-commerce and informational. Typical e-commerce sites such as target.com and kohls.com are designed to display merchandise and entice/facilitate consumer purchase. Informational websites such as metmuseum.org, redcross.org and mta.info exist to provide information (although organizations often integrate an e-commerce or donation platform into their site).
Jakob Nielsen has been referred to as the “Reigning guru of web-usability” (Fortune) and “Perhaps the best known design and usability guru on the Internet” (Financial Times). Nielsen holds a Ph.D in human-computer interaction and has conducted multiple focus groups to study web user preferences when it comes to reading online vs. print. The three main findings include:
1) Users don’t read, they scan
2) Users don’t like scrolling down pages or long, wordy paragraphs
3) Users detest hype, fluff and “marketese”
This research syncs with the conclusions of Dennis Wilcox, author of Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques, who provides these tips for web writing:
1) Writing should be easy to scan (non-linear and allows branching)
2) Writing should be concise “Keep sentences short, crisp and on point.”
3) Writing should be objective, simple and informal “Avoid puff words, clichés or exaggerations.”
Writing for Your Audience
We can further segment websites by target audience. Writing on sites like target.com, kohls.com and ford.com are targeted to the average consumer. Sites focused on high-end consumers like tiffany.com, ralphlauren.com and jaguar.com often break away from several of the above rules—especially about fluff. While high-end sites are generally minimalist in design and don’t require excessive scrolling, flowery language prevails.
- Tiffany says “Enjoy complimentary shipping” instead of “Shipping is free”
- Ralph Lauren suits are not “quality made” but “impeccably tailored”
- The Jaguar XJ doesn’t “make you rethink mid-size cars” but “reflects a clarity of vision that defies preconceptions and transforms the idea of a luxury sedan.”
Although these examples ignore the rules to keep writing simple, informal and free of puffery, they do defer to the master of all writing rules: know your audience. All web writing should aim for the best balance of what’s known as the four “A’s”—accessibility, accuracy, appeal and appropriateness.
So, to conclude here are the quick takeaways for writing for the web:
- Basic rules apply. Pay attention to spelling, grammar and punctuation.
- Target audience is important and a key factor to how much you deviate from the three rules above.
- Use language that your target audience will understand and appreciate, or that captures the image you want your products or company to portray.
- No matter what type of site you have, writing should be broken up. Divide text into sections and use bullet points for lists.
- Shorter is better. One recommendation is to keep sentences to 20 words and paragraphs to 2-3 sentences (though this isn’t set in stone).
- Make text and content interactive if appropriate.
Writing for the web isn’t easy—no good writing is. However, with practice and a basic sense of these industry rules and tips, you’ll be creating great web copy in no time!
A long time ago in a state far, far away…
The Silicon Valley secured its place as an empire for technology innovation and venture capital. However, two east coast rebels named Alec Hartman and John Petersen decided to shine a light on New York City’s burgeoning tech scene and launched NY Tech Day.
NY Tech Day is a self-described “massive science fair for entrepreneurs to exhibit their startups to thousands of consumers, investors, first adopters, job seekers, major companies, press and media.” The first NY Tech Day took place last year at New York’s historic Lexington Armory, which featured 200 startups and attracted a crowd of 4,500. We blogged about last year’s NY Tech Day and for an inaugural event, it was a success.
These two tech guys returned this year and blew NY Tech Day 2012 out of the water. Exhibiting startups doubled to more than 400, and 10,000+ attendees lined up at Pier 92 on Manhattan’s west side to check out the latest and greatest New York-based Internet, mobile, B2B and consumer technology companies. Some companies returned from last year, but a large majority of the entrepreneurs we spoke with said it was their first time.
So, what kind of startups joined this year’s alliance to show that NYC can hold its own in tech innovation? No, there weren’t any fully functioning lightsabers or battle droids, but interesting companies ranged from FitBark, a wearable device for dogs that helps ensure your pet is getting the right amount of daily exercise, to locket, a mobile platform that pays you to receive ads on your phone’s lock screen and simply swipe to unlock your phone.
A handful of major sponsors came on board this year including Chobani and Redbull, which provided free samples to attendees, and tech giants Microsoft Outlook and Verizon, which put a validation stamp on what will hopefully become an annual event. In fact, you know an event has become successful when the venue is selling concessions (last year, they brought in free pizza for everyone). So, what does NY Tech Day, Episode II mean for NY tech companies and us at Indicate Media?
The startups at NY Tech Day ranged from very early stage (pre-funded/BETA) to more established enterprise software companies. While Tech Day provides these companies an opportunity to engage in some quick one-off PR with consumers, media and investors, strategic communications should be a sustained effort. Whether announcing your funding round to the financial press or your launch to the consumer tech press, getting business milestones on the record are important for any early stage company.
If you’re a more established company looking to drive business and scale, PR is an important part of your overall integrated marketing efforts to maintain online brand awareness (digital footprint), manage your reputation, deal with crisis, establish a thought leadership position, and engage with existing and potential customers. This can all help when you look to raise additional capital, attract board members and secure strategic partnerships with advertisers and other entities critical to the success of your business model.
As a technology-focused public relations firm, we remain bullish on New York City as a strong tech scene. From big events like Tech Day to small meetups, innovation is alive and flourishing in the Big Apple. Organizations like Ultra Light Startups continue to bring tech startups together with corporate and private VCs, and incubators and accelerators like TechStars and NYU-Poly help move great ideas into reality every day. Our bottom line: NYC is a great place to be for tech companies, and everyone that’s a part of it should consider how strategic communications and public relations can help drive your brand forward.
If we don’t connect with you in the meantime, best of luck with your venture, and we hope to see you again next year!
The United States Marine Corps has a clear and simple philosophy: “Every Marine is a rifleman, trained first as a disciplined warrior regardless of military occupation specialty.” This guiding principle drives every Marine Corps mission—big or small—and has provided success for one of the most respected military branches in the world.
So, what does this have to do with public relations? In the first of our Chasing Perception Blog writing series, we’ll touch on what this Marine Corps mantra can teach us about writing in today’s communication age. Industry experts have discussed and debated writing as a dying art in public relations. Some make a case that the age of texting and tweets has diminished good writing overall. Others say that new channels make good writing more important than ever. Let’s look at the Marine Corps creed and its implications for us as professional communicators.
Even the statement itself, “Every Marine is a rifleman, trained first as a disciplined warrior regardless of military occupation specialty,” is an example of good writing. It’s clear, simple, brief and human—the four hallmarks of any good writing according to William Zinsser, a career journalist, author and writing expert. In short, it speaks to every marine in no uncertain terms. We can take this phrase, make some simple word substitutions and create an equally compelling statement that speaks to every professional communicator.
“Every public relations professional is a scribe, trained first as a disciplined writer regardless of PR occupation specialty.”
Like the Marines, people in public relations can decide to pursue one of many specialties. The day-to-day of someone in non-profit PR and another in investor relations will vary as much as an engineer and pilot in the Marines. Sure, there are obvious differences in the Marine/PR comparison. Every marine works for one organization and has a common mission—not so for PR professionals. A corporate communicator at Apple will obviously have competing objectives from his or her counterpart at Samsung. However, the parallel between every marine’s and PR practitioner’s basic tool—a rifle and writing is important.
It’s simple: well-trained riflemen are essential to a strong Marine Corps; well-trained writers are essential to a strong PR agency or corporation’s internal communications department. Writing is the foundation of professional communication. Yes, verbal communication is also important in PR, but even much of that (speeches, media training and even phone pitching) start as writing. Clear writing reflects clear thinking, and we cannot abandon good writing—even in the age of 140 characters. In fact, platforms like Twitter actually demand good writing. Limited space forces us to tighten language, cut out jargon and double check for typos—which jump off the screen when placed in a single sentence.
Many PR agencies give writing tests as part of their hiring process—even for executive trainees just looking to get started in PR. The most reputable undergrad and graduate programs in public relations all include writing courses as part of the core curriculum. This “basic training” should continue so that future PR professionals remain armed with a craft that will never go away in our industry. Yes, communication channels have changed. For many, direct to consumer content marketing and social engagement have replaced old-fashioned media kits, but good writing is good writing—whether for print media, a homepage, a blog or a tweet.
The Marine Corps awards special badges to marines that test and qualify as (from highest to lowest): an Expert, Sharpshooter, or Marksman. There are no writing badges in PR. In fact, beyond technical grammar and punctuation, writing is something that can always get better. As Ernest Hemingway once said: “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” That said, professional communicators who consistently practice our craft and prove their ability to write well—whether drafting an email pitch or a CEO’s speech—are sure to gain credibility and recognition over time with reporters, clients and peers.
Photo Credit: CBS
In case you haven’t seen the CBS hit show, The Big Bang Theory follows the lives of four brilliant but socially-inept friends: Sheldon, a child prodigy and theoretical physicist; Leonard, an experimental physicist and Sheldon’s roommate; Howard, an aerospace engineer who lives with his mom; and Raj, an astrophysicist who is incapable of speaking to women. They all have typical nerdy interests like gaming, science fiction and comic books, and much of the comedy is based on the group’s interaction with Sheldon and Leonard’s attractive neighbor Penny, a fun-loving waitress and aspiring actress.
While all four friends have trouble communicating with people of average (or below average) intelligence, Sheldon, the smartest and most eccentric of the group, never gets the hang of interpersonal communication. He often loathes communicating with “mediocre” beings about the ins and outs of everyday life, and subtleties of language such as sarcasm and empathy usually go right over his head. In fact, Sheldon is downright condescending to almost everyone he talks to—including his friends.
So what makes the show so effective? Humans are naturally social beings. Like bees in a hive, we live in a society that requires us to interact with others. Sheldon’s quirky behavior is funny because he’s the socially awkward genius taken to comedic extremes. In one episode, Sheldon decides to attend Penny’s Halloween party dressed as the Doppler effect (a white bodysuit with black stripes for sound waves). He grew increasingly frustrated that nobody was able to guess his costume (most people said zebra) and assumed everyone should be on his intellectual level.
On TV, this type of miscommunication is hilarious—but what about in real life? Would you put up with a friend like Sheldon every day? Let’s take it a step further. If there were a Sheldon-like brand, would you buy its products, use its services, donate to its cause, or simply stay away? Most brands try hard to avoid being arrogant and bad communicators. Social media makes brand communications a 24/7 initiative, and missteps are no laughing matter. However, there are several basic principles for brands to embrace when engaging stakeholders.
1) Know your audience! Sheldon should have known Penny’s friends weren’t into physics and wouldn’t even know what the Doppler effect is. However, if he attending a physics department party at the university, that would be another story. Bottom line: audiences vary, and you must take your message to the correct people—otherwise, it’s a lost cause.
2) Know what motivates your audience. People aren’t passive beings to push messages at—they have their own thoughts, beliefs, feelings and assumptions. After you identify your audience, it’s essential to know what moves them to act or react in a certain way. It’s all about meeting an audience on their terms, not your own.
3) Reach out often and with foresight. At Penny’s party, Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj spend the entire evening sitting together on the couch talking to each other and wondering why no one else comes to interact with them. Brand communications can’t just be reactive—it must be proactive. But don’t overdo it. Like a person, a brand’s footprint should be just consistent enough to remind consumers of its charms.
4) Be consistent. Don’t try to impress audiences by begin something you’re not—brands are built on consistent messaging. Anyone who tunes in Thursday night for The Big Bang Theory loves Sheldon for who he is. If the character (or show) were to suddenly change, loyal fans would start to change the channel. To be clear, it’s not that change is prohibited. Change is good within a framework where it doesn’t contradict the original brand message or image.
If your brand has mastered all of these, congratulations! You may sit back, enjoy the fun of communication and ponder other things—like the theory of relativity. Last word? In brand communications, get back to basics—and that’s no Bazinga!
Few things are more invigorating than bringing an idea to life and creating a business around a concept you scribbled on a napkin at a bar, or woke up in the middle of the night to key into your iPad. You shared your idea with a friend, and maybe your brother, and you created a startup. You have a website, you have your product, and after endless hours of work with innumerable days merging together into an indistinguishable blur…nobody is buying/downloading/subscribing to your product. You step out of your cocoon, into the real world after emerging from your warm/stressed-out/Chinese-takeout-strewn office and realize that no one is aware of your brilliant product! It’s time to get the word out. Like many startups, however, you face the challenges of limited time, budget, and communications expertise. So you decide to hire a public relations firm. Before you do however, gather the battle-weary troops to put your heads together and create a solid foundation for your communications program by defining your business objective, detailing available resources, and agreeing upon what you want to be known for.
Many startups are so excited about their product, that their entire focus revolves around its development and not a viable or sustainable business model, or a clear business objective. This can often be the case even if financing has been secured, regardless of the round. What is your business model? Where do you want your business to be one year and five years from now? Knowing your business model and where you want to be in the next few years will allow your communications team to develop the right strategy to achieve your business goals. Things your communications team should consider in developing your strategy should be scale, audience(s), budget, messages, economic landscape, and industry, among others.
Another obviously important factor is resources. Budget, however, is not always as clear as it seems. Staff, budget, time, and experience, are just some of the resources to consider. Communications, especially with the proliferation and importance of social media as a tool, is a time consuming task, even if your public relations agency is taking over the actual posting. Who within your firm understands the process of public relations and social media? How much time or percent of total time, can this person and/or your leadership spend liaising or working with the public relations team? How much budget can you allocate to hire a public relations firm? Take note that most firms charge a retainer, plus expenses. Make sure you clearly understand the cost structure you are committing to. Also, ask for clarity in the scope of work. Does your contract clearly outline the scope of the professional services offered?
Finally, what do you want to be known for? This is an often unasked question which can be very easy or very difficult to answer. Startups are often started by people with very strong ideas and defined personalities. Your startup, however, is not the founder, and the founder is not the startup. The startup is an entity which, to be successful, must have a personality, a character, and a set of ideals and goals that are all its own. The future of the startup must be independent of that of its founder(s), and as an independent entity, its identity and intended legacy also independent and clearly defined. Who are you (as an organization)? What are you (really) committed to? What is your purpose? What do you want your organization’s legacy to be?
Communications programs communicate from their foundation. Successful communications programs begin with clarity in their foundation. Your foundation is your terra firma, the place where you return when things get cloudy and seas stormy. Asking and answering these questions before you begin your communications program, or working with an agency, will ensure you achieve optimum results.
Storytelling. It’s one of our oldest forms of communication. Good stories entertain. Great stories transcend nationalities, languages and generations. Stories have power to shape perception, change minds and compel us to ponder our society and humanity. From Lord of the Flies to Lord of the Rings, Round Table Knights to Jedi Knights – well crafted and delivered stories embed themselves in our minds and become part of our living culture.
Every company has a story – and so does yours. Whether you’ve developed a new app or run a 100-year-old non-profit organization, your company’s narrative started with an idea to fill a human need. Maybe it’s been a while since your company has thought about its story. Perhaps it’s in the form of a mission statement that was shoved in a desk drawer years ago, or if your company is new, maybe your story hasn’t yet been fully fleshed out. And while your story may not be as fun as chasing a great white whale or an adventure in Wonderland, there’s a story in there – ready to be told and shared with your audience.
People respond to stories. Recently, the Indicate Media team attended an Internet Technology Investor Feedback Forum, which was hosted by one of its clients called Ultra Light Startups. At these events, entrepreneurs with early-stage Internet companies pitch themselves and their ideas to a panel of venture capitalists that provides actionable advice and sometimes even end up connecting with one or two of the entrepreneurs. At the end of the event, audience members vote for their favorite startup. At this particular event, the startup that won was a crowd-funding platform designed as a financial support hub for cancer patients.
Like the other seven presenters, this company’s founder gave a three-minute overview of her company, the team, what her application does and the general business model. However, one thing she did differently was to start her pitch with a story – and a personal one at that. She shared that the idea for her startup was born from her own experience of witnessing her mother bravely battle cancer, yet struggle financially before passing away, and her story connected with the audience and panel. Was her company the best startup? Did she have an advantage with an emotional appeal? Maybe. The point however is that stories grab people’s attention, and told correctly in front of the right audience, can help propel your company forward.
As communications professionals, storytelling is at the core of who we are and what we do. Whether working in-house, or representing a company at an outside agency, it’s our job to tell our clients’ stories. However, it’s important to distinguish a story from a tall tale. Unlike the fictional plots we’ve come to love in popular novels, movies and as shared around the campfire, your company’s story must be based in truth and driven by ethics. In public relations, it’s not our job or mission to lie, obfuscate, whitewash or spin. The stories we tell must be transparent, honestly messaged and repeated regularly in order to effectively build a brand and manage its reputation.
The mediums we use to tell stories have obviously evolved over time. Oral storytelling once dominated the way we transferred information. Then came the printing press, radio, TV and the Internet. None of these vehicles has completely gone extinct, but they have added both opportunities and challenges to how companies and those who represent them tell its story. As we alluded to in a previous post, the Internet and social media have us all ‘chasing perception’ and scrambling to define, frame and tell our stories before others can. Because of that, your company’s story needs to be as clear as possible. We all know from that old game ‘telephone,’ that even the simplest messages can become muddled and changed as they’re passed along, and in our world perception often equals reality.
Now is a great time to create or revisit your story. Despite the challenges of our fast-paced web of communication channels, without a core story, your company will be lost. New social channels and platforms like smartphones and tablets provide an ever-increasing array of ways to deliver your story and build your brand. Yes, there’s a lot of noise out there, so what are you doing to break through? In short…what’s your story?
President Barack Obama’s second inauguration continued a 224 year-old tradition dating back to George Washington’s 1789 presidential oath. Since 1953, part of the inauguration day’s pomp and circumstance includes a Congressional luncheon honoring the incoming president and vice president. Topping headlines from yesterday’s event was of all things – the meal’s calorie count. Fox News, the Washington Times and other online blogs reported on the three-course 3,000-calorie fare – to which Comedy Central added their own post in response.
However, gastronomical commentary wasn’t the luncheon’s only item of note. During his remarks, President Obama observed that, “…democracy isn’t always easy and there are profound differences among those present.” The phrase “democracy isn’t always easy” is an important and appropriate point to ponder – not only for our political process, but also for the vast marketplace of ideas we call the Internet.
The voice of the people is the cornerstone of any democracy. Social media, blogs and comment threads allow everyone to instantly share their point of view, or debate another. The democratization of the web makes it possible for ordinary people to access and share ideas with other ordinary people. Consumers can review, rate and comment on just about any product or service. Even most top-tier media outlets allow anyone with a valid email address to comment on articles published online. While this can be viewed as positive, as President Obama reminded us, the management of any forum where all people can freely voice their profoundly different opinions is never easy.
Visit any online article (especially about politics), and in a majority of cases, the comments devolve into little more than ad hominem attacks. To get a sampling, peruse some of the more than 15,000 comments on a Huffington Post article covering the inauguration.
During the luncheon, President Obama also commented that, “…all present [congressional members] were serving because they believed they could make America better.” While people on the Internet have a direct voice vs. a representative voice as in our democratic government, this ideal holds true for the web…but does it in all cases? Does everyone’s online presence make the Internet and its information ‘better,’ or does abuse creep into the system? According to a recent New York Times article by David Streitfeld titled ‘Swarming a Book Online,’ the answer to the latter is “yes”.
Here, Streitfeld focuses on Amazon book reviews as the theatre for a war-of-words over the book Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson. A group known as ‘Michael Jackson’s Rapid Response Team to Media Attacks’ launched an all out negative review campaign on Amazon in an effort to ground the book even before it could take off. The article quotes Trevor Pinch, a Cornell sociologist who said, “Books used to die by being ignored, but now they can be killed – and perhaps unjustly killed. In theory, a very good book could be killed by a group of people for malicious reasons.” While Amazon said that the negative reviews didn’t violate their guidelines, the book’s publisher criticized the reviews for their lack of authenticity. This same thing happens far too often in Washington D.C. – where potentially good ideas can get unjustly killed for political or special interest reasons.
This negative review campaign is a perfect example of ‘chasing perception.’ It used to be that an author and his or her agent/publisher simply needed to create perception at launch. Now, with negative review campaigns and the ability for anyone to rate a book, movie, album, etc. – even without reading, seeing or listening to it – creates a need for content creators to chase perception that the masses can create ahead of time. Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky referred to the news media’s affect on public opinion as Manufacturing Consent, the title of their 1988 book. In a way, online review systems whether for Amazon, Netflix or Angie’s List give special interest groups the ability and platform to manufacture discontent.
We’d like to throw this topic out for discussion. What do you think about this as related to what we do as communication professionals on behalf of our clients and ourselves? Are the abuses and downsides of online democracy and transparency just part of the ‘tragedy of the commons?’ We’d love to hear your thoughts.
2013 will bring many new and exciting initiatives for our team at Indicate Media. Like many businesses in the communications sector, we’ve spent hours reading about, discussing, internalizing, and interacting with the numerous social platforms and resources that make today’s Web a dynamic and ever-changing hub filled with personality and information.
Going under the hood of the social Web can be daunting. In 2013, entrepreneurs will continue to develop platforms and strategies that help companies (SMBs – top brands) look deep into the data being disseminated and interpret the many underlying mechanics such as human sentiment and tone, as well as the triggers that make people click on a link.
At Indicate Media, we find our internal discussions about the changing world to be both exciting and fascinating. There’s a great technological revolution taking place, and people are consuming and sharing 24/7. All around the world, this flow of information is shaping our perceptions of the world. Webster’s defines perception as “the way you think about or understand someone or something”.
And, perception is moving fast. For example, Microsoft might hype the benefits of its latest phone, in turn creating huge excitement and momentum – only for David Pogue to write a negative review and change public perception with a single click of the publish button. This is being replicated over and over again like with an unknown tweeter who suddenly creates a trending moment. Since it’s impossible to predict the future and at best, to try is playing the odds, it’s likely humans will always be one step behind the flow of real-time information and forced to constantly ‘chase’ perception.
Therefore, it’s in every organization’s best interest to have a proactive and constantly moving communications plan in place to capture unpredictable perceptions flowing at any given time, correct misconceptions, and/or enhance the positive ones. In short, companies need to shape their world realities though strategic and integrated communications.
This blog’s renewed purpose and focus is to examine all things communications, public relations, marketing, and advertising. We’ll use our Chasing Perceptions blog to introduce new technologies that catch our eye, discuss interesting macro themes affecting the aforementioned industries, highlight case studies and best practices about how to succeed with today’s communication challenges, and in general, be a resource to those inside and outside our community who are simply looking for interesting and relevant thoughts and data points. We’ll also feature guest bloggers with extraordinary things to say, and we encourage all kinds of dialogue. Please feel free to leave comments and engage us in discussion.
It’s our belief at Indicate Media, that an intelligent, strategic, and constant communication strategy is the engine that drives the social media! We’ll explore this topic more in the days ahead.
Stay tuned and thanks for reading!
Break the Mold
Ahhh, it’s that time again when we‘re faced with the calendar declaring it’s the start of a new year–one full of promise! We return to the office after our hectic holidays filled with family, friends and food…ready to work. Not missing a beat, we jump right into our backed-up list of things to do, determined to check off as many tasks as possible. Press releases, media pitches, staff meetings, RFPs, reports, events, and all sorts of fires to put out. As you’re sitting at your desk going over your beginning-of-the-year task list, déjà vu hits. This reminds you of something–you sitting at your desk, beginning-of-the-year task list at hand–but you just can’t remember what…
Wait! It reminds you of last year when you sat at that same desk and did the same thing! You ponder your list and realize it looks almost the same as it did last year. You sit back in your chair and take a rare moment to yourself to reflect. Something is tugging at you this January…
You know that the market is changing. You know that the communications landscape is evolving. You know that clients have growing needs within the communications panorama. You know that consumers are communicating differently with each other. You know that consumers are also expecting more engagement with service and goods providers. You know that the transitioning marketplace is calling for new ways to communicate and speak with your customers. You know there is a need for new content forms and formats. And you know that the list of what is changing and new in the communications realm is growing. Yet, like many of us in the public relations industry, your long list of “to dos” has kept you from taking a hard look at the overall structure of your programs and campaigns, keeping them relatively the same even though you know that it is time to make some changes.
Sound familiar? Resolutions anyone?
Just as the beginning of the year is the time to make personal resolutions, there is no better time to make resolutions for your public relations practice and programs to make it one of your best public relations years, yet.
So where do you start?
Where do you stand? Where are you now? If you read our end-of-the-year post, “Taking Stock,” you have already done an end-of-year “inventory” of your P.R. practice/program, or at least thought about it. We invite you to read the post and encourage you to take honest stock of your program’s successes, challenges, and opportunities. Look at how the industry has changed. Consider how your clients’ needs are being met, and how they are not. Survey the landscape and your social, digital and media portfolio. Evaluate progress on your programs/practice. Contemplate what has changed “out there” (in the world/marketplace) that hasn’t changed “in here” (your program/practice.) Transparently review your program and/or practice metrics.
Where do you want to go? What are your goals? What changes do you want/need to make? How can you make your program more effective? What updates/upgrades do you need to execute? Now that you know where you are, identify where you want to be this time next year. Create a list of three to five topline objectives to which you and your team can absolutely commit. With those objectives in mind, work out a strategy that allows you to clearly see the target, leverage your assets, and develop a quick action plan that will lead you to your goals.
Take a Stand
Before you take action, take a stand. Create a list of three to five resolutions that you will implement in your practice immediately. Resolve to make this year different. Resolve to foster work/life balance in your practice. Resolve to compete. Resolve to honestly evaluate where your program stands every quarter. Resolve to break the mold.
Now that you have evaluated where you stand, identified where you want go, created a strategy, and developed a plan to achieve your objectives, take confident, smart action that maximizes synergy, efficiency, and results.
Backed by real resolve, you will break the mold in 2013 as you take aim, action, and names!
What a year! As 2012 comes to an end, there is no better time to take stock of your public relations program. With the communications landscape changing so rapidly and social media taking an ever increasing role in public relations, taking stock of the past year’s 360ᐤ successes, failures, and opportunities will help kick-start 2013 with a more evolved communications foundation to move your program forward.
What were the communications/P.R. successes of your 2012 program? One way to strategically analyze your successes is to consider what assets were leveraged in each incident. For example, one of the year’s biggest stories was the General Petraeus affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The CIA Director’s affair, ensuing resignation, and the antics of Broadwell and Kelley could have proven disastrous for the General, but once the affair was made public, people were left asking themselves if it had indeed been necessary for the decorated and celebrated Petraeus to resign. The strong support for the top spook even spurred an online petition asking for his rehire, and Slate.com reporter Emily Yoffe and The Daily Beast’s Diane Dimond, among others, openly called for Petraeus’ return to his post.
“I have a great idea whom Barack Obama should nominate as his next CIA director: Gen. David Petraeus,” Slate.com reporter Emily Yoffe wrote in her November 20th “Bring Back Petraues” piece.
The support for Petraeus was so overwhelming in fact, that journalists themselves began to explore their loyalty to him and their own coverage of the story. They soon realized, and some even openly admitted, that they had been drawn in by the General’s consistent and friendly outreach. He diligently nurtured his relationship with reporters offering them daily access, returning calls quickly, inviting them on his morning runs, and generally respecting their needs and position. By cultivating his relationships with journalists, David Petraeus created a virtual safety net he could rely upon during his hour of need. He resigned, but just a few days later, the country was calling for his reinstatement. Some say that the call was led by the journalists themselves, and as we’ve seen, there is evidence to support that.
What assets is your organization cultivating? How is your company nurturing relationships with the media and journalists? In your 2012 PR successes, what assets were leveraged? What assets do you need to further develop?
Now that you’ve revelled in your organization’s successes, it’s time to evaluate your program challenges and failures. What were some of the challenges or failures you experienced in 2012?
In case you’ve blocked the fails and challenges of the past year, we’ll help jog your memory by recalling the KitchenAid social media fiasco during the October debate when the company’s social media composer mistakenly Tweeted an inflammatory message from the brand’s Twitter account instead of their own personal account. The Tweet read:
“Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he came president’. #nbcpolitics” – From @KitchenAid
This event was undoubtedly a communications fail. However, the company quickly rose to the challenge and faced the fallout head on with a by-the-book systematic approach that had media outlets such as Fast Company calling the response a “PR coup.” KitchenAid’s action plan included:
- Deleting the tweet
- Sincerely apologizing and making sure their apology was sent via the same channels as the original message
- Taking responsibility for the gaffe
- Offering to talk about the matter on the record
What were your organization’s communications failures and/or challenges? How did you manage each situation? What best practices do you need to put in place to mitigate communications failures or challenges in the future?
Were there communications challenges in 2012 that you could have turned into a positive PR opportunity? Were there communications challenges in 2012 that you could have leveraged into an opportunity but missed the chance to do so?
One example of a challenge turned opportunity is the Red Cross Twitter debacle. While it didn’t occur in 2012, it remains a case were recognizing an opportunity helped transform a potential PR disaster into a PR success and a lesson in social public relations. The ball got rolling when the organization’s social media specialist got her wires crossed and sent out a Tweet on the Red Cross’ account. The rogue Tweet from @RedCross read:
“Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer…when we drink we do it right #gettingslizzerd”
Realizing her mistake, the author then sent from her own account:
“Rogue tweet from @RedCross due to my inability to use hootsuite…I wasn’t actually #gettingslizzard but just excited!#nowembarassing”- @riaglo
As Mashable noted, there were some blogs that saw and reported on the initial tweet, but before any negative momentum could be gained, Red Cross’ funny follow-up expertly smoothed things over and turned a potential hanging into an opportunity with:
“We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” – @RedCross
The celebrated subject of the original tweet also got in on the act with their own brilliant follow-up:
“RT @Michael_Hayek: #craftbeer @dogfishbeer fans, donate 2 @redcross 2day. Tweet with #gettngslizzerd. Donate here http://tinyurl.com/5s720bb” – @dogfishbeer
While the Red Cross had the choice to hurriedly delete the tweet and issue an embarrassed apology, they leveraged the lighthearted nature of the tweet and approached the situation from an authentic, humorous, and down-to-earth angle. They averted a public relations disaster and captured a communications opportunity to create a success.
What opportunities did your organization capture or miss in 2012? What would make a difference in converting challenges into opportunities in 2013?
As you take stock of your communications and public relations program for 2012, you may find that not only has the communications landscape evolved but so have your approach, resources, and thinking preparing you for an even more successful 2013.
As we head into the July 4th holiday, we want to take a quick look at the birth of our country from a communications perspective. The leaders of the American Revolution of course didn’t have Twitter or other social networks that have proven instrumental in the recent overthrow of several ruling governments. However, the founding fathers certainly engaged in P.R. of sorts and spearheaded communication campaigns to create sympathy, rally public support and enlist volunteers. One of the most prolific architects of these P.R. efforts was Samuel Adams, a politician from colonial Massachusetts and second cousin to our second president, John Adams.
Samuel Adams (1722-1803) played a major influence in the political activism that led up to and continued throughout America’s struggle for independence. While modern day channels of strategic communication provide a much more instantaneous delivery and response (email, social media, mobile devices, etc.), communication goals were exactly the same in the eighteenth century as they are today – engage an audience with an idea, provide a call to action and evoke a desired reaction.
One of Adams’ first communication campaigns was his Massachusetts Circular Letter in 1768. This letter argued against British taxation without representation and proposed that colonist only be taxed by local assemblies, which represented them. The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed the proposal, and the Massachusetts General Court then distributed or ‘circulated’ the letter to other colonies – much in the same way many political circulars are distributed today. New Jersey, Connecticut and the Virginia House of Burgesses ended up supporting Massachusetts. The ensuing dispute escalated and resulted in British soldiers occupying Boston, which in turn lead to the Boston Massacre in 1770.
In addition to writing political literature, Adams founded and organized the Sons of Liberty in 1765 with John Hancock and gave rise to the Liberty Tree, which became a symbol of freedom throughout the colonies. Adams also played an integral part in the events that culminated in the famous Boston Tea Party in 1773.
Just like communication goals, the types of communication tactics really haven’t changed that much. Today, we still use written materials (print and online), form and mobilize organizations, develop symbolic brands and launch events. Of course, implementation and execution methods have changed. Burning effigies of tax collectors and throwing cargo off ships aren’t mainstream forms of political expression in the U.S., but the fundamentals of communication campaigns are essentially the same as they were 250 years ago.
Some would argue that Adams and other patriots engaged more in propaganda and rabble rousing than what we consider ‘proper’ P.R. today – but the definition of propaganda and its use in communication is a discussion for another time. For now, fire up the grill, crack open a beer (perhaps a Sam Adams) and enjoy the fireworks with friends and family. Happy Birthday America!
Creating content that goes viral on the Internet is the golden goose of online marketing. Videos that someone shares through social networks are incredibly attractive, because it means he or she has gone beyond simple viewing and absorbed the content enough to think it’s important, interesting or entertaining enough to share with others.
The number of individuals who view viral content is staggering. In 2006, Dove produced a video that showed the process of how photos of models are edited as part of their “Campaign for Real Beauty,” an initiative to combat unrealistic expectations for body image among women. Their video, posted by writer and director Tim Piper, has been viewed almost 15 million times (not including views of reposts).
A list of the 20 most viral ads of 2012 (so far) in Adweek this May showed that Dove isn’t the only company that has had success with ads on YouTube. Videos from TNT, Nike, P&G, Volkswagen, BMW, Google and Coca-Cola are on the list, but there are also some small companies who made it on as well. A stop-action ad from a small boutique bookstore, Type Books in Toronto, raked in 3.2 million views since it was posted in January. Here’s a round up of videos that went viral just this month. The collection isn’t all marketing videos, but it does include content from organizations that range from the ASPCA to Coca Cola.
After watching the ads on Adweek’s list, there are several themes that crop up. Many of the videos the story features are emotionally compelling. They tell stories that viewers relate to. Also, many of the videos aren’t the sort of glossy production one might expect. A large portion, including a TNT video, as well as a French ad for Tic Tacs capture the reactions of unsuspecting individuals who are surprised by huge “practical jokes” a ‘la Candid Camera.
A Ted Talk by Kevin Alloca, YouTube’s trends manger, covers three things that make videos go viral. They include:
1.) Tastemakers such as Jimmy Fallon.
2.) Videos that inspire a community to create parody responses such as Rebecca Black’s Friday.
3.) Pure unexpectedness as the catalysts for what makes certain videos go viral.
Michael Dublin, founder of DollarShaveClub.com, gives tips on creating viral videos to AllThingsD after his video went viral in March.
When it comes right down to it, no one can predict exactly what is going to make a video interesting enough to go viral. A company can’t ensure their content will be picked up on late night TV nor engineer a social community around it.
Most videos that gain a lot of viewership do so through compelling storytelling that doesn’t directly spell out a company’s message. Making viral content requires an element of subtlety that isn’t as necessary in other forms of marketing. Humor, drama and surprise are all tools to draw viewers in and create an impetus to share. If a company can find a way to share a message that stirs their audience’s emotions, there’s a much better chance that content will raise awareness of the brand through the video medium.
At Indicate Media, we can assist you in creating viral content. Video can be used to raise awareness on macro issues, or reinforce company brand credibility. It can also provide a tremendous search benefit through proper tagging and distribution strategies.
We help walk you through all aspects of the creative process including: 3D or 2D motion graphics and animation, character animation, Green Screen shooting, and music and sound design.
Here is a sample of our work.
Today’s connected world often requires young professionals to use personal social media networks as part of their job. This paradigm has created many questions for a cohort of workers that grew up using Facebook and Twitter. For example: what to do when a boss, co-worker or client ‘friends’ or ‘follows’ you.
A challenge that faces the social media generation is how to shift from what to share with only friends vs. professional when the workplace forces them to integrate personal social networks into their jobs. In general, young employees today need to filter content they post in ways that weren’t necessary before.
This Onion video spoofs a very real worry: that every age-appropriate 2040 Presidential candidate will be ineligible due to his or her Facebook activity. Reality is that young people have always engaged in not-so-intelligent behavior, and this generation deals with the added challenge of an almost constant and inevitable documentation of every poor decision.
So, is the solution to ditch social media networks when you enter the “real world” of employment? Anyone who’s interested in a professional communications career knows that’s not a viable option, so it’s better to follow this one simple rule:
Pretend the Internet is your mother.
This sounds silly, but it’s a solid concept when put into context. You can’t control every bit of information that friends post about you, but you can control your own content. Think of that gut feeling you get when you do something your mother would question. If you feel even a twinge of that, rethink what you’re about to post. This extends beyond the obvious inappropriate photos and cursing online.
To be safe, assume Murphy’s Law will prevail: If something can go wrong, it will. Read anything you’re going to post as carefully as if you plan for it to end up in the New York Times—because once you post it to the very public Internet—it could. Check your privacy settings. If your post, tweet or status update contains content not meant for everyone’s eyes, make sure you properly secure it—and think twice if you really need to post it online at all.
In a recent CNN Article, Doug Gross covered the gamut of challenges that social media presents, from whether an employee has the right to flip Twitter followers to a new handle when they change jobs, to how companies handle negative posts by their employees. This reporter, who lost his brand- new job over a social media slip-up, should have known better than to post his exciting news without first clearing it with his superiors. Even if you intend no harm, the reality remains that as a young professional, it’s important to think critically about your social media presence.
Social Media is a beautiful thing. It creates a two-way conversation in business that has never existed before. Learning how to properly use it will give companies an undeniable edge, but learning how to manage your own personal networks requires developing a level of maturity and restraint that’s valuable across all levels of professional communications.
Now, go enjoy a viral video of some cat playing the piano.
Standup legend George Carlin once quipped: “As a matter of principle, I never attend the first annual anything.” While the late comedian’s observations were generally accurate, yesterday’s inaugural NY Tech Day was by most accounts a resounding success.
The event, which took place at New York’s historic 69th Regiment Armory, brought together a mix of NY tech startups, investors, press and job seekers. While the San Francisco Bay Area has been a tech hotbed for years, yesterday’s event was a testament to New York’s burgeoning tech startup scene.
The only real glitch – and an ironic one at that – was the wireless network set up for exhibitors was down all day. However, the opportunity to network with venture capitalists and tech reporters, as well as partake in a seemingly endless supply of free pizza kept everyone buzzing and happy throughout the day.
As a strategic communications firm working primarily with tech clients, NY Tech Day was interesting from several perspectives. While members of our team supported our client SparkRebel at their booth, we also got to walk around and see what innovative tech ideas have popped up in incubators and home offices across the city. We were impressed to see a variety of early stage companies laying the foundation for a long-term strategic communication campaign.
While the event was hardly CES (one guy said his marketing budget is basically a rounding error), there were some interesting recent and soon-to-be launched platforms that ranged from a sleep management tool to a social search engine for nightlife events. For tech startups like this, NY Tech Day was a good opportunity to engage in old-fashioned grassroots public relations. Whether startups handle their PR in house or with an agency, a bottom up approach to drive publicity and brand awareness can often produce surprising results.
The event has us bullish on NY tech companies, and we encourage startups to forge ahead and keep working to get your name out there and great ideas discovered.
It’s interesting to look back at science fiction films from decades past and compare the writer’s vision of the distant future with what is now in many cases not so distant. Take the 1982 Ridley Scott film Blade Runner, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which is set in Los Angeles in the year 2019, or Back to the Future II where Marty McFly flies the DeLorean to 2015.
Although there can and will be a host of technological advances over the next three to seven years, it’s easy to look at such movies and ask, “Where are the flying cars and androids?” Are these things on the horizon? Okay, maybe we’re still a ways off from issuing flight permits to every Tom, Dick and Harry, but could the holographic advertising technology McFly witnessed for the premier of Jaws 19 at the Holomax Theatre alreadybe here?
A recent New York Times article reported on Google’s plans to start selling eyeglasses “that will project information, entertainment and, this being a Google product, advertisements onto the lenses.” The glasses will work as a kind of transparent computer screen and include elements of augmented reality, and more controversial facial recognition software. With this product, Google is actually creating a new content touchpoint vehicle for consumers—of course with lots of paid advertisements driving the engine.
Google’s bleeding edge technology could quickly become mainstream and completely redefine content marketing, but as the article mentions, the glasses do raise a handful of privacy and ethical issues for users and advertisers. William Brinkman, graduate director of the computer science and software engineering department at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio stated: “In addition to privacy, it’s also going to change real-world advertising, where companies can virtually place ads over other people’s ads.” Brinkman goes on to say that regulation will be challenging on this new platform.
There are also safety issues. It’s already bad enough that millions of people talk and text behind the wheel, how about zoning out to virtual reality or having 3D images jump off billboards and into driver’s faces during morning rush hour traffic? (Now just for fun, think about this with the added element of flying cars.)
For better or worse, we’re beginning to witness “the future” of technology and advertising consumption take shape. As content continues to shift from desktop to mobile devices and now wearable interactive accessories, content marketing and recommendation strategies and tactics will evolve in tandem with the technology and remain an ongoing process. We will of course have our eyes fixed on what’s to come.
It’s been a few weeks since I returned from the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Although we’re still doing media follow up, the dust has largely settled, and I’ve had time to digest (almost) everything I saw. It wasn’t my first time in Sin City, but it was my first CES, and even as a New Yorker, it was challenging at times to process the hustle and bustle of this crazy convention—and even crazier city.
I spent the week supporting a client at their booth and interacting with a swarm of media and tech enthusiasts. I also had a chance to walk the show floor and see what other tech companies were promoting. I saw everything from pedometers for kids to the latest and greatest gadgets such as Samsung’s OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TVs.
When I returned home, I was interested to read about what the media had to say about their CES experiences. One particular Harvard Business Review article caught my interest. Alex Goldfayn, marketing consultant and CEO of the Evangelist Marketing Institute wrote an opinion piece titled: “Six Marketing Mistakes at CES 2012.” Two of his complaints really resonated with me, and address the very things we strive to avoid as professional communicators who support a variety of clients.
Point #1: “The people at the booths are not helpful — to attendees or to exhibitors. Many exhibitors build small cities for booths here, and they contract trade show “professionals” to “work” their temporary town. Some of these people are half-naked. Some color coordinated. All are trained in three or four talking points on the product they stand next to. And none of them are helpful. They can’t answer any questions. What if a new buyer happens upon them, or, God forbid, a reporter? You solve this problem by bringing your employees to work the booth. Your HR people and administrative assistants would be far more informed than the folks representing you currently.”
Our take: Although we of course can’t speak to what went on at every single booth, we agree with the overall premise that industry event support staff—and in this case their PR reps—need to be better informed about a client’s products or services and be prepared to speak intelligently during each and every conversation. This is true across all industries, whether your client is a tech company or tourist board. In fact, good publicists should always have a pulse on a client’s products, developments and the overall communication message. The job of a publicist doesn’t just end at making media introductions—it includes being a knowledgeable resource on behalf of our clients throughout the course of any interaction and conversation.
Point #2: “There are too many agencies doing a bad job at CES. This is a yearlong problem in the industry, but it’s especially pronounced this week. For example, one PR agency rep sent six press releases about one client in the days leading up to the show. The client, a smaller company, did not know this was happening, and learned through communications from angry recipients who felt they were being spammed. Ask yourself: do you know exactly how your agency is representing you, and is it helpful?”
Our take: Good PR needs to be strategic—meaning everything we do supports our client’s larger business objectives. The client/PR Agency relationship needs to be built on the idea of partnership, collaboration and a belief that your PR team knows what they are doing and are working in-sync with the client. After all, we’re in the business of communication and should do nothing less than be specifically communicating with clients the plan for execution per initiative. It’s imperative PR reps uphold the reputation of their clients with all media and other important stakeholders.
All in all, CES was an interesting and educational experience, and although critical in nature, Alex’s article reminded me of the important aspects of the PR business, and how important strategic approach is to client relationships.
We’ve all witnessed a major shift in how content is produced and disseminated—especially over the past five years. From the death of major newspapers including the Rocky Mountain News and Oakland Tribune, to the migration of magazines to tablets and eBook Readers, there’s certainly cause to assume the end of print is imminent. But is it? This debate has gone back and forth for some time now, with blog posts like “5 Reasons Print Media Will Die” and interviews such as “Digital Sales Won’t Cannibalize Print Media,” where David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines weighs in on the topic.
Whatever side you fall on, it’s undeniable that how we consume content continues to evolve—and publishing industry executives have obviously taken note. On December 1, 2011, a New York Times article reported that Time Warner made a bold move and appointed “the first executive from outside traditional magazine publishing to head Time Inc.” Time Warner, which publishes 21 popular titles including Time, People, and InStyle, is betting that Laura Lang’s career built in digital advertising will prove useful in the new media landscape.
How well Ms. Lang will do at the helm of Time Inc. is yet to be seen. Her lack of experience at a media company poses a challenge, but her ability to understand the space that publications are moving to, and an ability to see the big picture about how people prefer to consume media should prove helpful.
While print media may never completely die, digital platforms will continue to play a big part in the publishing world. Is this hire a risky move for Time Inc., and its giant portfolio of brands? Perhaps. But it’s also a strategic move that shows Time Warner at least understands the most important paradigm in marketing: know your customer.
There was a recent blog post in the Seattle PI titled ‘Starbucks customer takes company to task over table squatting’.
The author of the post, who admittedly had been at a Starbucks New York location for a several hour period, was asked by the manager to leave the store since he wasn’t making any additional purchases. The situation was also discussed on the Today Show and in this CBS New York story.
I was surprised to learn that this was not an isolated incident. In fact, several Starbucks have decided NOT to embrace the idea of longer length customer visits but rather, in some cases, shun them. I should mention that this doesn’t seem to be a corporate policy but something Starbucks corporate has said is up to the discretion of local regional stores. Whatever the case may be – as a coffee drinker I am confused.
It takes a quick Google search on the name Starbucks to find out how well the company is doing. Chief Executive Howard Schultz recently told Reuters, ”Starbucks is having its best year and our business remains strong.” Most of us who follow the stock market know this is a huge turnaround from 2008 when the company got pounded in the housing market collapse. I would actually say that their restructuring to get consumers back into the store and buying coffee has been quite impressive.
So I am confused, then, about why a manager would feel like they need to rush customers out the door for hanging out too long. Didn’t it used to be that the whole idea of a coffee house was to give people a place to go, relax, sip coffee, type on your laptop, listen to poetry, etc. I remember the early days of Starbucks when squatting seemed to be encouraged, not shunned. I can’t completely fathom what would necessitate a move away from what some may consider a strong ideological component of the brand. For a quick turnaround experience? Is Starbucks coffee even good enough for that? (Guess that’s an entirely new debate….)
Putting my entrepreneurial hat on for a moment, from a practical business standpoint the reason why Starbucks may not want squatters is logical. Squatters take up space and might discourage others from entering the store who would undoubtedly buy some sort of product; in general, squatters make it less comfortable for those who have just made a purchase and now have nowhere to sit. It’s all logical. But is that strong enough to throw a curve ball in what once was part of the overall customer experience? Didn’t Starbucks first adopt Wi-Fi so people would hang out?
If the Starbucks brand is about offering the customer a quality coffee experience, surely there can be a compromise here. Maybe the high-trafficked stores can dedicate certain sections for squatters and/or have certain hours they are allowed to squat. Maybe they even charge some kind of extra fee – fair is fair. But to flat out say no more doesn’t feel good to me.
From a public relations standpoint, does Starbucks corporate really want to deal with any sort of negative press on this issue? Wouldn’t it be better for them to figure out a way for all sides to win (and not leave it up to individual stores)? Isn’t the Starbucks experience supposed to be the Starbucks experience – no matter which Starbucks you are at.
I guess all this leads me to the end of my post – I do have other work to do today. Of course, it doesn’t seem like I will be doing it from my local Starbucks. Today, for me, Dunkin Donuts wins!
As you can probably tell from our website, Indicate Media has a strong affinity for elevating the discussion around all things related to education. It is not only a personal passion for our company, it is also unarguably one of the most important issues of our time. In this post we will take a preliminary look at the concept of social learning.
We recently had a chance to sit down with someone working in the publishing industry. This person was working overtime to try to get her head around the idea of taking social learning from concept to execution for her organization. She was also trying to create best practices for how her authors (mainly those who write text books) can leverage the social learning concept to both enhance learning and, of course, drive more sales for their books.
Social learning is, at its core, simply about collaboration. It is not just a professor with a Facebook page or one who Tweets. While it would be inaccurate to think that Facebook and Twitter don’t have a place in social learning, they are, however, each just one piece of a much larger puzzle. We spent some time doing our diligence to try and uncover the mystery behind social learning, how is it being implemented today and the analytics we are seeing arise from this concept. We will be presenting our findings in a series of blog posts.
There are three challenges we see today as an obstacle for social learning prior to the concept becoming mainstream. The first is simply adoption by those who have never thought to teach this way (for teachers), write books this way (for authors), or learn this way (for mostly older students). There has to be an entire shift in how the internet, mobile, and social learning concepts are being looked at in education. The second is the numerous platforms, technologies and applications being developed around social learning, which are horribly organized making it a daunting task to find and understand which platform might be most suitable for one’s needs. The third is an information technology (IT) challenge. With issues like privacy, network administration and cloud computing all being key concerns for IT administrators – coupled with the fact that each platform, technology or application has its own log-in and rules – it is no wonder publishing houses are working overtime to try and sort through this mess.
However, we all know that with every challenge comes an opportunity. And now is the time to turn up our focus on this very important concept and develop best practices for social learning. We would argue that social learning is not about one technology versus the next, rather it is about the sum of the whole. It is about identifying the many different types of social resources one could use to forward their objectives and using those resources one by one as per the specific needs. In other words, it is not about just identifying 5 social learning techniques, it is about identifying 100s of them and then leveraging select techniques as appropriate.
In our next post we will take a further look at these techniques mentioned above and present some companies we believe should be on your radar.
There was an interesting article recently in Crain’s New York Business titled, “Why you shouldn’t ignore Facebook”. In the article the reporter, Anne Fisher, makes an extremely intelligent argument for the reasons why Facebook can be a value-add to a small business. While it is true that the world is still trying to validate the overall usefulness of Facebook for businesses, it is also true that not having a presence doesn’t make sense from a strategic communications standpoint.
Companies today need to have a mechanism for engaging with their appropriate audiences in whichever format the audience wants to engage. While it is easy to get caught up on the number of followers a business has, the truth is it doesn’t necessarily matter. Obviously, the more followers you have the more exposure you have. However, a small business with only a handful of followers still has a platform to engage. Since it is extremely hard to predict which followers can and will lead to a tipping point in a company’s business, the best bet is to set up shop on all appropriate platforms, and one by one try and build up brand credibility and loyalty. Since leveraging Facebook is not necessarily a complicated or time consuming process, it seems like a no brainer.
Companies today need to think about and utilize social media in a very strategic fashion. It is important to, for example, put out Tweets 120 characters at a time, in an effort to make someone think “interesting, I think I will follow them”. The point of this is the more people you have following the company, the bigger platform you have to leverage when you have something really important to say.
As we have learned from the ‘Long Tail’, social media doesn’t have to be about the masses. It is about an outlet for engagement to an interested audience. The communications industry will continue to innovate and develop new tactics and uses for social media which will be directly designed to achieve a company’s objectives. However, until the time comes when businesses are regularly able to pull in 1000s of followers at a time, one by one will have to do.
Over the weekend we said goodbye to the ‘Big Man’ Clarence Clemmons. Clarence was a transformational musician and his presence in the E Street Band was nothing short of astounding. Anyone who ever saw Clarence blow his horn knows exactly the talent he brought to the stage night after night after night (as Bruce would say).
Clarence spoke to the world, not through words, but through music. His style, personality, pure talent, and 40 year collaboration with The Boss made the E Street Band one of the best of all time.
Some may ask why Indicate Media is writing about this? The answer is simple. This blog is devoted to recognizing greatness and Clarence was one the best.
It will not be the same the next time we see Bruce and the band without you Clarence. But take solace in the fact that no matter who is playing the notes, we know where they came from. With each breath that person takes, we are paying tribute to you and the legacy you left us with. RIP Clarence. You will be missed.
Hello world and welcome to the very first Indicate Media blog post. We are very excited to use this platform to regularly bring you the latest news, events, information, opinions, and whatever else we think necessary and appropriate.
Our plan is to a take a serious, practical and as much as possible, humorist approach to the things we believe are interesting. This blog will be a collective voice representing all things Indicate Media and not focused on any one individual.
Our mission as an organization is to explore the world of communication and its constantly changing landscape. We are dedicated to performing cutting-edge public relations campaigns for our clients specifically designed to achieve their objectives. However, at the same time we would like to execute on our mission to be light hearted and have fun along the way. It is a very serious world and humor can bring out the best in everyone and everything.
Finally, Indicate Media has a dedicated purpose of giving back to the charity’s, people or anything we and our clients believe is a worthy cause. Why build a platform to not utilize it? The world needs our help and we are here to answer the call by doing tremendous work for our clients and giving back to the things we deem important.
We encourage all feedback and/or blog ideas as we embark on this mission to create an enjoyable and well-read blog.