07/20/13: Communications Stories from Here & There

Below are five noteworthy communications stories from the past few days.

Sponsored Content: An Ethical Framework by Richard Edelman, on edelman.com, July 16.

In this article, Edelman writes about his agency’s newly released special report on PR agencies’ opportunity to develop an ethical framework for sponsored content—content written and produced by marketers, not the media outlets. He says that PR agencies must “have a different set of ethical standards than the media buyer or ad agency, because our profession relies primarily on its trusted relationship with earned media. Those principles fall into three broad categories: Disclosure, Quality and Process.”

He discusses those categories and provides a link for downloading the report: “Sponsored Content: A Broader Relationship with the U.S. News Media.”

Social Media Makes for Better Student Writing, Not Worse, Teachers Say by Joanna Stern on abcnews.go.com, July 16.

In this article, Stern provides anecdotal and study evidence showing that social media and digital technologies are having a positive—not negative, as many people would believe—effect on student writing. A new study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the National Writing Project, for example, shows that three-fourths of the teachers questioned believe digital technologies “encourage study creativity and personal expression,” Stern says.

This result, it seems, is due mainly to students wanting to improve the quality of their classroom writing because they are sharing it with a wider audience through blogs and other online outlets.

Three Steps to Becoming a Thought Leader in Your Industry by Louise Julig, on socialmediaexaminer, July 17.

This article on how Drillinginfo, a company serving the oil and gas industry, has used social media to become an industry thought leader and to become recognized by potential and current customers as a premier source of information in the industry. Specifically, Julig details the company’s efforts to blog with a plan, market its marketing, and network with influencers.

Others can learn from Drillinginfo’s successful content marketing work.

Presentation Skills Learned from ‘Mad Men’ by Danny Groner on ragan.com, July 18.

Groner offers five tips that will help PR professionals—and others who give presentations—succeed while showing “some Draper-like swagger that’ll keep people on the edge of their seats.” To see how it’s really done, watch the three videos embedded in the article.

Brands Look for Guide to Navigate New World of Native Advertising by Sarah Shearman, on prweekus.com, July 19.

The growing importance of native advertising is increasing the PR industry’s “need to create a set of standards to keep the line between editorial and advertising intact,” Shearman reports. If this line is blurred, she writes, reader trust will erode because native advertising “threatens to encroach on the line that editorial and readers hold sacred.”

One of the first steps in creating these standards would be for people in the media and in the PR and advertising industries to agree on a consistent definition of “native advertising,” which Shearman describes broadly as “brand-sponsored content on a media site that is housed with and closely aligned with editorial in subject matter, design, and style.” It is sometimes referred to as “sponsored content,” as Richard Edelman does in his article mentioned above.

05/11/13: Communications Stories from Here & There

Below are eight recent communications stories of note.

The 10 Best Words the Internet Has Given English by Tom Chatfield, in the Guardian, April 17.

In this article, Chatfield, a self-described etymology addict, looks at the history of ten words that are gaining new life and, in some instances, new meanings on the Internet.

The New Look of Public Relations by Stuart Elliott, in The New York Times, April 28, discusses PR firm FleishmanHillard’s rebranding as an integrated marketing communications agency. The New Look of Public Relations—A Dissenting View by Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, in his 6 A.M. blog, May 8, looks at his firm’s approach to preparing for the future.

The PR business is in flux. And agencies everywhere are trying to determine their future role in the overall marketing space and in controlling their clients’ paid, earned, owned, and shared media mix. The best way for them to brand, or rebrand, themselves for this challenge is up for grabs, as these two articles show.

Solving Equation of a Hit Script, With Data by Brooks Barnes, in The New York Times, May 5.

Barnes writes that a former statistics professor thinks he can improve screenplays by comparing “the story structure and genre of a draft script with those of released movies, looking for clues to box-office success.” Vinny Bruzzese is not a writer. Instead, he’s interested in using data, which he gathers from focus groups and interviews with moviegoers, to suggest script changes. One screenwriter calls Bruzzese’s approach “my worse nightmare.”

Linguists Identify 15,000-Year-Old ‘Ultraconserved Words’ by David Brown in The Washington Post, May 6.

Some words are coined and then disappear in a matter of years. Even the strongest usually last only about 9,000 years before becoming extinct. But linguists have discovered a few words that have been around for 150 centuries, and they’re wondering why.

Grammar Rules Everyone Should Follow by Thomas Jones in the Guardian, May 9.

Jones says that although these “rules” are really conventions not rules, they’re worth following “in the right kinds of discourse” because they make writing clearer and more elegant. He is correct in eight of his suggestions, but I think he’s wrong about the use of who and whom.

Trying to Be Hip and Edgy, Ads Become Offensive by Stuart Elliott and Tanzina Vega, in The New York Times, May 10.

The authors say that advertising agencies and their clients may be trying too hard to reach millennials and “to create ads that will be noticed and break through the clutter.” The result: They are creating more and more offensive ads, leading to public outrage as well as embarrassment (and worse) for Madison Avenue and the brands being promoted.

The 30 Most Influential Bloggers in Public Relations on The CyberAlert Blog.

Today, there are more than 180 million blogs published worldwide on the Internet. Most have only a handful of followers, and their comments leave little or no trail. But a few bloggers are extremely influential, with thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of followers who can’t wait for their next post.

CyberAlert, a media monitoring service, has identified the 30 most influential bloggers who write about public relations and social media. PR and corporate communications professionals might want to take a look at what these bloggers have to say.

03/16/13: Communications Stories from Here & There

Below are seven notable communications stories from the two weeks ending Saturday, March 16.

Blogs Outrank Social Networks for Consumer Influence: New Research by Patricia Redsicker, on the Social Media Examiner website, March 6.

Redsicker reports some interesting findings of Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report.

Among the six findings she highlights are: One, blogs influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. In fact, they are “the third most influential digital resource (31%) when making overall purchases, behind retail sites (56%) and brand sites (34%).” Two, brands and influencers measure success differently. “Brands see success as increased activity on Facebook, Twitter or their websites, while influencers rank blog or website page views as the best measure of success.”

9 Tips to Enhance Your Content Marketing by Bill Miltenberg, on the PRNews website, March 8.

Miltenberg provides tips culled from PR News’ recent Digital PR Summit that featured three PR/content marketing professionals: David Patton from Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, Chad Melton from Ingersoll Rand, and Eliza Anderson from Intrepid Travel.

Why Brands Should Embrace Honesty by Nicola Kemp, on the MediaWeek website, March 13.

Kemp leaves no doubt how she feels about honesty: “At a time when consumer trust in businesses and institutions is at an all-time low, brands can no longer afford to shroud themselves in secrecy and hide behind generic press releases and oblique statements.”

She also makes it clear that achieving honesty will not be easy for businesses: “While the corporate communications industry has effectively built its trade on helping businesses save face, it has a long way to go in adapting to a world in which consumers are demanding that the face in question is a true and honest one.”

Pope Francis, Need Some Public-Relations Help? Here’s Advice from America’s Political Consultants by Brain Resnick and Elahe Izadi on the NationalJournal website, March 13.

For this piece, the writers asked a number of political consultants what they think Pope Francis might do to improve the image of the church and to shore up its support and confidence.

Democratic strategist Mo Elleithee says, “It’s not that different from politics here—you’ve got [to] connect with people, convince them that you ‘get them’ and that you’re willing and able to fix institutional problems.” Kevin Madden, a Republican advisor, says, “Presenting a reformist agenda will be a critical part of generating goodwill with Catholics around the world as well as those Vatican-watchers.”

Other consultants offer suggestions. Most are not only appropriate for the Pope and his church but are relevant for corporations and other large organizations facing their own crisis.

Gartner Finds Corporate Websites Still a Higher Digital Marketing Priority for U.S. Marketers Than Facebook—Just by Natasha Lomas, on TechCrunch, March 13.

In this article, Lomas says a Gartner survey of U.S.-based companies shows that “corporate websites are ranked as the top digital activity for marketing ‘success’ — beating marketing on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.” Forty-five percent of the survey respondents say that their corporate websites contribute to their companies’ success, while 43% say their social media efforts boost marketing success.

Lomas quotes Gartner’s research director as stating, “The survey results suggest that the corporate website will not be displaced anytime soon by a brand’s social media presence.”

The Journalist and the PR Pro: A Broken Marriage?” by Peter Himler, on the Forbes website, March 14.

“The historical love-hate relationship between journalists and PR professionals has taken a distinct turn toward the latter in recent years and cuts across virtually every media beat,” Himler says. But he doesn’t see the relationship as being completely broken.

Himler, a seasoned PR/media strategist, gives a few suggestions for what each side of this media-relations equation might do to do improve its relationship with the other.

How the PR Industry of Yesteryear Compares with Today by Michael Sebastian, on Ragan’s PR Daily, March 15.

Sebastian begins his piece by stating, “In just a decade, aspects of the public relations field have become unrecognizable.” Then he provides an infographic from InkHouse Media + Marketing showing how today’s PR industry compares with itself of a few years ago.

At the bottom of the piece is a link to another story worth checking out. This one lists 10 signs that show you are an old-school PR pro.

Taking a Hike Plaque and Keeping up with the Jones’

Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 5.46.23 PMAs it does occasionally, The New York Times in a recent article asked twenty questions about advertising, the media, and popular culture. Here are two questions about ads in 2012 that caught my attention:

  • Do any of the copywriters who crafted the ads for the Crest Pro-Health Clinical Line of oral-care products sold by Procter & Gamble realize that the way they punctuated the headlines, which read “Take a hike plaque, and don’t hurry back,” suggests that consumers ought to get their hands on a “hike plaque,” whatever the heck that might be?

  • Will any English teachers who wear the Jones New York clothing sold by the Jones Group scold the copywriters who came up with the headline “Keeping up with the Jones’ ” for the brand’s ads?

Clearly, the Crest ad is missing an important comma after “hike,” a comma necessitated by the fact that the sentence is addressing plaque, telling it to take a hike. The comma is necessary here just as it would be in a sentence such as, “Go to the office, Bob.” Since this mistake is frequently made in advertising, my guess is that even in an example like this, the writers would not have known that they needed a comma.

The Jones ad leaves one asking, “Keeping up with the Jones’ what?” Clearly the writers meant to say “Joneses,” meaning to not fall behind in the competition to own as many possessions as your neighbors, whose last name is Jones. But by adding the apostrophe instead of the “es,” they made the name possessive, and so it requires an object, such as car, which is, perhaps, speeding down the road, and you are trying to catch up with it. Or maybe it could refer to lifestyle, which would be appropriate in this case, but even then “lifestyle” would have to be added to the sentence, so the reader does not have to guest what it means.

You can read the other 18 questions from the article at http://ow.ly/gJP2A .

01/26/13: Communications Stories from Here & There

Below are five noteworthy communications stories published during the week ending January 26, 2013.

“Saying What Matters in 701 Words,” by Ronald C. White, Jr., in The New York Times, Sunday, January 20.

White, author of Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural, writes in this article about what many consider to be the best inaugural address ever written.

In his short speech of only 701 words—taking him perhaps about five minutes to deliver—Lincoln chose not to give his audience what they expected but instead to surprise them in a number of ways.

Read the story here: http://ow.ly/h2B7v .

“Don’t Write off Print Ads Just Yet,” by Michael Wolff, in USA Today, Monday, January 21.

Wolff makes the argument that print ads still work (look at those by Apple Google, IKEA, Lego, Ray-Ban, Old Spice, Harley-Davidson, for example) and they should not be overlooked by ad agencies and their clients, who often do so because agencies can make more money from TV and digital ads, and the clients find these media more exciting than print.

He also points out that many of the young agency people hired today create ads for TV and digital because, in part, they have trouble mastering language skills. “They live in an unwritten world and cannot, practically speaking, produce a written ad,” he says.

Read the story here: http://ow.ly/h2AYt .

“10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a PR Firm” by Jane Porter, in Entrepreneur, Tuesday, January 22.

These are ten very good questions that every business should ask before deciding which PR agency to hire. Large businesses have most likely been through this exercise a number of times and so know what questions to ask, but small companies need to be especially diligent in making sure they ask these questions and get the answers that will be best for them.

All the questions are asked of the PR agencies being considered. And I would add that the initial question—How are you going to measure your success?—should first be asked of the company itself (and answered carefully) because the way the agency measures success must align with the way the company wants the agency’s success measured. Counting media mentions might be nice but may not be useful to the company that really wants to know how PR will increase sales.

Read the story here: http://ow.ly/h2zQA.

“Pope Benedict on Social Networking: The Virtual is Real” by Nicole Winfield, on The Huffington Post, Thursday, January 24.

Winfield writes in this story that the Pope, who, at 85, tweets in nine languages and has 2.5 million followers, said this week that the Catholic Church must use social media to better engage young people and to attract new members.

Read the story here: http://ow.ly/h8lxq.

“Inside Forbes: A New Wave of Digital Journalist Is Showing a Profession the Way Forward” by Lewis DVorkin on Forbes.com, Friday, January 25.

In this interesting piece, DVorkin, a Forbes staff member, writes about the way the publication’s digital journalists go about doing their jobs and how their approach differs from that of traditional journalists. The article, which includes a video with interviews of some Forbes digital writers, lays out a model for the future of journalism.

Read the story here: http://ow.ly/h8jWo.