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.

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.

Print Media: Facing a Digital Future or Extinction

shutterstock_116212888In an early episode of “House of Cards,” the new Netflix TV series about Washington’s political underbelly, the editor of the fictional Washington Herald newspaper gets fired because he’s stuck in a pre-internet era, an era without instant news updates or constant online chatter.

He wants things to remain as they’ve always been. And he’s not happy when a rising young reporter gets lots of media attention for her scoops and then turns down his offer to be the paper’s primary Capitol Hill reporter, in part, because she wants to write a political blog, a medium he sees as being beyond contempt.

This episode shows the tough decisions faced every day by the print media: Should they maintain their ostrich stance, ignoring changes that are battering their industry, making obsolete their old business models, and rapidly destroying their individual companies? Or should they embrace online media with their new rules and their seeming disregard of traditional ethics, standards, and ways of doing business?

While the Washington Herald is fictional, two long-term print newspapers—Daily Variety and the Financial Times, each publishing a daily edition for more than a century—are real. Both publications have been dealing with the problems caused by online competition, and each has taken a different approach to dealing with them, as news articles pointed out last month.

The first sentence of a recent New York Times article on Daily Variety, which has been a leader in covering the entertainment industry for 108 years, makes clear that this newspaper’s approach didn’t work. The sentence was short, to the point, and quite clear: “Daily Variety is dead.” And so it is, along with its companion magazine, Weekly Variety.

This newspaper that had printed stories each day—once considered a fast distribution of news—could no longer compete against digital outlets that posted and updated stories throughout the day. Its number of subscribers had dropped to about 25,000, and it was losing staff members. Some freelance writers went months without being paid for their stories.

Apparently, the only concession Daily Variety made toward the changing digital world of journalism was to start a website years ago. But that site was surrounded by a pay wall—a barrier that readers of few publications in 2009 were willing to cross. The Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 2.14.06 PMwebsite, which will remain active, is now offering readers free access to its information.

The Financial Times, a 125-year-old London newspaper covering the financial market, has taken a different approach to competition. Without giving up on its print publication, it has embraced an online future.

As a result, it has done much better than Daily Variety and, in fact, better than many print newspapers facing digital disruption. In February, The New York Times said that although the Financial Times print editions are fading, the publication “has figured out how to make significant money from new outlets, without straying from its original purpose.”

Now, the online publication has more than 300,000 subscribers, slightly more than those who get the printed edition. That’s also more than triple the number of online subscribers in 2007, when the Financial Times switched from a pay wall to a metered approach, giving online readers a number of free articles before charging them. About one-fourth of its digital subscribers are on mobile devices—which, many experts believe, hold the future of online communications. In its continuing effort to strengthen its digital offering and subscribers, the publication has just introduced its weekend mobile app.

The Financial Times sees its future as “serving a digital platform first and a newspaper second,” according to its editor. Nevertheless, it has no near-term plans to discontinue the print edition. Although print is being streamlined, it remains an important part of the Financial Times.

Apparently, the Financial Times learned some time ago that it’s less important whether its news is delivered in print or online, as long it’s accurate and timely, and its quality is beyond reproach. And it learned that its future—like that of countless newspapers across the country—depends on learning how to outsmart competitors, playing under new rules in an unfamiliar field, while continuing to play its own game.

This is a lesson the old editor on “House of Cards” and those of Daily Variety never learned.

Photo: Shutterstock/Slavoljub Pantelic         

02/16/13: Communications Stories from Here & There

Below are four notable communications stories from the week ending February 16, 2013.

“A Failure of Imagination: Why Bookish and Other Recommendation Engines Fall Short” by Hillary Kelly, on The New Republic magazine’s website, February 11.

In this entertaining and informative piece, Kelly takes a look at Bookish (the newly launched book-centric website) and other sites that use algorithms to attempt to correctly recommend books that readers might enjoy.

She believes these sites, including Amazon and Goodreads, have some value, saying, for example, “Online recommendation engines are not inherently useless. They are indeed fast and convenient, and some more than others provide a certain community.” But she often finds their recommendations to be of little value because they are based on information that is too limited (such as the books she bought only from one particular site or an inadequate understanding of her tastes and desires—even when given plenty of chances to get them right), and are based only on what she bought, not why she bought it.

“The Key to Writing Great Blog Posts,” a post by Shelly Kramer on the V3 Integrated Marketing website, February 12.

Great blogs and other Web content depend, of course, on good writing but also on “making your post readable, shareable and discoverable,” says Kramer. She then discusses the importance of having great headlines, delivering on the promise made in your headline, and using subheads, pictures and meta descriptions to make your post effective.

“The Government is Watching Social Media Policies” by Bob Feldman, on PR Week website, February 15.

In this column, Feldman, a cofounder and principal of the digital and management consulting firm PulsePoint Group, says that although companies are adopting social media policies “to limit the potential of damage and help save employees from the consequences of their own poor judgment,” the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) thinks some companies may be going “too far in restricting employee speech.”

The NLRB’s ruling could affect almost all private employers.

“Why the Word ‘Panties’ Is so Awful (and What to Do about It)” by Sarah Fentem, on the Atlantic magazine’s website,

Fentem, who says the word “panties” creeps her out, is, apparently, not the only person who hates this nickname for women’s underwear. She says many blog posts and message boards denounce the word, which is “simultaneously too-sexualized and too-babyish.”

The word is too babyish, she says, because its “ies” ending “puts it in the same category as ‘booties’ and ‘blankies’—words often associated with small children.” Why it’s a sexy word is not easily understood, she says. But she suggests a few reasons, one being because “it refers to something so exclusively feminine.”

02/09/13: Communications Stories from Here & There

Below are five noteworthy communications stories from the week ending February 9, 2013.

“Age, Gender Determine ‘Go-To’ Devices” on eMarketer website, February 4.

As this article explains, TV in 2013 is still the go-to source of news and entertainment for most Americans, according to a new study by Harris Interactive. But young adults—those between 18 and 34—are quickly turning away from TV and relying instead on their laptops and smartphones.

Charts in this article show the percentages of different age groups moving to new devices and those considering replacing their computers with tablets.

“Nine Writing Mistakes You’re Probably Making” by Ben Yogada on The Huffington Post, February 5.

Yogada, the author of How to Not Write Bad, says that for writing, it’s the best of times because so much writing is being done and it’s the worst of times because much of this writing is bad.

He lists nine writing mistakes and explains how to correct them.  The first mistake, for example, is being wordy. By “wordy,” though, he does not mean writing long sentences. He means using words that should be omitted.

“Pentagon gearing up to fight the PR war” by Walter Pincus, in The Washington Post, February 6.

In this informative article, Pincus says that although public relations (referred to as Inform and Influence Activities) is not new to the military, the U.S. Army is now embracing PR as a key element of its 21st-century military operations. He quotes the new Army field manual as stating PR is critical in “. . . leading operations toward attaining the desired end state,” and that “Victory depends on a commander’s ability to shape, sway, and alter foreign audience perceptions, and ultimately behavior, especially in the area of operations.”

These objectives would fit into almost any good PR campaign.

 “The Peculiar Twitter Tactics of Social Media Influencers” by Haydn Shaughnessy, on the Forbes website, February 7.

Shaughnessy, suggests in this post that Twitter has “become the channel for the new motivational micro-speech,” leading the trend in social media to provide readers with inspiration and motivation. He says there are “social media influencers whose tweets and interactions are regularly interspersed with homilies,” and he gives interesting examples.

“10 Tips From Boing Boing On Making Online Content Sing” by Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield in Fast Company, February 8.

Sweeney and Gosfield are the authors of The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well. In this article, they excerpt from their book ten tips for building an addictive, compelling website. Their tips come from Mark Frauenfelder, founder of the online magazine Boing Boing, which has been published since 1995 and has 2.5 unique visitors a month.

The tips provide good advice. For example, the second one—be original—says, “Make the blog that doesn’t exist yet, but that you’d want to read.”