09/21/13: Communications Stories from Here & There

Below are six communications stories of note from the recent past.

Delivering on Thought Leadership by Harrison Wise, on PRWeek’s website, August 23.

For much of my work, I write white papers and bylined articles that help executives establish their thought leadership, and I know how important it is to provide readers’ with valuable content. I agree with Wise’s comment that “No matter how you look at it, the people or businesses that lead with regular advice, useful information, and provide helpful tips get more traffic and more business.”

In this piece, Wise, who is president of Wise Public Relations, states that a thought-leadership position in today’s socially connected world delivers authority, social proof, scarcity and influence. He provides five ways to develop a plan that positions a business executive as an industry thought leader.

Putin Op-Ed: Good PR or a Betrayal of Nation? By Steve Barrett, on PRWeek’s website, September 13.

In this piece, Barrett, editor-in-chief of PRWeek, discusses PR agency Ketchum’s role in placing Russian president Vladimir Putin’s recent Op-Ed about Syria in The New York Times. He considers whether Ketchum should include Russia as a client—the kind of issue faced by many global PR firms—as well as whether the agency might actually have written the Op-Ed—a common practice agencies perform for their clients.

What Businesses Need to Understand About Big (and Small) Data by Danny Brown, on arcompany.co, September 12.

“Big data” is all around us. And whether or not marketers today are aware of it, they “constantly work with data so of course they should know what ‘big data’  is and how it differs from ‘small,’ says Brown, vice president of marketing and technology at ArCompany. He provides a quick background on how data became big data, how big data differs from small data, and why big data is important to marketers.

Who Says the Traditional Storytelling Arc Can’t Work in Business? by Lou Hoffman, on the Ishmael’s Corner website, September 19.

The traditional storytelling arc—which starts with an opening scene and goes through a number of crises before reaching the climax and denouement—often takes too much time for storytelling done by most PR and marketing practitioners. In this piece, however, Hoffman, who has written about storytelling for some time, gives a good example of how this technique can be used in business communications.

His example is from True Move, a telecommunications company in Thailand. The company’s three-minute video “jumps right into the bad stuff,” shows things get worse, and then ends on a happy note. Filled with humanity, it grabs the viewer’s attention right away and keeps it until the end.

Storytelling Ads May be Journalism’s New Peril by David Carr in The New York Times, September 15.

Carr, who writes a regular Times column on the media, says in this piece, “Now the new rage is native advertising, which is to say advertising wearing the uniform of journalism, mimicking the storytelling aesthetic of the host site.”

This content is usually labeled as advertising, but it frequently looks very much like the news pieces that surround it, often with the same “headline, art, and text configuration of an editorial work,” Carr says. While native advertising (sometimes called sponsored content) provides a new advertising medium for companies and a new revenue stream for media outlets, if not done right, it can confuse readers and diminish the outlets’ credibility with them.

Carr quotes Joe McCambley, whose company helped build the first of the now-ubiquitous banner ads for websites: Native advertising “has to stand on its own as good journalism. Bad native advertising is destructive for the publishers that host it.”

Social Media, Big Data and Visualization by Cameron Uganec, on blog.hootsuite.com, September 20.

Here’s another take on big data. In this post, Uganec, Hootsuite’s director of marketing and communications, offers this clear definition of “big data”: “If a traditional database is a collection of data, then big data is a collection of collections of data. Usually, those different collections are in totally different formats, and it’s not obvious how to fit them together in a way that makes any sense.”

Although he does not show how to fit the data collections together, he does discuss how to get started with big data, and then he focuses on how big data can provide great social-media storytelling, especially when told with visuals. He provides a great visualization of Twitter data showing the progress of power outages occurring in the Northeast during Hurricane Sandy.

A Joyce Carol Oates Quote on Social Media

It’s a little surprising to me that social media have turned out to be kind of prissy and prim and politically correct.

Joyce Carol Oates, writer of countless books of fiction, plays, poetry, and nonfiction, made this statement in response to the furor caused by her series of tweets that seems to question whether religion has played a role in Egypt’s “epidemic” of sexual abuse and rape. In his New York Times piece, Tweeting Toward Sacrilege, op-ed columnist Frank Bruni says Oates “isn’t sure why a format seemingly designed for uncensored, spontaneous, imprecise musings, not nuanced manifestoes, should become grist for such outrage.”

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.

O6/22/13: Communications Stories from Here & There

Below are four recent noteworthy communications stories.

Washington Post Opens Online Opinion Pages to Sponsored Content by William Launder, on the Washington Post’s website, June 12.

In this article, Launder points out that the Washington Post is now accepting branded content from trade groups, lobbying firms and companies as responses to the paper’s editorials. This action by the Post further widens the opportunities for marketers and others to deliver their specific messages to targeted audiences without relying on traditional advertising or earned media coverage. Several other publications also are moving into sponsored content in their printed editions as well as on their websites.

Social Stories: How to Use Storytelling on Twitter by Shanna Mallon on Spin Sucks, June 17.

Mallon writes, “The limitations of Twitter are no excuse for not putting storytelling to work, especially when you consider the ways others are turning it into a powerful tool.” She offers a few helpful tips on sharing your company’s narrative or your personal story on Twitter, even within its limit of 140 character per tweet.

What Is Brand Journalism? Get the Answer in Fewer than 3 Minutes on Ragan’s PR Daily website, June 18.

In this short video, Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications, and Jim Ylisela, head of Ragan Consulting, provide a clear definition of the term brand journalism and explain the idea of “a company as a media outlet.” While neither the term nor the idea is new, PR people just being introduced to them will find this discussion valuable.

Avoid Social Media Slipups the Dunkin’ Donuts Way by Dave Johnson on CBSNews.com, June 19.

Johnson writes that when confronted by an angry customer wielding a smartphone with video rolling, a Dunkin’ Donuts salesperson handled the situation appropriately, perhaps avoiding a viral video that would be damaging to the company. He says the salesperson acted “calm, cool and polite through the entire TV ordeal,” and in the end the customer came off looking like the villain. Johnson provides lessons other companies can learn from the situation.

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.