Déjà Vu All Over Again?

For the next few weeks, I’m serving as the EMEA guest commentator for the Holmes Report’s Think Tank blog and sharing my thoughts on a number of timely news issues. In my newest post, I take a look at how the numbers that are being attached to the value of social media expertise are giving PR firms some reason to take pause. Check out the full post here.

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Health-E Minds

Health-E Minds

Another blog?Isn’t there already enough being said about healthcare on the Internet? Is there a need for Ketchum to extend its external voice to healthcare?We think there is. Certainly there’s no shortage of healthcare news and information on the Internet and our goal isn’t to just echo what’s already “out there.”

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Lessons From Ketchum Sampark

Lessons From Ketchum Sampark

The month of April was an exciting high point for everyone in India, and especially for my colleagues and me at what was recently Sampark Public Relations and is now Ketchum Sampark. A momentous event brought together all Indians for a spectacular celebration, and a major merger brought together Sampark Public Relations with Ketchum. Each offers some important lessons in similar ways.

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Positive Deviance: Making the World a Better Place Through Deviance

The concept of positive deviance sounds slightly shady, but it’s actually a morally upright idea for how to make the world a better place! The basic idea is that when you want to change the world, don’t look at the great mass of people who need to change and start there; instead look at those most deviant from the existing norm who are already doing the new behaviors the rest of the group should adopt.While this can seem a “no-brainer,” the most common approach to changing behaviors starts with the masses. For example, in marketing, where a brand manager wants consumers to adopt a new way of interacting with a product, the approach is often to target the broad mass of consumers the manager hopes to change and figure out ways to entice them to change.Positive deviance starts with the idea of segmenting the masses into a standard distribution along a behavioral grid that identifies who is already doing the new behaviors, often just a small percentage of the population. You then work with this small group to understand why they have adopted the behaviors, bringing this understanding to the rest of the population to help them change.There is a lot of evidence for the success of this approach — for example, in reducing starvation in the population in Vietnam. This stream of research was brought to my attention by Mark A. Krumm, Director of Communications at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, with whom Ketchum collaborated to build our internal nutrition science certification program.This stream of research is becoming well-established. You can read about it in a Harvard Business Press book published in 2010: The Power of Positive Deviance by Richard Pasquale, Jerry Sternin and Monique Sternin. You can also earn a Certificate in Applied Positive Deviance from Tufts University, offered as part of the Positive Deviance Initiative. Check out this new way of helping the world to change!By the way, don’t forget: If you want to change the world, change yourself. And remember: Changing yourself is the hardest thing you’ll ever do in the world, but lasts the longest and, over time, accomplishes the most. So why not begin now?

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The Opportunity to Break Through

Creativity. When I look back, that’s what I first loved about our industry, and it still thrills me. Finding an idea that’s truly new, fresh, bold. In a business, media, and cultural landscape that’s never been more complex and crowded, innovative thinking is now more important than ever. For me, that’s always been the challenge and, simply, the fun of it – the chance to break through.

The art and science of public relations have never been more sophisticated and effective. Or as we’ve called it in the past, “passion and precision.” Today, clients are looking for the big idea, and they are happy for it to come from anywhere. More often than in the past, those ideas that provide business impact are coming from public relations.

The Ketchum culture is rich with a restless and relentless spirit of creativity. A determination to see if we can’t turn something to the light in a different way, or to turn it on its head altogether, to drive positive perceptions – to inform, to surprise, to delight. Creativity has been in the Ketchum DNA from the beginning. Today, we are expanding that focus, in all directions, 360 degrees.

We match this with an equal focus on our left brain as well. Our analytical insight into every practice area is as deep as ever. Our leadership in measurement remains fundamental. The best idea in the world goes nowhere without flawless execution, the organizational skill to bring it to the world. We’re also acutely aware of the need to integrate what we do with every other internal and external player that contributes to what a brand, or a company, or an institution communicates about itself to the world.

Today, the words I mentioned – “break through” – are our core promise, and they’re also a series of eight striking images, which are available at Ketchum.com. A suitor on one knee represents “Earn engagement.” A kid frisking a British bobby, “Provoke searches.” A bird in flight composed entirely of other birds in flight, “Mobilize movements.” They are images we see as a kind of visual genetic code of who we are, and I think their humor and vitality show a bit of how much we love what we do, too. Indeed, the fact that the entire campaign was developed and designed by Ketchum people working across continents is better evidence of that than any.

I’ve been at Ketchum for nearly 30 years. It’s been an amazing journey, but never more so than right now. In the past few years, we’ve become a profoundly global agency, with the most significant step being our partnership with Pleon that formed Ketchum Pleon in Europe. I think that this decision, and other partnerships and acquisitions that have followed, exemplifies the kind of thinking on behalf of clients that is our past, present and future.

So many walls have come down, geographically, culturally. You can reach just about anyone, anywhere, but so can just about anyone else. The deluge of information in front of all of us, all the time, is in a sense a new wall. To break through it, you have to think in all directions. Any note of complacency – “This has always worked in the past, this is how we did it last time” – will not serve a client sufficiently. Experience counts, sure, knowing what’s worked in the past. But that’s just the ground under your feet. We want our clients to take off – to fly. To break through.

 

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Group Intelligence Does Exist – and It's Not Correlated With the Average IQ of the Individuals in the Group

Most of us can agree from experience that groups good at one task also tend to be good at other tasks, raising the question of whether there is group intelligence at work. Carnegie Mellon has been researching this question and finding that, in fact, some groups are smarter than others, along with interesting data that group intelligence is not correlated with the average IQ of the individuals in the group.  While at first glance this seems contradictory, if you think of your own experience in groups, you can no doubt recall times when you were in a group of extremely smart people who couldn’t accomplish a simple task (usually because they were all tripping over their own brilliance). Perhaps you can as well recall other groups of people, not so individually brilliant, but who working together accomplished great things.

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What's the Most Influential Media Organization in the World?

What's the Most Influential Media Organization in the World?

Nate Silver, political statistician and creator of PECOTA, the popular system for forecasting the performance and career development of Major League Baseball players, recently did an analysis of the most influential media organizations. Silver simply looked at how frequently a publication’s name appeared in Google News or Google Blogs followed by the word “reported” to provide a sample of how many times an outlet was quoted.   The list is informative as much for what it omits as what it includes. For instance, it was surprising to see that the Huffington Post did not break top 20, but Al Jazeera came in at number 11. Another interesting thing to note is that the two out of the top three outlets are wire services and that TMZ, one of the major sources for celebrity news and gossip, rounds out the top 10. (Click here to check out the full list of 242 organizations.)

 

Jeff Bercovici discusses the list in a piece for Forbes.com, where he makes an interesting point about Bloomberg and how it is — or isn’t — “making good” on its global business objective of being the “world’s most influential news organization.” Another interesting list to juxtapose with this one is Time magazine’s list of the 140 Best Twitter Feeds. It’s a different approach to influence, but fascinating nonetheless. It includes thought leaders in a variety of industries, brands and news organizations, as well as comedians and even fictional characters. One thing to always keep in mind when talking media “influence” with clients is that it’s critical to consider the specific target audience you’re trying to reach in order to determine an outlet’s level of influence. By doing that, a list like Time’s or Google’s could look quite different. All of this further underscores the point of how media continually morphs and how we need to stop differentiating media by “traditional” or “new” and start considering it one big media universe.

 

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What I Saw at South by Southwest

I met a lot of interesting people at South By Southwest (SXSW), but it was weird because in many ways I felt like I knew them from industry news, blogs, and Twitter. However, the people experience at SXSW was one amazing thing, and the reason for that is the authentic conversations I had with people I’ve known only online.  Even though we read each other’s blogs and tweets, the information we post online is somewhat choreographed and rehearsed. Sure, we call it an online dialogue, but people tend to be conservative and think about what they write before posting it online. At SXSW, being surrounded by new ideas led to real-world conversations where you are improvising and building upon each others’ ideas in the moment. Being authentic while online is critical, but the authenticity that comes through an unorganized discussion in person can’t be replicated online no matter how hard we try. The purity of exchanging new ideas with incredibly intelligent people is a profound human experience. My SXSW conversations have changed the way I think about new media, and this is where SXSW adds the most value. Despite many complaints about it being too big, the diversity of opinion and experience is what I enjoyed the most: The opportunity to meet tons of new people who wanted to discuss amorphous ideas and figure out how we can use them to make our businesses better. 

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GroupMe to Let Brands Talk to Consumers (No Really . . . We Mean It This Time)

GroupMe to Let Brands Talk to Consumers (No Really . . . We Mean It This Time)

How many times have marketing and social media consultants spoke boldly about how social media have enabled brands and corporations to talk to consumers in ways never seen before?Let’s take a step back: how many are doing it right?Raise your hand if you’ve seen brands put up press releases on Facebook or Twitter? Raise your hand if you’ve seen post a Facebook status up that says something like “And how are you enjoying (whatever their product is) today?”That’s not talking with consumers. That’s talking at them. Big difference.

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Interview With Yoni Bloch at South by Southwest

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend South by Southwest with Ketchum colleagues from a range of offices, practices and client teams. As luck would have it, colleagues and I were armed with a Kodak video recorder and managed to land some cool interviews with the likes of Guy Kawasaki, Yoni Bloch (Israeli rock band member, TV star, and CEO and co-founder, Interlude), and more.

Here’s the first of these interviews, with Israeli rock and TV star Yoni Bloch. As you watch it, you might be thinking the same thing as many other people: “Does Jonathan fantasize about being a TV news reporter?!” The answer is no. Enjoy the video!

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